Message from our Chairman

Message from our Chairman

30 September 2014

Sometimes, we need to remind each other about who we are and what Montagu is about. This is one of the essential pillars of what makes Montagu such an authentic worthwhile destination. If this qualitative human aspect was to diminish, our long term sustainability as a successful tourism destination will be affected negatively, thus the importance. Montagu culture, heritage and authenticity is one of the reasons why people will come and spend time in our valley, rather than any other place in the world. I know that sounds like a mouthful but it's true. Tourists have the freedom to choose wherever they want to go right around the globe and when they choose us, we must understand that there are specific reasons for this and we need to sustain and build on those reasons. Now if I had to say that those reasons are fancy cars, cocktail bars and tall grey glassy buildings, it would have been a very, very sad night for me. Yet, I'm proud to be able to stand here tonight and tell you that the reason is not those materialistic and fabricated things, but the reason is you, your neighbours and the people working for you. The reason is our people, our heritage and our culture. There are many other reasons but I'm confident from what I've observed and learned that the before mentioned, our natural resources and our tourism related and other business's are the main pillars for tourism and also the well being for all of us.

I want to share two stories to illustrate my points of the first pillar; our people and our everyday culture:
Back in the 80's, in the USA heart attacks was sharply on the rise and this quickly became a major concern. Researchers were deployed to understand why this is happening and they started visiting various states to understand this deadly problem. While the researchers were travelling, they came upon a village where there was no recorded heart attacks. This was exceptional and they were quick to turn their attention to this town and were surprised to find that this village was started by Italians who immigrated to the USA in the depression years of Italy.
The researchers started their investigation and the first hypothesis was that the reason why there where no recorded heart attacks in this village is because of an Italian diet. Soon they found out that the villagers have adopted an American diet so this could not be the cause. Perhaps it's genetic? This hypothesis also turned out to be wrong after they discovered one of the villagers moved to a different town and there he had a heart attack. Okay, maybe it's environmental? This also turned out not to be the reason as neighbouring towns with very similar environmental conditions had heart attack victims. So it went on, one hypothesis after another turned out to be wrong. Hands in their hair and ready to give up the researchers went to visit the village. When they stopped looking at their papers and started noticing the people and local culture, they realised they missed it all along. People there greeted each other on the street, people there are working through the challenges of life together and as a community. Nobody struggles alone, there is a strong sense of community almost like a large healthy family. Thus all the problems and stresses are carried by many people, not one person alone. This turned out to be the reason for a record of no heart attacks in that small village in America, a village much like ours. This is the people I'm referring to, this is the culture I'm talking about. The world needs this, the world wants this, and I believe we have it. Perhaps we can be even better at it, but most importantly we must acknowledge this pillar and appreciate it at first. Other towns a 100km's away don’t have this, cities with millions of dangling lights and thousands of colourful shops don't have this... we have it and that's why I want to be here. This is also something one cannot fake or create overnight, but it can be lost within a short period of time. I'm asking all of you here tonight to go think about this and understand the role you play in our community, in our town and in your tourism business.

Now I would like to share just the most recent example, I know about and this just happened last week. A tourist bus broke down on Friday in Long street, across Oude Kombuis. The owner was quick to notice and on his way outside he phoned a local mechanic he knows. When he got to the bus he obviously invited all the passengers to his restaurant but was quick to roll up his sleeves and be of the guide's assistance. The guide said he just phoned for a mechanic and it will probably take at least 3 hours to get here from Cape Town. The restaurant owner asked, “but why do you need to do that, I already organised you a mechanic”, the operator was stunned and delighted! The local mechanic left what he was busy with and it did not take long to reach the bus. In the meanwhile with all of this happening, Uitvlucht Kelder arranged grape juice to be delivered to the scene. What a community effort, without anybody even asking for it! The operator and all the passengers said they could not believe how amazing something that could have went sour turned out. I personally know this is simply what Montagu is all about. All the passengers and the tour operator will be remembering and sharing this magnificent incident for the rest of their lives, and I'm sure many will return to Montagu as visitors, and maybe even to become residents.


So the second important pillar in my opinion is our natural resources. Our mountain reserve, the kloof, our healing waters, the nature garden, the birds, dassies and other animals, and all the beautiful gardens in town are an asset that we can have forever if we as business owners and community members do our part to look after this. This exact and unique combination of natural resources is only to be found here, in our area, on the whole planet. People come for this, tourists come back for this, visitors stay longer for this. Yet again, I'm so glad the second pillar is not a man made waterfront full of boats you cant board and restaurants that take more money than they give you good wholesome food. I'm proud to stand here tonight and testify that this pillar is what God gave Montagu and it's all pure and natural, and cannot be copied by man. A few months ago I flew over Montagu with a friend and gained a whole new perspective about just how absolutely amazing our location and environment is. Here we can offer our visitors peace, healing, a simple lifestyle and a wholesome interaction with the creation.

The last pillar is again, like the first one, all about you. Ladies and gentleman, you form an essential part of the economy of the well being of all citizens in our valley. It's your ideas, your efforts, your business risks and your commitment to tourism that give many people more than just food on the table, but an opportunity in life. I want to say tonight, if you are sitting in this room and involved in tourism, whether working in the tourism office, run an accommodation establishment, restaurant or if you are an event organiser, whatever it may be, that this is perhaps bigger than you think. I want to tell you tonight that this is most probably your calling! Perhaps you thought you are just a retired person who ended up with a B&B, but I'm telling you it's much more amazing. If you could zoom out and see what effect your daily lives have, on every person who enters your door and how far that flows out to others as well, almost like a butterfly effect, you would probably agree that this is a true and noble calling. If you see this and understand this, it's time to make your calling your passion! I can feel Montagu have just became an even more special place right now.

Lastly, I would like to use the opportunity to thank the MATA committee (Mareletta van Zyl, Ronel Preston, Gert Lubbe, Simon Bernstein, Nelda Wiese and Fida Hess, also, co-opted Helen Gooderson, Marilyn Ball and Anne-Marie Coetzee) for their selfless voluntary commitment to tourism.
I would also like the thank the tourism office staff for giving even more than what you are paid to do and making people leave the office with a smile (Mareletta van Zyl, Marilyn Ball, Anne-Marie Coetzee, Mariza Klein).
Lastly I would like to thank every person who is partaking in this great tourism calling!