IN HIS OWN WORDS: PIETER VAN ECK
Industry stalwart and BON veteran of over 20 years, Pieter Van Eck, Development Director at BON Hotels is the perfect embodiment of Good People. Good Thinking. Good Feeling. We had a chat with Pieter and asked him 12 good questions …
- How did you get to where you are today? That is, what paths you led to your current position at BON Hotels?
I started my professional journey in the hospitality industry in 1993 at Protea Hotels, which was established by Otto Stehlik during the 1980s. Twenty-odd years later, Guy Stehlik gave me the opportunity to join BON Hotels – which I accepted without hesitation.
- You’ve been with BON through thick and thin, what has been the biggest challenge or opportunity over the past 12 months?
In the last year, our biggest opportunity was to dig deep and come up with some cool and creative ways to team up with more partners – and make our current relationships with stakeholders even stronger. It’s been both a challenging and rewarding time.
- What is it about the hotel game/hospitality industry that you love so much?
I know it sounds like a tired old saying, but honestly, it’s the people! This a diverse, one-of-a-kind industry – and the thrill of taking new chances, exploring new opportunities and tackling new challenges is what keeps me going.
- Looking back at your career, what milestones/achievements are you particularly proud of?
I’ve never been in charge of one of those massive, high-end, ‘fancy-schmancy’ hotels – but what really matters to me is having a positive impact on people’s lives. Whether it’s making sure our guests, owners, and staff feel taken care of, treasuring the connections we already have, or forging new ones, I love every minute.
- Hospitality is full-on, stressful and demanding … but also fun. Are there any unusual demands or outlandish memories that still make you laugh?
Not an unusual demand, but a special one. Back when I was working in Mossel Bay, we had an elderly guest who was in a wheelchair. She told us that she had never actually experienced the joy of putting her feet in the ocean, so the next day I grabbed a couple of waiters and we took her down to the beach for an hour or so. It might not seem like much, but that little act meant so much to her – and stayed with me forever.
In my opinion, AI is going to be the next huge thing. I’m dying to see how our industry and guests take to AI, the impact AI tools and solutions will have on our industry, and the challenges and opportunities it kicks up. It should be very interesting …
- We know that that past three years have been extremely tough for anyone in travel and tourism, but what are the current challenges being faced by the hospitality industry?
In South Africa, we’re still trying to get back on our feet. International tourists haven’t really come back in the same numbers as before and we’ve got a lot of hurdles to overcome, what with the political and economic climate being so tricky. If you consider the load shedding situation, our international reputation is taking a bit of a hit. And on top of all that, it can be a real struggle for hospitality start-ups, smaller developers, and the like to get the funding they need, since lenders see hotels, resorts, lodges as a huge risk in the current climate.
- BON’s culture and ethos is built on the pillars of Good People. Good Thinking. Good Feeling. What do the three pillars mean to you?
First off, to always remember to stay humble and never forget where you came from. Treat everyone you meet with respect. Embrace change and be open to new ideas, even if they seem a little crazy at first. And at the end of the day, to remember that every single human being out there deserves to be treated with dignity and kindness.
- What is your vision for BON Hotels?
To be recognised by our stakeholders as the mid-market hotel, resort and lodge group of choice.
- Outside of the travel and tourism industry, what are your passions? What could you talk about for hours?
My family and sport – especially F1.
- Favourite travel destination?
The Garden Route…. Mossel Bay
- Where to next?
Once I’ve saved enough, it will be an island holiday with the family!