By: Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, one of Eswatini’s oldest and finest hotels has undergone an impressive facelift, adding value to its already ‘home away from home’ features and picturesque views. A firm favorite for many a tourist, the Mountain Inn recently changed its name to The Mountain View International – which is befitting as the hotel overlooks the spectacular Ezulwini Valley and its regal mountain range. It’s a priceless view, offering a tranquil space whether one is travelling for business or leisure.
The location of the hotel is one of its most endearing features. Located in a fairly quiet area of Mbabane, the Mountain View International Hotel is a short drive from Oshoek Border Post – which is the busiest entry point for many international travelers. Eswatini Financial Times met with the hotel’s management team, under the leadership of Patrick Ward, to get some insight into the hotel’s tenacious spirit.
Q – The hotel is one of Eswatini’s oldest establishments. When and by whom was it founded?
A – Originally named the Highlands View Hotel, it was built in the ’60s. Marc and Liz Ward took over the hotel from Carl Grant AKA Goldblatt in the mid-80s and transformed the facilities with major facelifts and an addition of 24 rooms by ’92.
Q – Please give us a brief background on staff complement, number of rooms and what makes your establishment unique?
A – The hotel has 58 bedrooms, five function rooms, O’Rileys sports bar, The Grill Restaurant and truly outstanding views of the Ezulwini Valley. The extensive gardens and rooms spread out in three different wings, creating a spacious ambience. Pre-Covid-19, the hotel employed up to 70 staff, many of whom have worked continuously for 25 years or more at the hotel, some staff members even having followed on from the old Swazi Inn, which Marc Ward Snr operated pre ‘84. The long term loyalty of staff that are relied on for good service, honesty and long hours in a grueling industry are the secret to this facility’s long run of success and of course our God-given incredible and awe-inspiring view.
Q – How has the hotel survived the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? Many establishments have closed shop. Please share your secret to survival?
A – The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly taken its toll and is a major contributor to the sale of the hotel. As operator owners, we had to dig deep and were blessed to be under-leveraged when the pandemic started. The decision not to close down, meant cutting down staff shifts to two per month. We cut costs everywhere and wait it out I believe were key. We were also truly blessed in 2021 to have an international organization reside with us during a nationwide survey they were conducting. This carried us and other facilities during that difficult period. Other bits and pieces of business added to the meagre turnover and enabled us to survive.
Q – The hotel has recently undergone refurbishment. What led to this decision? Did the entire hotel get a facelift or was it only limited to certain areas? Since the face-lift, what feedback have you received from your patrons?
A – The hotel’s new investors, Sakhumnotho Group Holdings (Pty) Ltd., have invested in a facelift to the entrance of the hotel including the reception, passage, lounge/breakfast room and Library. This has truly uplifted and given a more first world appearance and feel in line with what the hotel deserves. Guests have been wowed and love it. The new investment in the property is due to new ownership with available funds to uplift the facility in line with market demands and expectations. Sakhumnotho, under the leadership of Professor Sipho Mseleku, is looking to further upgrade the property over time.
Q – Please give some insight into the name change. We have become so accustomed to the name ‘Mountain Inn’ – how will you promote the name change?
A – The name change falls in line with Sakhumnotho’s vision of the hotel’s future growth and has already been welcomed by tour operators at the World Travel Market in Cape Town, as well as the Africa Travel Indaba in Durban. Moreover, the breath-taking views of the Ezulwini Valley are the “centrepiece” of the spectacular experience guests visit the establishment to enjoy. Thus, it made sense to brand the hotel after its key feature.
Q – Your clientele seems particularly loyal. How have you managed to maintain this since customers are very fickle?
A – Mountain Inn, now Mountain View International Hotel, has become a second home to many clients who return time and again. Consistency, along with years of relationship-building, has paid dividends. The new upgrades are well due and this will assist in cementing our continued customer relationships while forging new ones. Moreover, we’re well aware that the world is moving to a different level of enjoying life – it’s no longer about the things one possesses, but the experiences that make up their life story. With a long heritage of being one of the oldest establishments in the country, Mountain View International Hotel aims to position itself as the ideal place for local guests and international tourists to bask in the true experience of the Kingdom of Eswatini.