Catching Up With The Royal St Andrews Hotel Managing Director Justin Bekker

Catching Up With The Royal St Andrews Hotel Managing Director Justin Bekker 

Catching Up With The Royal St Andrews Hotel Managing Director Justin Bekker

What is your history with the Royal St Andrews Hotel?

My father, Martin Bekker, fell in love with Port Alfred in 2007 after visiting friends who lived in the town and decided to move down permanently in 2013 with my mother, Linda Bekker. That same year, he learned that the Royal St Andrews Hotel was for sale and jumped at it. He loved the town but knew it needed investment to grow its tourism market. So in 2014, he closed the hotel for renovations, which took 2 years to complete, added an extra 40 rooms and conferencing venues, and upgraded the restaurants while giving the hotel a fresh new look and keeping its heritage as a historic building intact. In 2016, the Royal St Andrews Hotel re-opened and began marketing the town as a destination for visitors to experience. Sadly, my father passed away in January 2022 after a long battle with stage 4 prostate cancer, and the reigns fell on me to take over where he left off and fill his enormous shoes. I decided to move down to Port Alfred in 2021 and after my father passed, I tried to juggle my own career in the IT industry with the hotel for the first 8 months. It soon became very apparent where my true passion lay and where I wanted to devote my time, so in August 2022, I resigned from my job and started working at the hotel full-time.

What did you do, exactly, before the Royal St Andrews Hotel?

I was the Chief Operations Officer for a company in Durban called Dreamware Technology, which provides computer hardware solutions for companies and consumers. I have been in the IT industry since 2017 and have dabbled in many things, from graphic design to photography, writing and bartending. I studied BCom Accounting Sciences fresh out of boarding school at Pretoria Boys High School. I quickly realised I wasn’t built for a career in accounting, so I decided to try to find my own path. At the time, I felt like I was stumbling through life in many different directions, not knowing where I would land. It was quite amazing to see how all those different skillsets I’d developed are coming in handy at RSAH and in my role in tourism with Sunshine Coast Tourism.

How challenging was it for you to understand the business and to assimilate yourself into the business?

The most challenging part was the human factor. Getting to know everybody, their roles and responsibilities, and slowly gaining trust which is an ongoing process. The business part comes naturally to me as I’ve been involved in managing and running a few businesses before, and my father occasionally included me in a few decisions while he was in charge. But the hotel is just a building; the staff are the heart that gives it life and is responsible for its reputation, function and character. It was essential to come in with respect and know that I was learning from them. No one is above anyone else; we’re all in this together, working toward many small goals which ultimately add up to a much larger goal of making the town of Port Alfred and the Eastern Cape as a whole a serious holiday destination for visitors and a place to consider moving to.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

There are many day-to-day challenges, from knowing how to work with various personalities and ensuring every department works optimally to planning for the next 10 years to ensure we keep growing. However, I wouldn’t describe it as difficult; this is the most rewarding and happiest I’ve ever been in a work environment. Existential dread used to be the order of the day in almost every other job I’ve had. However, this has been a breath of fresh air, even if it is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.


Justin with RSAH General manager Difford Louw


What do you do to unwind when things get stressful?

I’ve always enjoyed sports and exercise, so going for a run or a swim, playing tennis at the Port Alfred Tennis Club, or hitting the gym are great stress relievers. Playing pool at Kenny’s Sports Bar with friends and a few beers after a long day is also a great way to unwind. When social batteries are completely depleted, I used to be an avid gamer, so jumping into a League of Legends match occasionally and spending a quiet night at home is great, too. However, my mind never stops, so I often research things into the early hours of the morning.

What is your personal favourite place to be in Port Alfred?

The Royal St Andrews Hotel. As much as it is work, I end up being there almost 7 days a week and love interacting with the staff.

Who is the person you look up to / respect the most, and why?

My father. Growing up, I always looked up to him; he was a massive inspiration. I always ask myself what he would do and think when it comes to making decisions. I hope I accomplish even half as much as he did in life and hope he’s proud of the man I’ve become.


Port Alfred by night © Justin Bekker


What is your favourite meal from Thistle?

Definitely the Swordfish. I can’t get enough of it!

What are your feelings about the Port Alfred Easter Festival?

I am incredibly excited. I knew it was a great concept and endeavour for the town when the idea was conceived, but I was worried about how it would be received. With the last 2 months of working on it and planning every day, finally presenting it to a room of people for the first time and seeing their excitement and willingness to get involved is hard to put into words. I am now more excited and optimistic than ever that it will be a huge success and help the town’s local economy significantly.

Where do you see the Port Alfred Easter Festival going in three years?

I see it becoming a big annual attraction for visitors and locals alike. Obviously the idea is to grow it and make it bigger and better, but it will also teach us what works and what doesn’t work so we can better organise it and streamline it for the next year.

What is the one thing in your life that constantly makes you smile or laugh and realise that everything will be cool?

South Africans. If you are lucky enough to travel a bit, you’ll quickly realise we’re a very different breed from the rest of the world, and we often hear comments from international visitors who come to the hotel confirming this. Times may be challenging, and there’s a lot of negativity out there. Still, dammit, we are the most amazing nation, and we often take for granted how good we have it. Our people are incredible; I see it from our staff every day. Everybody gives back and very humbly so. I was speaking to one of our guests last week, an elderly lady from the UK who still enjoys travelling during the UK’s winter months. She said that South Africa is the only country she’s been to in the world where every single time she lands at one of our airports, someone will help her with her bags. She values our manners, friendliness and respect. I waved at one of our staff as I drove past him in town earlier today and saw him skipping and jumping down the road behind me out of pure joy, which put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Little things like that make our country great and always put a smile on my face and give me hope for the future of our country.

Tennis Tournament A Smash

Tennis Tournament A Smash

Juniors and adults brought their A-games to make the two-day Port Alfred Easter Tennis Tournament a smash. Junior Tennis Tournament The Port Alfred Easter Festival presented by Sunshine Coast Port Alfred Tourism held a Junior Tennis Tournament on March 30th at the...

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