Hotel’s milestone


Which Queenstown hotel has had one owner and two managers over two decades?

The answer’s St Moritz, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last week.

The owner’s Queenstowner Graham Wilkinson, who only briefly had a business partner early on, and the managers have been Lynne McVicar, who had 18 years in charge, and now Jo Finnigan, who worked under McVicar for 16 years.

Wilkinson says he paid about $2 million for the 4000 square metre site, off Brunswick Street, and built the hotel for about $16m – “the building’s now insured for $64m”.

The architectural idea’s from large-scale European and North American lodges, in particular one in Switzerland’s glamorous St Moritz.

“I got a ‘cease and desist’ letter from St Moritz, but when I explained we weren’t trying to do anything wrong, they turned around and sent out cow bells and ribbons.”

St Moritz at twilight

The four-and-a-half star hotel was one of the first in town to unit-title its rooms and sell them off.

“Like a lot of unit titles, it didn’t fare as well as people expected, but in latter years, with a surge in visitor numbers, earnings have been extremely strong.”

From day one, it’s also been aligned with major hotel operator Accor.

Currently it’s in Accor’s luxury ‘MGallery by Sofitel’ collection – coincidentally, Wilkinson also owns Queen-stown’s glamorous five-star Sofitel hotel.

Early on, St Moritz cemented its reputation by winning national tourism awards – after a three-year winning streak it had to stand down for a year, then won the top visitor accommodation prize again when it re-entered.

Wilkinson has credited McVicar with mentoring and inspiring countless employees.

“The number of people who have gone on to bigger and better things throughout the world is absolutely staggering.”

Finnigan comments that the hotel’s “incredibly well located, and some of the design has meant it’s just an absolute classic”.

“We’ve always been nimble and I think we’ve always been ambitious for it.”

For the record, the hotel’s welcomed more than half a million guests, employed more than 1300 staff and served about 21,500 dishes of its signature wood-fired lasagne.