Windsor House: Making accommodation magic in Tokai
The simple question that makes business magic for one small guesthouse
It’s probably not even necessary to say it, but the one thing you need for success in the hospitality business is a deep and genuine love for people. And for the environment.
And yet, surprising as it may seem, when you think back on all the bad experiences you’ve had in guest houses and hotels throughout your travelling life, there are many who don’t…
Tracey and Mark Gordon, though, sit high in the forefront of that first group. Quite possibly, right at the top. (Forgive me if I’m gushing, but if you stick with me, I’ll explain.)
The Gordons run the small and luxurious Windsor House in Tokai, in Cape Town’s Constantia Valley - which, according to constantiavalley.com, is “the oldest wine producing region in the southern hemisphere.”
The Gordons and the Valley make a powerful combination. And here’s why:
It’s not about sales
Although they’re fully committed to their guesthouse, both Tracey and Mark have other business - in communications and branding - which they run from home (which means they’re always available for their guests).
“Our passion for people comes from our experience as communicators,” said Tracey.
Rather than selling anything - their accommodation, meals in or out, local experiences - “we see it as a natural progression to build relationships of trust, because it’s not just about the 12 or 24 hours while you’re here with us.
“And it’s not so much about the sales, either - it’s more: ‘What can I do to make your life better?’
“If you can achieve that, your guests will remember you - and your house won’t be just another place on their itineraries.”
On top of their business experience, both of the Gordons have - and still do - enjoy playing sport, which, Mark said, “teaches you a lot about interacting and socialising with people.”
Visit Tokai and the Constantia Valley
Interacting and socialising with people are the very talents the Gordons employ to help every guest “live life like a local” - if they want to, of course: Tracey and Mark know far better than to pressure anyone.
Asked which attractions they like most to recommend in their area, they said the highlights of Tokai itself include golf, food, wine, and the local open spaces with their leisure trails and MTB trails - while a little further afield, Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens, the quaint fishing harbour and shops in Kalk Bay, and the Boulders Penguin Colony in Simonstown and Cape Point itself (both part of the Table Mountain National Park) get special mentions.
“And the local markets, too,” said Tracey. “Tokai’s Earth Fair Farmers Market on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings for eating and shopping, and The Range on a Friday night, with its fabulous food and live music - our guests love them, and going to them and being part of the local community helps make their stay with us an immersive experience.”
Windsor House: boutique guest house accommodation and facilities
Windsor House has three en-suite B&B rooms (one of which - the enormous Constantiaberg Suite with its spacious, loft-style, first-floor lounge area - is equipped for self-catering), while the whole establishment is also available as a four-bedroom villa for bookings of fourteen days or more, in which case the Gordons vacate the master suite, and the guests have the place to themselves.
Facilities in the rooms are modern and luxurious without being extravagant, and range from a selection of two types of bath towel (terry towels or Turkish - see below), to very welcome, healthy and refreshing, charcoal-filtered water in Japanese Kurabo glass containers. (None of that single-use plastic bottled stuff here!)
Public areas include intimate courtyards, and a sunny, leafy garden with an enormous swimming pool and covered braai area. (Rates include breakfast, but dinner and braais - BBQs - are available on site by arrangement.)
Summah Turkish towels: it’s about the environment
Tracey explained that everything the family does is “about care and doing our bit to serve the planet,” and that being in contact with overseas guests “gives us plenty of opportunity to learn more about how we can achieve this.”
She said, for example, that foreign visitors “seem to be so much more respectful of the environment, so far advanced. When Cape Town had strict water restrictions, they never complained, and they never bucked the system. They just understood.”
This concern for sustainability explains those Turkish towels in the bedrooms.
“Our daughter, Kirsten, runs Summah - summah.co - out of Istanbul, in Turkey, where she produces a range of towels, gowns, blankets, and gifts together with local suppliers chosen for their sustainable process, and for their efficiency at minimising their impact on the environment,” said Mark. (With a work space lined with Summah stock, he supplies both the public and hospitality business in South Africa with Summah products - and can, of course, arrange embroidered branding if required.)
Windsor House: spot on
Tracey and Mark Gordon’s holistic approach to hospitality - ‘What can I do to make your life better?’ - strikes me as encapsulating the very essence of the sector, especially since the ‘your’ in the question encompasses their guests as much as it includes the environment (neighbourhood, planet) in which we all have to live.
In fact, I think in more than 30 years experience of the business of hospitality, accommodation, and tourist attractions - including 20 years investigating and writing about tourism and destination management - I’ve never heard it better put.
‘What can I do to make your life better?’ is exactly what we should all be aiming for if we want this increasingly fragile sector to succeed.
9 Windsor Lane, Dennendal, Tokai, Cape Town
- Review by Martin Hatchuel