One of New Zealand's wealthiest families have launched their own hotel this weekend.
The Velas, who own thoroughbred auction house New Zealand Bloodstock and are thought to be worth $275 million, opened The DoubleTree by Hilton next to its stables in Karaka, south of Auckland, last night in a collaboration with the world-famous hotel chain.
The hotel is bound to attract myriad guests, including horse-loving Aucklanders wanting a staycation, and inbound and outbound international tourists wanting a night or two of luxury.
NZB's managing director of sales and marketing Petrea Vela tells Spy that when her father Sir Peter, and his late brother, Philip, purchased the auction business in 1997, it was always in their minds to one day be able to have all international buyers stay on the property for the horse sales held throughout the year.
"Karaka is its own little oasis that comes alive at sale time, and we can see the hotel being at the centre of that," she says. "It's been a long time coming but now it still makes sense for that purpose and, we believe, a host of other reasons."
Construction that began in early July 2019, suffered delays like everything else over that period due to the lockdowns.
The hotel has 122 guest rooms, including four suites, an impressive swimming pool and outdoor bar, a large gym, a signature horseshoe bar and restaurant, a conference room and generous entertaining areas with two large outdoor fireplaces.
"It all combines to create an elegant rural environment that will feel like it's miles away from the city, but is only 30 minutes on the motorway," Vela says.
One of the jewels in the crown will be the Ethereal Restaurant, named after Sir Peter's Melbourne Cup winner, which has the original cup on display. It is headed by executive chef Mark Southon, who was the executive chef at O'Connell Street Bistro for five years, having previously worked at The French Cafe.
"It is a beautiful, quality, family-friendly bistro, which promises to be a real treat for the locals in Karaka as well as guests at the hotel and beyond," says Vela.
She says the hotel will appeal as a conference facility and the extensive grounds create a wonderful backdrop for event and wedding imaginations to go wild.
Vela says several international hotel chains pitched to them to manage and operate the hotel for NZB, but the Hilton team was the standout fit.
"We loved how they embraced the uniqueness of our property and business and wanted to bring that into the identity of the hotel. Given the quality and recognition of the Hilton brand worldwide, along with our family's own experiences of staying at their hotels, it was an easy decision."
She is thrilled they nabbed a wonderful hotel manager in Fabien Dewelle, who has most recently come from managing the Hilton Brisbane and she says he has assembled an impressive team of people who are ready to bring their new hotel to life.
Vela says that even though the international high rollers that head to the annual sales in January have been accustomed to buying their horses virtually through NZB's vendors over the past couple of years because of border restrictions, there is nothing like pressing the flesh and sales have become an event themselves on the international thoroughbred calendar.
"International buyers love attending the sales, seeing the horses in the flesh, and experiencing all the hospitality that comes with it."
The hospitality laid on by NZB is legendary and the hotel is definitely an extension of such.
"The hotel was designed with luxurious country homes in mind and takes inspiration from the equine environment that it sits at the heart of.
"For example, a combination of wood, leather and brass accents give a nod to New Zealand's working stud farms and NZB's thoroughbred and standardbred auctions."