The Chateau Tongariro has been serving high tea since before it came back into fashion, and before it went out of fashion before that.

The hotel was built in 1929 to attract visitors to the newly formed national park and it has maintained its air of sophistication throughout the decades.

With holidaying in our own backyard now the only option, plenty of Kiwis are taking the opportunity to visit, especially now that overseas tourists aren't around to push up the prices.

A special offer focusing on the domestic market has paid off for the Chateau and has helped keep their staff busy right through to the end of the year.

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"There is a domestic market which can be tapped into short-term," Newly appointed hotel manager Saif Rashid said. "This hotel might not have done that in the past, it's never done a 30 per cent sale before, so it has been a very good experience for us."

Rashid jumped at the opportunity of managing the Chateau although it meant leaving his job managing Aucklands 5-star Stamford Plaza. But he says it was a great lifestyle choice for his young family.

He started in January and with Covid hitting just two months in, Rashid went from managing a thriving hotel to managing a bubble of 45 staff.

"It's like Downton Abbey, in a different way. Some of the staff have been here 20 years. It's the only home they know. My executive housekeeper and my store person are part of the history of the place. They make the place unique and they know every in and out of the hotel, and that is integral to the fabric of the hotel."

During the lockdown, the Chateau supplied meals and looked after the staff.

"I think one thing which I've learned from this experience is that the mental health of staff is very important, and communication and leadership from the top really matters.

"My staff, they have really put their heart and soul into getting the hotel running," he said. "We did a lot of cleanup. We went to the rooms, we looked at them, we got the carpet shampooed we did a lot of these things together."

Rashid started his career at 19 when he came from India to study hospitality in New Plymouth, going on to work for one of the top hotel brands in the Southern Hemisphere.

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"This is the perfect place to implement that knowledge and mold it to the Chateau so it isn't awkward."

Some of the changes due to Covid mean things like leather-bound menus have been done away with and replaced with throwaway menus and salt and pepper shakers replaced with sachets, but coronovirus safety precautions can't take away the grandeur and the old-world charm of this iconic New Zealand hotel.

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