The Royal St. Andrews Hotel celebrated winning the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice in 2021 for the 6th consecutive year, proudly placing it in the top 10% of hotels around the world.
It all started one Easter weekend back in 2008 when Martin Bekker and his wife came to visit a life-long friend who had moved to Port Alfred. “The next weekend we were back and we bought a house. We would come to visit Port Alfred at least three or four times a year.”
But something quickly began to trouble Mr Bekker; during a visit, he would discover a restaurant or coffee shop, only to return a few months later and it would be gone.
He quickly began to understand that business in Port Alfred was extremely seasonal. During December the town filled up and the local economy would flourish, but come the end of the holidays and business would start to dry up.
“Then one day in 2010 I found out that this hotel was on the market. I started to think about how we can start to bring more people to Port Alfred.” He would speak to his friends, and nobody knew about the town of Port Alfred.
“So we bought this little place. There was absolutely nothing going on here at the time so I thought, hang on, let’s bring people to this little town. My wife still thinks it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”
His goal was to build a world-class conference venue. “Then we realised, you can’t have a 250-seat venue, and not be able to provide rooms.” The hotel as it existed then only offered 8 rooms, so the next step was to start investing in the surrounding properties and building what came to be known as the Modern Luxury Wing, expanding the hotel by a massive 50 rooms.
“From the start, our approach has been simply to bring the world to Port Alfred. Simple as that. And it’s working like a bomb.”
“Look at the month of April for example, the Easter holidays, most other coastal towns are packed, yet Port Alfred traditionally is at it’s quietest. Then we partnered with BS Sports and created The Amanzi Challenge, so we’ve now got this magnificent sports festival here over the Easter weekend bringing people from all over the world to Port Alfred. The whole town benefits from it.”
For Mr Bekker, the success of the hotel has been built by the incredible complement of staff. He believes firmly in promoting from within, “…once you join the team you’re here to grow with us. And when they flourish, it’s just incredible to see. I am extremely proud of the team.”