Room for 'quirky' growth

By Colin Taylor

A 1950s Bristol Freighter aircraft (left) holds two self-contained accommodation units.
A 1950s Bristol Freighter aircraft (left) holds two self-contained accommodation units.

Trains, planes, boats and hobbit holes are among the unusual guest "rooms" within a Waikato accommodation business that is being marketed for sale in Waitomo close to the world famous glow-worm caves.

Woodlyn Park operates as a motel and country-themed function centre catering to the leisure and corporate sectors.

Over almost two decades, owner Barry Woods has bought a colourful array of transport modes and converted them into rooms and suites. The Woodlyn Park accommodation collection includes:

Two Hobbit-themed units built into the side of a hill with authentic round windows and doors. Each self-contained unit is configured for two double beds and four single beds, with rack rates ranging from $250 to $285 a night.

Two units in a twin-engined 1950 Bristol Freighter which was one of the last Allied planes to leave Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam war. Within the plane is a self-contained three-bed unit in the cockpit and fuselage, and another self-contained three-bed unit in the cargo hold and tail section, with rack rates ranging from $175 to $195 a night.

A World War II anti-submarine patrol boat which searched the waters around coastal New Zealand for Japanese vessels. Within the 31m boat are five self-contained units, each configured to accommodate between two and six guests, with rack rates ranging from $180 to $260 a night.

A 1918 train carriage converted into one self-contained unit sleeping up to five people with a rack rate of $195 a night.

Mike Swanson of Bayleys Hamilton is marketing the business for sale by auction on December 5.

Woodlyn Park was voted the Most Innovative Hotel Concept at last year's Worldwide Hospitality Awards in Paris and, in 2009, the business was nominated among the top 10 most unique motels in the world by online service provider Yahoo.

Woods described the Worldwide Hospitality Awards accolade as: "One little old Kiwi against major players in the hospitality industry. To bring home a world award, having knocked out these big guys, was a win for all the small, unrecognised tourism businesses in New Zealand."

Woodlyn Park is about 800m from Waitomo Village off State Highway 3. The village is the gateway to the area's subterranean stalactite and stalagmite caverns, the glow-worm grottos and multiple caving routes which attract about 450,000 visitors annually.

Swanson says the freehold property and business includes a "normal" standalone four-bedroom owner's or manager's dwelling.

He says the "Waitanic" patrol craft which features among the quirky collection of accommodation options at Woodlyn Park is believed to be one of only two such surviving vessels built in Auckland in the 1930s and 1940s and tasked with seeking out potential Japanese invaders.

"After 16 years growing and running Woodlyn Park, Barry now wants to pass on the reins to someone with the vision and energy to move the business into a new phase," Swanson says. "It has a record of profitable trading in its current format and there is a plethora of expansion and business opportunities for a new owner to explore. For example, there is space within the existing complex to add new themed rooms to increase occupancy levels.

"In the past Barry has explored the possibility of adding to his accommodation pool: a former Soviet Cold War submarine, a miner's hut from the goldfields, a refrigerated container unit converted into a sub-zero Eskimo igloo with reindeer bedding, a London double-decker bus and a Buddhist temple. So there's plenty of scope for an imaginative new owner to put their own mark on this well-established business."

Swanson says Woodlyn Park is currently used by camper van travellers free of charge. "There is the potential to landscape the parking facility and add electrical connections so that a premium rate can be charged," he says.

"The other main revenue stream is through its food, beverage and entertainment operations with the opportunity to upscale the food and beverage offerings currently only servicing farm shows booked on an ad hoc basis."

Woodlyn Park features a purpose-built and licensed barn-style 400sq m function room capable of seating 200 diners along with a kitchen and bar. The kitchen is commercially graded with a selection of gas ovens, hobs, bains-marie and dish-washing equipment.

"The rustic barn with its raised replica sheep-shearing platform is adorned with a substantial collection of farming implements and memorabilia, and has been utilised extensively for Barry's sheep-shearing shows," Swanson says.

"Any new owner could choose to continue with the show entertainment through an arrangement with Barry, lease out the building to another specialist rural entertainment business, or instead develop the conference and functions market which to date has been largely untapped," he says.

"Waitomo is at the epicentre of a number of large Waikato rural service towns - ensuring a solid population catchment area. And with the added benefit of offering accommodation on site ... Woodlyn Park can offer a complete hospitality package."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 18 Apr 2014 17:35:25 Processing Time: 626ms