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Prime location: New Queenstown Motel Apartments co-owner Satyan Mehra

By PHILIP CHANDLER

A young Auckland entrepreneur’s undaunted about buying a Queenstown motel property during the tourism-crippling Covid-19 lockdown.

Satyan Mehra and a friend have acquired Queenstown Motel Apartments, on Frankton Road, from local couple Dianne and Peter Smith, who’d had the property since 1993.

They settled it eight days after lockdown started.

The Smiths originally sold the property and business in February last year, though that deal eventually fell over.

A mortgage advisor, Mehra, who moved from India to study in Auckland about 12 years ago, made a name for himself in 2011 when opening a Pizza Hut franchise at a time owner Restaurant Brands was shutting stores –  model it then adopted widely.

After selling his Pizza Hut interests, Mehra spent about 18 months looking to buy into Queenstown, as he wanted to invest in tourism.

Last December, to get a foot in the door, he bought the lease of Caples Court, in central Queenstown, selling it on three months later.

He got his wish for a freehold property when local New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty agent Dave Fea introduced him to Queenstown Motel Apartments.

According to Property Guru, he and his Auckland friend’s company, QMA Ltd, paid $6,195,000, plus GST, though they also spent a tidy sum buying the business.

Mehra – who bought his first house, in Auckland, when he was only 19 – says he was aware the Covid-19 crisis was about to dent tourism when they signed up in March, though he didn’t think the lockdown would occur so soon.

However, he’s unnerved as they’re in it for the long term – “if you look 10 years ahead, I think it’s hard to go wrong”.

He accepts the property’s underlying value may have dropped but thinks that could be for only six to eight months.

Business will be about survival for the next six to 12 months, he says, but long term he’s optimistic, based on the motel’s prime location, just 600 metres from the CBD, its development potential and his faith in Queenstown.

“When you think about tourism and NZ, what’s the hotspot?

“Queenstown’s the hotspot – if you thought Queenstown’s tourism would die, well, the entire country’s tourism would die first.”

In the coming months, Mehra says they’ll spend $500,000-plus refurbishing six dated motel units and the three-bedroom management quarters.

As for the remaining 18 studio apartments, built in 2004, “we’ll keep making small improvements”.

“Hopefully, a few years down the line we’ll look at redevelopment.”

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