A historic Russell hotel has made the finals of the prestigious Hotel Association of New Zealand excellence awards for the second year in a row.
The Duke of Marlborough Hotel - which boasts the country's oldest liquor licence, issued in 1840 - is in the running for the title of New Zealand's best country hotel, alongside Greytown's White Swan and the Tuakau Hotel in Waikato.
Category and overall winners will be named at a formal awards dinner in Wellington on September 26.
Co-owner Riki Kinnaird said it was the second year running the Duke had made it to the finals in the best country hotel category.
"Fingers crossed, we'll do one better this year. Not bad for little old Russell," he said.
Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said the industry had seen a "flight to quality" over the past two years as the squeeze on disposable incomes made consumers more discerning about where they ate, drank and stayed.
That was reflected in the high calibre of entrants in this year's awards.
Almost all the finalists had increased market share and profitability. Other categories include best restaurant, best bar, best music venue, best environmental, practice and best hospitality.