Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Reconstruction of quake-hit hotels top priority, says Accor

Garth Simmons, newly appointed Accor vice-president for New Zealand and Fiji. Photo / Supplied
Garth Simmons, newly appointed Accor vice-president for New Zealand and Fiji. Photo / Supplied

Earthquake-struck Christchurch properties operated by the world's largest hotel chain are being rebuilt and a new boss says reopening about 300 rooms there is a top priority.

Garth Simmons, just appointed Accor's vice-president for New Zealand and Fiji and replacing Paul Richardson, said work was well advanced rebuilding the Ibis and restoring the Novotel.

Accor is New Zealand's largest hotel chain and, on Wednesday night, opened a Sofitel Auckland in the former Westin at 21 Viaduct Harbour Ave.

Simmons said Christchurch had been a key market for Accor but the tragedy had taken a big toll on its operations there.

"Re-establishing Accor's presence in Christchurch is a top priority of the Government and for us. We're the number one hotel operator in New Zealand and we feel obligated as well to be part of the growth.

"While it's a tragedy what's happened there, we're excited to be part of [the rebuild] because there are no Accor hotel rooms operating there and so many hotels have been taken out of stock," Simmons said.

Accor did not consider it a priority to open a third hotel in the city, he said.

"We're investing in the two being put back up. We don't want too much exposure. We'll have about 300 rooms with those open but a lot of hotels won't reopen in Christchurch," he said.

The new Ibis will open in September and rebuilt Novotel in August next year, Simmons said.

He has big expansion plans too.

"There are some locations in New Zealand we need to cover off. We would like to have a Sofitel and Pullman in Wellington and we would like to have a Novotel in the CBD of Auckland, because we have them at the airport and Ellerslie," he said.

Simmons will manage 36 hotels here and four in Fiji, working from Accor's headquarters in Queen St, Auckland.

Richardson has been appointed chief operating officer for greater China, based in Shanghai where he will manage more than 120 hotels. A further 60 are due to open there in the next three years.

A statement from the hotel business said the changes came at a time of record growth for Accor here and in Australia, after the Australia sector added 43 Mirvac hotels to its portfolio.

Michael Issenberg, president and chief operating officer for Asia-Pacific, cited interconnections across the Pacific region and said it made sense to consolidate the business under one management structure.

Simmons, born in Sydney, said his family - wife Karen and daughters Mckenzie, 11 and Ella, 8 - would shift to Auckland initially to Pullman Residences, then look to buy a house near Diocesan School for Girls.

"Accor has done a pretty good job over the last five years [with New Zealand]," Simmons said.

"Our plans are to continue that but also looking for other opportunities to expand there, but with Fiji there are some limitations to what we could do."

- NZ Herald

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