Gert Eksteen is the Reservations Manager at the Shandon Hotel & Spa at Marble Hill – winners of yet another award last week.
Gert is originally from South Africa but is now definitely an honorary Donegal man.
He started in the Shandon not long after the hotel opened its doors again and his potential, commitment and enthusiasm was quickly identified which result in him moving through the ranks to Reservations Manager.
Here’s Gert’s My Donegal:
What is your favourite place in Donegal and why?
Marble Hill beach because it’s nice and peaceful for relaxing walks and Slieve League for its natural beauty and stunning views. I am totally spoilt with the views I have from my workplace and I am always drawn to the coast, there is just something about it!
What would your ideal day off in Donegal be like?
Will start off with breakfast in The Narrow Quater in Kerrykeel followed by a drive out to Fanad Head and swing back for an afternoon walk on Rathmullan beach if the weather allows it. If it’s raining or too cold, my ideal day off would have to be spent here in the Shandon Spa. It’s nice that you can relax in the warmth of the thermal spa whilst watching the rain come over the bay, it’s hard to beat that!
Who is the one person in Donegal you look up to and why?
Have to say really look up to our manager Carolynne Harrison, her passion and drive in hospitality is truly admirable and inspiring, she is a great teacher and mentor. She is firm but very fair. The trick is, bring her coffee every so often and she is happy, Carolynne without coffee, not so good LOL!
Daniel O’Donnell or Packie Bonner?
Tough choice haha but have to go with Packie Bonner.
What has been Donegal’s proudest moment in recent years?
Has to be being named coolest place on the planet by National Geographic and also winning the All Ireland final in 2012. In terms of hospitality, I’m very proud that the Shandon has managed to stay open and very busy right through the winter, I think people are realising how lovely it is to visit the Donegal coast in Winter!
If you could change one thing about Donegal what would it be?
Definitely the public transport infrastructure especially the lack of train infrastructure. The parking situation at Marble Hill Beach in the high season is certainly a big issue.
What is your favourite Donegal-made product?
Oh has to be Football Special and of course the Shandon’s homemade Guinness bread!
Who is Donegal’s greatest ambassador around the world and why?
For me, I would have to say the late Manus Kelly, I think the whole county came to a standstill on that very sad day, he is a legend.
Who is Donegal’s most successful business person person in your opinion?
To be honest I think Deirdre Mc Glone, they faced a lot of challenges when they opened Harvey’s Point yet her and her family managed to make it one of the best & highly regarded hotels in the country.
Who is your favourite Donegal sportsperson of all time?
Not a big sports follower but has to be Michael Murphy
What is your favourite Donegal restaurant?
Of course it has to be Marbles Restaurant in the Shandon Hotel, it’s a real treat and perfect for a celebration but I also love the Narrow Quarter in Kerrykeel for brunch or lunch.
What would your ideal day in Donegal consist of?
Start with a nice walk on the beach followed by a spot of lunch and finish the day with a nice hike around Glenveagh National Park
What is your favourite Donegal expression?
“It’s a wile day hi” & “sure it’ll be grand”, our general manager always says it’ll be grand and in fairness, it usually always is!
What is the biggest challenge facing Donegal in 2019?
I think a lot of rural tourism and hospitality businesses are facing the challenge of the VAT increase and will definitely feel the effects in the winter months. I think border towns have been totally ‘shafted’ because not only are we trying to manage the VAT increase, we have also got to manage the poor GBP to Euro exchange rate when a lot of border counties depend heavily on the NI & UK trade, on top of that we have the uncertainty of Brexit which is also resulting in the consumer holding on to their cash a little tighter.
What is your favourite Donegal food?
Good Fish & Chips from the Seafood Shack in Killybegs.
Is there anything about Donegal or Donegal people which really annoys you?
Sometimes the lack of urgency in people can be a bit annoying, there is no rush to get something done but yet again, that quality can also be very endearing!
If you had a million euro to spend improving something in Donegal what would you spend it on?
I would spend it on getting more tourists to the rural parts of North Donegal where the true beauty of the county is.
What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?
When I started working in the Shandon Hotel I truly found my passion for the hotel industry and working my way up in the ranks
Is there anything about Donegal that you’re really proud of?
The true beauty of the county and the friendliness and acceptance of Donegal people… not being a born native of Donegal it really has become my home in the past 15yrs.
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