Chains pulled at Kawarau Falls

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Queenstown’s troubled Kawarau Falls Station development is scouting for an international hotel operator now two big chains have checked out.

Contracts for a five-star Westin hotel and a four-star Quadrant have apparently lapsed after two development companies involved in the billion-dollar resort were placed in receivership last May.

The two hotel buildings and associated apartments are nearing completion after receivers appointed by Bank of Scotland International allowed work to continue.

But New Zealand Hotel Council local chairperson Victoria Shaw understands the new hotels won’t sport either Westin or Quadrant banners.

The Westin label is owned by the United States-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which also owns the Sheraton brand. Quadrant is apparently the house brand of Kawarau Falls’ beleaguered parent, Melview Developments.

“Because [construction of the two hotels meant] they couldn’t come online when they were expected to, they were able to cancel their contracts,” Shaw says.

The 98-room Quadrant was originally due to open two weeks ago and Westin’s 178-room property had been taking bookings from March 1.

But according to the chains’ respective websites, Starwood now no longer promotes “Westin Queenstown” although Melview’s Quadrant still flags a “mid-2010” opening.

Shaw believes the receivers are hunting for one chain to operate both hotels – but under different brands.

“One was built for the Quadrant so that’s more three-and-a-half to four star, the other one was built as a Westin and that’s a five-star,” she says.

Mountain Scene has been told executives from the five-star Hilton chain looked over Kawarau Falls last week – Hilton was originally due to open a Frankton Road property planned by the failed McEwan Group.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that [Hilton is] still interested in coming into town,” Shaw says.

But even if the receivers latch onto a hotel chain, Shaw says any new operator would want stage two of Kawarau Falls to proceed.

Stage two is to include an InterContinental hotel with a 1000-seat conference centre, which would help feed the other two hotels.

“Without the conference facilities, why would you go over there?” Shaw asks.

“Also, whoever does take on those two hotels, it will be challenging operating in a development site.”

Mountain Scene was unable to contact receiver Brendon Gibson.