Lakefront rooms lapped up

Saying goodbye: Accommodation operators Al and Joy Luke are leaving Lake Esplanade after 27 years

A large New Zealand hotel chain has bought out long-time Queenstown operators who’ve run a prominent strip of accommodation businesses.

Auckland-based VR Hotels Group, which manages almost 30 hotels worldwide, under holding company Kiwi Hospitality NZ Ltd, has snapped up Joy and Al Luke’s leasehold and management rights businesses on Lake Esplanade, a short hop from the CBD.

These comprise Lakeside Motel, Lakeside Backpackers and the management rights to Lakefront Apartments and The Lodges.

VR Hotels Group has been managing The Lofts Apartments, on nearby Shotover Street, for almost five years.

Group general manager Prashant Malik says there’ll be some sharing of systems and resources between The Lofts and the Lake Esplanade businesses.

His company’s keen to upgrade its new acquisitions, though that will require the cooperation of individual unit owners at Lakefront Apart-ments and The Lodges.

As a result, Malik says they’re likely to start with the motel property.

The Lukes took over Lakeside Motel, originally on a nine-month lease, in 1992, after running a 150-bed backpackers in Christchurch.

They bought a unit in neighbouring St Omer Court, then were asked by other owners to manage the complex, which they renamed Lakefront Apartments.

They later took over the management rights of The Lodges, where they own another two units, from Aussie-based BreakFree.

Their combined business sleeps 220-plus people.

Joy says they decided to sell as it’s “just the right time”.

“We’re getting a bit tired – we’ve put everything into it – and it’s time for more of our own lives.”

The sale was brokered by local Tourism’s Adrian Chisholm.

As for ‘highlights’, the Lukes single out the 1999 flood.

Though they weren’t inundated, they say it affected business because having the word ‘lake’ in their name meant prospective guests assumed they were under water.

In 2014, during a big wind, a poplar across the road fell on the motel and squashed seven cars.

Al says he was overnighting in Dunedin Hospital and only found out about it when he opened the Otago Daily Times the following morning.

The Lukes says they’re probably staying in town

Joy: “We’ll get out and then start thinking about the future.”