MotelsNewsNews In Brief

What do Pixie Skase, Christopher Columbus and regional Victoria have in common?

The answer to that is the award-winning The Matador Motel in Sale

Like many of regional Australia’s tucked-away motels The Matador Motel in Sale in Victoria’s Gippsland has quite a story to tell when you delve between the sheets.

Built in the 1970’s as part of the Commodore chain of properties, the motel was designed by the high-profile socialite and her then-husband, entrepreneur George Frew, (she later married the runaway corporate success-turned-villain Christopher Skase) who was himself a pioneer in establishing regional motels across Australia.

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Over the years, the motel changed hands and names on several occasions, eventually becoming known as the Mexican-themed ‘The Hacienda’ before falling into disrepair and in need of some serious TLC.

That TLC came along in 2017 when current owners, Hugh and Kellie Roberts, falling in love with the run-down two-star property, recognised the opportunity it represented and took a major punt with some serious investment to make what Hugh described as the start of an almost six-year journey “making a dream become a reality.”

Today, The Matador is a 4-star motel that Hugh said “pushes the boundaries of what you expect from regional accommodation providers.”

The Matador Motel

That ‘boundary’ push has certainly been recognised with The Matador  being named ‘Motel of the year’ at the recent  2022 Victorian Accommodation Awards for Excellence.

The Matador Motel team (L-R) – Co-Operations Manager, Craig Frith, owners Hugh & Kellie Roberts & Co-Operations Manager, Alicia Frith

“We loved the location and architecture of the building and we were drawn to its beauty,” Hugh said.

“There are so many small but beautiful details throughout the property such as the original copper mesh robe doors, shield and sword chandlers, archways and vaulted ceilings, leather and stud reception desk panelling.“

All of these have been painstakingly restored, even a very large portrait of Christopher Columbus, found tucked away in a  back room, which too has been returned to its former glory and now takes pride of place behind The Matador’s reception desk.

Taking some five years to complete, the renovations have seen all of The Matador’s 54 rooms  – King Deluxe, Corporate, Standard, Twin and Family options including five interconnecting rooms and two apartments – fitted out with new bathrooms, flooring and lighting, with much of the cabinetry undergoing restoration before being refitted.

The Matador Motel

All rooms feature Flatscreen smart TVs and free wifi, and in the bathrooms, as a nod to the environment, The Matador has transitioned away from single-use plastic and offers products that use recycled plastic waste from beaches and rivers to transform it into bottles for shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel and hand wash.

The motel’s reception area and 150-seat function-cum-conference facility too has been renovated and the original swimming pool, previously located in the middle of the carpark, has been filled in and a new solar-heated pool area created behind a  high brick fence in the corner of the property to offer guests a more private environment for swimming and relaxing.

And the inspiration behind the refurbishment and transition away from the Mexican theme to the Spanish ‘Matador’?

All prompted by the discovery of the huge painting of Columbus, the man attributed with discovering the ‘New World’ in 1492 (yes, we all know he was an Italian but he could not have made the trip without some heavy sponsorship from Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella).

Hugh said a stay at The Matador is so much more than just a room for the night.

“We offer complimentary chocolates and water something that has been lost in the industry, and our continental breakfast offers fruit, yogurt pots, muffins, ham cheese, avocados, seeds and berries, everything to you need to start the day healthily.”

“As for fast computerised, no contact check-in, no, that’s not for us. We want to welcome our guests personally, build relationships that encourage return, direct booking guests.”

Staff and guest care and measures in the post-COVID environment remain uppermost with housekeeping staff all equipped with gloves and a mask in each cleaning trolley.

“We have an amazing team who take the property cleanliness and their own protection very seriously and to date we have had no staff at the property infected via the workplace,” Hugh said.

“During the second lockdown we had a positive case stay at the venue and with support from government industries, we were able to take steps to isolate the room and ensure our teams and guest safety.

“We acted quickly and as a result, our listing as an exposure site was removed from the list within 12 hours.”

And generally, how has business been since lockdowns were abolished?

Hugh said that like many regional operators The Matador has experienced an uplift in trade in the post-COVID era.

“Most notable has been our weekend trade with local shows being staged, bands touring and regional councils pushing for the tourist dollar so we have all benefited,” he said.

“I love the idea of shop local and holiday local, and we are constantly amazed at how many guests we have from metro Melbourne who are visiting regional Victoria for the first time in their lives and loving it.“

The Matador sits within an enviable location in the heart of Central Sale with access to shopping and several local attractions and places of interest including The Wedge Entertainment Centre Precinct, Lake Guthridge, the Botanical Gardens, Port of Sale, the brand new Gippsland Art Gallery, Library and Information Centre.

Read about the 2022 Victorian Accommodation Awards for Excellence winners HERE


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