Meet the smile behind the mask...featuring Montagu Country Hotel, Route 62
“Meet the smile behind the face mask” featuring Cape Country Routes Member Montagu Country Hotel, Route 62
Interview with Owner of Montagu Country Hotel: PJ Basson
All Cape Country Routes members, accommodation establishments and activity products alike, are owner run and managed. There are real people and real families behind these products...so let's meet the smile behind the face mask!
Please tell us a little bit about Montagu Country Hotel, how it all started and what guests can experience when staying at the hotel nowadays?
PJ: The Montagu Country Hotel was originally constructed in 1875, it has always been a hotel. It burnt down in the 1920’s, and was rebuilt in the Art Deco style that we thrive on today. At this stage guests can expect an unique hotel experience: A themed hotel that offers all the modern amenities needed in a 4 star hotel but with the whole “country feel” to it.
If you had to name the top 3 experiences at Montagu Country Hotel, what would these be?
- Staff and the atmosphere that they create: We have a team that has been with us for a very long time and they are actually the core of this whole offering that we have got
- Food: Honest country-style cooking and the hospitality that goes with it
- American Dream Car Trips Experience in one of our Cadillacs, with either myself or another experienced guide as a driver
Please tell us a little bit about your family and how your family members are involved in running the hotel
PJ: I started working at the Montagu Country Hotel in 1999, 21 years ago. At first I was just running the restaurant and then later on took over the management of the hotel. After 3 months I became the manager of the hotel, had some shares in the hotel later and then bought out the majority shares in 2020. So hands-on running it, handling the marketing and enjoying the interaction with guests. My wife Colene is a Chartered Accountant, we actually met here in the hotel while she was doing her articles. She is the financial director of the hotel and also very much hands-on with décor, menus and planning...and of course all the finances.
What does warm hospitality mean to you?
PJ: Hospitality means to me that I am inviting someone into my house and I am looking after him or her as my house guest. When you run a 29 bedroom hotel, your house is a little bit bigger, so you employ staff and that’s why the staff is so important because they are an extension of yourself and they are the ones who are in contact with your guests when you cannot be there. You treat your guests in the hotel as you would treat them in your own house.
What is your vision for the hotel for the next 5 years?
PJ: I have given this a lot of thought over the last couple of months when we did a complete renovation of the public areas and the front of the hotel. Our vision was to turn the hotel around so that it is much more inviting for someone who casually walks or drives by and who is not necessarily booked to stay at the hotel. Our vision is to cement the hotel as the tourism hotspot for Montagu and Route 62. So whenever you visit this area, you should visit the hotel and from there you will be looked after with regards to accommodation, meals, activities, information and so on. I would also like to see the hotel featured on more itineraries with a very nice mix of local and international visitors.
If you look back at the year 2020 so far, have there been any positive experiences for you that you can build on as we all move forward?
PJ: 2020 obviously has had its negatives but I am positive by nature and prefer to remember those positive moments. For us the outstanding one was to be in the position to buy out the majority shares of the hotel. This was very positive and definitely something that we can build on moving forward, simply because now we can implement our own vision and plans, and build a future for us as a family and our the staff. So now we have the certainty that we can pursue our own goals whereas in the past we could not really do that. What was also very positive is the fact that we could re-invent certain things at the hotel during a total lockdown and still come out on the other side with a business that is open – I think that to me was a big positive, being forced to think differently about how we go about our normal day to day business and actually having to re-invent some of our offerings to be able to cope with the new circumstances. That was definitely one of the highlights for me.
Do you have a favorite quote, inspiration or motto you would like to share with us?
PJ: There are many quotes that I use from time to time but the one that stands out for me is: “We employ the smile and teach the skill at this hotel” and the meaning behind it is that someone can walk in here and have a doctor's in hospitality but if they cannot smile then they are simply not fit for what we want to offer our guests. You cannot teach anyone to smile.
The other one is “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and I think this is also very true for our industry.
Montagu Country Hotel is situated between the Langeberg mountain ranges of the Western Cape with direct access to Route 62. The hotel is styled to take guests down memory lane to the 1930s with a modern touch. It offers an American Dream Car Tour as an exhilarating way of showcasing Montagu. Montagu Country Hotel has 29 stunning en-suite rooms and includes facilities such as the "Feathers and Flatcaps" Cocktail Lounge, an art gallery, the Charlestons restaurant, an activity centre, lush gardens as well as a conference centre. The hotel is the perfect getaway for relaxation and massages with an on-site wellness centre and spa.
If you like to read more about Montagu Country Hotel, please click here