By GUY WILLIAMS
Opening a new hotel in post-Covid Queenstown sounds like a challenge, but the owners of the Holiday Inn Express are confident about the future.
The 227-room Holiday Inn Express, in Stanley Street, opens its doors next Friday at a time when visitor numbers in the resort are drastically down.
General manager Jason Sabin says they’re opening with a scaled-down operation of 98 rooms and 20 staff, and will expand in response to demand.
Sabin – a mountain biking, snowboarding Sydneysider who moved to the resort with his family a year ago – says it’s opening in time for the second week of the school holidays, “smack-bang” in the middle of the resort’s ski season.
Although bookings have been “quite positive”, he’s hopeful the border will open to his fellow Australians before too long.
“That will provide a good jab in the arm.
“We’re opening in a difficult environment, but we still have a lot of confidence in the Queenstown market.
“We understood that operating with closed borders and only a domestic market will provide its own challenges, but New Zealand’s leading the world in its management of the pandemic, and when they announced that domestic travel was permitted, that gave us the confidence to open our doors.”
He’s pleased they’ve been able to create some jobs in the “hard-hit” resort, and is glad the hotel didn’t open before the pandemic arrived – that would’ve required “some difficult conversations” with staff, he says.
Owned by Australian developer Pro-invest Group, it’s the company’s first Holiday Inn Express in New Zealand, a brand used by more than 2400 hotels worldwide.
The two-year, $60 million build, which had about 250 workers at its peak, covers a site bordered by Stanley, Sydney and Melbourne Streets.
It’s an amalgamation of two sites: one the former home of the late Dr Bill Anderson, a well-known GP and local mayor, and the other where Bungi Backpackers – itself the resort’s former maternity hospital – operated for many years.
A feature of the hotel is the vast Room’, just inside the main entrance, which serves as check-in lobby, cafe-bar, restaurant and lounge.
The hotel, which has a and collect’ model instead of room service, provides guests with a free daily breakfast and uncapped WiFi, and has a fitness centre, sauna, snow gear drying room, laundry facilities and two function rooms.