by Chelsey Hale

As one door closes many more open

When you must go down to the beach ensure it's one along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. Stop by Scottburgh Beach to wiggle your toes in the sand and check in for a few nights at The Blue Marlin Hotel.

The property is famed as a holidaymaker-favourite, and in recent times, embarked on one of its most challenging, yet significant chapters in its long-standing 70-year legacy. With current Custodian Goodman Ncobeni at the helm, this beloved ‘Scotties’ icon looks poised to remain a critical component of its surrounding community and local tourism ecosystem.

Goodman Ncobeni, Blue Marlin Hotel Custodian.

As an industry expert with 27 years under his belt, Goodman was a sought-after component for Dream Hotels & Resorts’ upcoming plans to ensure the longevity of The Blue Marlin.

“Having worked at Jozini Tiger Lodge & Spa (within the Dream Hotels & Resorts portfolio) I was offered the position as Custodian of The Blue Marlin, which I gladly accepted. It was a decision filled with optimism… and then, two weeks later, we shut our doors as the country went into lockdown,” he explains.

“There I was leading a new team while simultaneously learning the operating processes and having to make extremely tough decisions to ensure the business stayed afloat. I had to let some staff go, which was not easy as they were individuals I did not know personally and during a time when people needed jobs. It was the most trying moment of my career.”

He details additional challenges, which include understanding the share block process (vacation ownership) coupled with hotel maintenance and existing issues before lockdown. “Just because doors are closed doesn’t mean everything stops,” he says. “It has always been in my blood to pull up my sleeves, so that’s exactly what I did.”

Stepping in alongside his team, together they sought to fix and repair, ensuring no time was wasted. “It amazes me how much we got done!” he exclaims. “This was the unexpected blessing of lockdown. Having a smaller team meant that roles could expand and there was an opportunity to learn and grow. Yes, I managed the hotel, but the true success is how every person came together as a unified and accountable force. That experience directly influenced everything we have achieved since then.”

Since the end of South Africa’s lockdowns, Goodman and his team have become a substantial force in bettering their environment and society throughout Scottburgh. They are actively involved with Keep Scottburgh Beautiful (a local NPO) and spearhead regular beach clean-ups. They have also sought to maintain T.C Robertson Nature Reserve, a green lung of the town and a favoured family picnic spot situated nearby.

“We help where we can,” adds Assistant Custodian, Malthee Singh who first joined the team in 2001 and worked her way up from Reception. “We have several initiatives certain staff members are heavily involved as an extension of The Blue Marlin Hotel. One that deserves special mention is Jabulani Crèche in Kelso where we have donated stationary and gifts, as well as building a jungle gym on site.”

All this is what Goodman describes as just the beginning, with many ambitious plans in the pipeline.

Malthee Singh, Blue Marlin Hotel Assistant Custodian.

Regular clean-ups of Scottsburgh Beach.

Reading time at Jabulani Crèche.

The Keep Scottburgh Beautiful team hard at work.

“If you have an impactful business within a community, you have a responsibility to look out for everyone. Not just your clients or guests,” Goodman explains. “Scottburgh’s wellbeing, its beaches, and its surrounds directly impact the future of The Blue Marlin. Our success then impacts the people we employ, the local NPOs and the businesses we partner with. A healthy infrastructure means healthy people and ultimately a sustainable tourism industry brimming with opportunities. Look at the bigger picture. We are all connected.”

An aerial shot of the iconic Blue Marlin Hotel and the surrounding area.

By situating The Blue Marlin front and centre of Scottburgh and considering their impact beyond their role as just a hotel, the team plays a significant role in ensuring a bright and hopeful future for their community.

“The Blue Marlin is special. Not just to guests who have been returning for many years, but because we are an entity with resources that can be used to help others,” Goodman explains. “This is the legacy we want to leave behind. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are a force for good, that we look after each other and this place (Scottburgh) we call home,” he concludes.

Blue Marlin Maintenance Team building a Storage room for TC Robertson Nature Reserve.

The Blue Marlin Hotel is set to relaunch on 1 September 2024.

As part of a larger mission to rejuvenate the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast region, The Blue Marlin Hotel is set to relaunch on 1 September 2024 as The Blue Marlin All-Inclusive Seascape. Following an extensive property refurbishment, this long-standing property will become a destination itself, while driving local tourism and ensuring local beachside holidays are accessible to even more South Africans.