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Wild Coast Sun will also be celebrating 40 years later this year as Sun International’s only beachfront resort and Sandi has been there for 35 of those years.

It’s the end of quite an era for Sandi Burger and the Wild Coast Sun as the popular Public Relations and Promotions Manager who retired last month.

Wild Coast Sun will also be celebrating 40 years later this year as Sun International’s only beachfront resort and Sandi has been there for 35 of those years.

“The Wild Coast Sun is like Mauritius on our doorstep. Every day working here has been both beautiful and different,” said Sandi.

Sandi’s journey with the resort started in 1986.

“I came from an advertising agency in Johannesburg but was already familiar with the area as my family had a holiday home on the South Coast,” she said.

Sandi worked under five general managers, ending with Peter Tshidi who took over the reins in 2019.

Her first general manager was legendary Alberto ‘Chico’ Chiaranda, after whom Chico’s Restaurant is named, followed by Melville Vogel, Alec McMath, Myan Moodley and now Mr Tshidi.

“Wild Coast Sun, which was then located in what was known as the Transkei, was first opened as a Holiday Inn and only later changed to a Sun International Resort. At the time, staff had to have a work permit to work in the Transkei.”

With such a long work history, Sandi has held various roles, including promotions coordinator, working for the convention centre and also inside the casino as most valued guest (MVG) and gaming promotions manager, before becoming the complex’s promotions manager, and later, the marketing manager.

“I remember the heydays when gambling was still illegal in South Africa and we had 36 scheduled buses arriving from Durban every Saturday night, and additional unscheduled buses parked outside. We had over 1 000 machines and 60 tables.”

Over the years, Sandi has witnessed how technology has transformed gaming, offering new ways to reward customers.

In 1986, the hotel was increased from 240 to 396 rooms, when the ‘new wing’ was added, along with a restaurant and swimming pool. “It’s still called the new wing, 35 years later,” she laughed.

The Convention Centre was built in 1990, and in 2010, the property had a R460-million revamp, with the addition of the Wild Waves Water Park.

More recently, a soft refurbishment was completed and the resort was upgraded to a four-star grading.

Sandi has many memories of fabulous entertainment events held at Wild Coast Sun.

“We used to do the Durban July functions, erect a marquee with 300 people. There was a tattersall and a tab and we had betting and bookmaking, without any licence restrictions at the time.”

When the pool re-opened in the 1980s, Sol Kerzner’s irrepressible PR Melanie Millin-Moore brought in live elephants with pink toenails, mermaids and pink balloons.

Former Miss South Africa, Wilma van der Bijl and American actor, Robert Wagner cut the ribbon at the opening of the convention centre.

And of course there was the Tropical Nites Theatre, which hosted many international shows and extravaganzas.

“But everything changed in 1999 when gambling was legalised in South Africa and casinos opened throughout the country. It was available, on your doorstep. We right-sized our casino with less machines and tables.”

As a keen golfer for the past 30 years, arranging golf tournaments like the Sunshine Tour and helping with handicapping were a most enjoyable part of Sandi’s job.

She regularly plays on the 18-hole course, designed by American golfer, Robert Trent Jones II and built in 1983.

“I met Robert two years ago when he came back to look at the course, it was very exciting,” she said.

“He said the bunkers were still exactly the way he had designed them, and was delighted at its pristine condition.”

“I plan to spend my retirement relaxing, playing golf and continuing with my creative hobbies which include painting, cooking, baking and gardening – all the things you don’t have time for usually.

Mr Tshidi said Sandi’s departure would leave a very lively void in his team.

“Sandi’s extensive knowledge of the property, her sense of humour and her can-do attitude will be missed. But we know we will still see her, since she might avoid the office, but she definitely won’t be able to stay off our greens.”


Article written by: Shona Aylward

Photo credit: South Coast Herald

Link: https://southcoastherald.co.za/433846/end-of-an-era-as-sandi-bids-farewell-to-wild-coast-sun/

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