Covid-19 tugged, yanked, pushed, pulled and tested Bay businesses' ability to survive. Since the March 2020 lockdown, it has been survival of the fittest. Zoe Hunter speaks to businesses that have not only survived but thrived.
Te Arawa Fisheries is thriving amid the global pandemic and is now eyeing a business venture that could create up to 1000 jobs.
The Māori-led organisation posted a $1 million increase in total revenue post-lockdown and is developing new business opportunities to establish itself as an important player in the fisheries sector.
The 2020 Te Arawa Fisheries Annual Report, shared with members this month, highlighted the organisation's business strategy and positive financial position.
While Covid-19 had an impact on Te Arawa Fisheries' retail operation, the organisation was able to retain all its frontline staff and still delivered a net surplus of $591,000, nearly 30 per cent up on the previous year.
Te Arawa Fisheries achieved total revenue of $4.5m in 2020, up more than 20 per cent on 2019.
Chief executive Chris Karamea Insley said a lot of hard work went into achieving a positive result despite the lockdowns.
"We needed to do things differently ... We have to change in order to survive and sustain our operation and our assets."
Insley said they moved from a passive strategy to a more active and assertive one.
"That was a massive call to make: becoming active means you've got to take charge of everything you're doing."
That mahi is aligned with the organisation's new business strategy - Ka pu te ruha ka hao te rangatahi (The old net is cast aside and the new net goes fishing).
"In practical terms, this means identifying and developing new markets and products to move up the value chain and mitigate our operation from increasing risks.
"It's also about working smarter, using the technology and expertise that we have at our fingertips to enhance our operations, while at the same time ensuring we are steadily decreasing our carbon emissions."
Insley said partnering with the "smart people" including scientists, researchers, technologists at universities and crown research institutes had been instrumental in its more active strategy.
"We are now partnered with about a dozen leading institutes across New Zealand."
The organisation partnered with the University of Otago's food and nutrition team to research how to turn fish waste into high-value snack foods for international markets, Insley said.
It has also entered into a new joint-venture with Future Cuisine and has invested in new technology installed at a Mount Maunganui facility to produce smoked and flavoured mussels, he said.
"Within a month we will push this product out under our new Māori brand called Hī! (as in the haka)."
Insley said the organisation had also been working on a large-scale aquaculture development with all Bay of Plenty iwi.
He expected the project would create about 1000 new jobs.
The business had spent the past year researching aquaculture that would suit conditions in the Bay of Plenty and had shortlisted six species.
Over the next six to eight months they would develop an investment-ready business case to present to iwi.
"It's about partnering with the right people, at the right time, to secure even better outcomes for our business, our people and our whānau."
"Our greatest asset is our people"
Business is booming at Tauranga's Hotel Armitage and Conference Centre.
The Willow St hotel not only survived the economic gut-punch of Covid-19, it's thriving. Long-term expansion plans are already being formulated to build a new hotel bar and restaurant on site.
The business retained all its staff during the global pandemic and has spent more than $200,000 upgrading its conference facilities.
Prime Hotels Group general manager Nicolas Caffardo said the Hotel Armitage would look brand new once the renovations were complete.
Prime Hotels Group general manager Nicolas Caffardo said low occupancy during the Covid-19 lockdown offered an opportunity to revitalise the hotel and upskill staff.
Caffardo said they analysed cash flow, leaned on their balance sheet, "gratefully accepted" the Government's wage subsidy and realised it was possible to retain staff and carry on with the renovations.
He was proud that the business retained all its staff and kept operating through all alert levels as an essential service, hosting government staff and medical workers.
"Our greatest asset is our people."
Every employee now knew how to book a room, serve a customer a drink or check them into their room.
"We found that the more nimble and multi-skilled our staff became, the more resilient the business has become; this is the future model of hotels.
"So many hotels in Europe are now running a skeleton staff structure because of Covid-19. In New Zealand, we have the opportunity to position our accommodation sector ahead of the rest of the world."
Ninety per cent of its guest rooms, the restaurant, the pool and surrounds, and back-of-house areas such as the kitchen and laundry had been renovated.
The remaining 10 per cent of rooms would be renovated soon.
Renovations of its porte cochère, including the exterior entranceway and door canopy, were also under way. The lobby, corridors and other common areas would be renovated this year.
The hotel hoped to obtain resource consent this yea to extend the footprint and open the hotel up to Willow St through a new bar and restaurant.
"Once renovated, we'll rebrand the hotel."
Prime Hotels took ownership of Hotel Armitage in 2016, bringing Caffardo and his partner, Tiffanny Antoine, on board.
The couple had managed hotels in Europe during the Global Financial Crisis and the SARS epidemic.
"We applied the same learnings in New Zealand during Covid-19," Caffardo said.
"Our mindset is that challenges will bring opportunities."
Caffardo said the team shared a commitment to keep the business going.
"The successes we've shared are a true credit to our team. For me, business is people: We run this business well to look after our people."
Caffardo is passing the reins to partner Antoine, but would still keep a close eye on Hotel Armitage as Prime Hotels general manager.
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne was excited by the ongoing renovations at the hotel.
"Hotel Armitage and Conference Centre is attracting business delegates to Tauranga and bringing liveliness to Tauranga's CBD."
Weathering the Covid storm
Rotorua's first five-star hotel has survived the Covid-19 crisis.
The Pullman Rotorua opened in January 2020 only to shut its doors again just two months later when the country went into lockdown.
It reopened in July 2020 with a new general manager and a goal to survive the year ahead.
Then bad news struck mid-February when the hotel flooded; closing the doors for a month for repairs.
A hotel spokeswoman said it was important for the hotel to reopen and welcome local and Australian guests now the transtasman bubble was popped.
"Pullman is the only five-star hotel in the region so we're excited to be offering our guests a premium, luxury hotel to stay when they visit Rotorua."
The spokeswoman said the transtasman bubble was a "very welcome milestone" for the tourism industry and would help reinvigorate Rotorua.
"The move takes us closer towards the revival and resurgence of the travel industry."
"We thought we were finished"
Rotorua's Ngamihi Lodge received a Recognition of Excellence Award this month which owner Leigh Caughey-Lamb said was an unexpected surprise after a year of uncertainty.
The boutique hotel and bed and breakfast at Okareka has been open for five years and has been granted the 2021 HotelsCombined Recognition of Excellence Award.
"Losing our international guests so suddenly and having to pay back thousands in deposits we thought we were finished ...
"However, our domestic tourists took up the slack and we have been surprisingly busy plus we are looking forward to our first international guests in the next few weeks.
"The award has given us the confidence that we needed to welcome back our international tourists."