Flashpackers

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Rolls-Royce backpackers for those world travellers with gold card.

A 320-bed backpackers – branded a “flashpackers” – will take major space in the Queenstown CBD’s new Church Street complex.

The Australasian Nomads chain will be anchor tenant in the half of the complex furtherest from the lake, taking the top three levels and 200 sq m on the ground floor.

Sydney-based Rob Gardos – who bought half the development from local partners John Guthrie, John Martin, the Hensman family and Don Spary two years ago – is spending more than $1 million fitting out the flashpackers for a scheduled July 1 opening.

There’ll be 78 rooms comprising 27 en suite king and nine en suite family rooms for flashpackers, with the balance in more traditional dorms sleeping four to 10 people each.

Other facilities include kitchen and common areas, 24-hour reception and internet, sauna, cinema lounge and ski lockers.

Unlike the CBD’s other major budget accommodation, the 410-bed Base Queenstown, Nomads won’t have an on-site bar.

“Surrounding bars and restaurants in the central business precinct will piggy-back off this development, which brings free-spending international tourists into the heart of the town rather than accommodating them in town-fringe residences,” Gardos says.

Local Bayleys sales consultant Marty Barwood, who’s marketing nine adjoining retail outlets covering 700sq m – seven facing Church St or Searle Lane – says flashpackers stay an average of 3.4 nights, spending about $1100 on activities, food and beverage, souvenirs and entertainment.

Initial interest in the retail spaces – ranging from 60-98sq m – has mainly come from food operators, Barwood adds. “Nobody knows what the pedestrian traffic will be like but Base backpackers has made Fergburger and other lower Shotover St retailers successful.”

Nomads was one of three backpacker operators interested in the building, Barwood says.

The Australasian group opened its first hostel in Adelaide in 1994, and now owns and manages 15 properties and 20 affiliated backpackers in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

This will be the chain’s third NZ hostel, joining operators in Auckland and Wellington.

“We are very excited to be announcing this new project as it really demonstrates where we have been taking our business over the last few years with the two different levels of accommodation,” says Nomads operations boss Meg Allen.

Unusually for accommodation establishments, because it’s not a district plan requirement, the new flashpackers has on-site paid parking – it’s built above the council-owned 148-space underground carpark in Church St.

The council carpark was funded by Guthrie and Martin, whose company Ballarat Holdings paid $3.3m to lease the air-space above the carpark for 2000 years – the two later brought in Spary and the Hensman family as business partners to build on top.

Ironically, as revealed by Mountain Scene last October, Guthrie and Martin have lobbied QLDC to lease their half of the complex for office space – so far without success.

The entire $18m Church St complex, which will appear a unified development, was designed by Kerry Mason from Christchurch architectural consultancy MAP Architects, who is also responsible for Lake Hayes’s Amisfield building.

It makes extensive use of stacked stone in keeping with older surrounding buildings and features floor-to-ceiling windows.

It’s being built by Arrowtown’s Edge Construction, whose principal Ewan Edgerton died suddenly two months ago.