Millions of dollars are being injected into sprucing up luxury Rotorua hotels, with “strong demand” for high-end accommodation in the city.
A tourism leader says expanding the city’s accommodation options is crucial to making it a “top-tier destination” and more competitive in the global market.
It comes as card spending by tourists in Rotorua hits $406 million for the year to March, up more than a third on the year before and nearly at pre-Covid levels - indicative of inflation as well as the sector’s continuing recovery.
The Regent of Rotorua was undergoing a $5m-plus expansion, while Hamurana Lodge was having a $3.5m makeover.
Rotorua Lakes Council issued a building consent valued at $3m for the Regent on Pukaki St last month.
It was one of 10 commercial consents, in total valued at just over $3.7m, the council issued in April.
The boutique hotel’s managing director Bryce Garrett said the consent was for a new wing of 12 guest rooms, which would take its total number of rooms to 47.
“We are seeing strong demand for accommodation in Rotorua, particularly over the summer months.”
Garrett said the additional rooms would also help the hotel to achieve “better economies of scale”.
“Continued cost increases make it harder for smaller properties to stack up financially.”
Construction on the new guest rooms began on May 1 and they were anticipated to be available to the public from March, he said.
Garrett said business appeared to have returned to pre-Covid levels, “which traditionally means quieter winters, but [it’s] very busy over summer”.
The expansion also opened up opportunities to hire more people, he said.
“We will be needing additional housekeeping and restaurant staff.”
The total cost of the expansion was expected to exceed $5m, he said.
Prince’s Gate Hotel Group marketing and events manager Jeff Ferguson said the group was three-quarters of the way through a multi-million-dollar refurbishment of Hamurana Lodge in Ngongotahā.
The $3.5m-plus refurbishment included upgrading all of the lodge’s rooms and facilities, a new pool deck area plus two new spa pools and sauna, a restaurant open for breakfast and dinner, a lounge bar, a sculpture garden around the 15-acre property and a new designated parking area for guests.
The name of the lodge would also change to Hana Lodge as part of the refurbishment, he said.
The Prince’s Gate Hotel Group owns luxury boutique hotels Black Swan and Hana Lodge, as well as the four-and-a-half-star Prince’s Gate Boutique Hotel.
Ferguson said investing in luxury accommodation “could only be good for the city”.
“It helps bring in conferences, larger events and attracts the international market”, he said.
“There is high demand for high-end accommodation,” Ferguson said.
The Hana Lodge was planned to open in October, he said.
Andrew Wilson, chief executive of tourism and economic development organisation RotoruaNZ, commended the two investments and acknowledged the positive impact these would have on the city’s tourism and accommodation sector.
Wilson said the city would benefit from increased tourism revenue, job creation and enhanced visitor experiences as a result of these expansions.
“Investing in Rotorua’s accommodation sector has a far-reaching impact on the city itself. By expanding the range of high-end accommodations available, Rotorua becomes more competitive within the global tourism market.”
Wilson said demand for accommodation continues to build, with stakeholders indicating strong and sustained demand for quality accommodation in Rotorua.
“Rotorua continues to attract both domestic and international visitors throughout the year, and the expansion of Regent of Rotorua and refurbishment of Hana Lodge aligns with this demand, further addressing the needs of travellers seeking premium hospitality experiences in the region.
“Continued development within the accommodation sector is crucial for the growth and development of Rotorua as a top-tier destination.”
According to Infometrics, tourism spending in Rotorua was up 36.2 per cent to $406m in the year to March, compared to $298m a year ago and $412m in the year to March 2019.
Tourism spending nationwide was up 30.5 per cent in the year to March. Infometrics said this indicated a continuing recovery, with a revival in international tourism along with solid domestic activity. Higher inflation was also a factor.
RotoruaNZ’s tourism recovery dashboard data indicated international visitor spending in Rotorua was about $97m in the year to March and had recovered to 78 per cent of pre-Covid levels. International guest nights had recovered by 32 per cent.
On the Point Lake Rotorua lodge manager Ann Gregor-Greene said the property underwent some major renovations on its conservatory during Covid-19 in 2020.
That included completely stripping and redressing the interior and installing a new roof and fireplace to modernise the space, she said. Remedial work and investment in the upkeep of the 1930s lodge was ongoing, she said.
Originally Peppers on the Point, the luxury lodge also rebranded in March this year.
Gregor-Greene said luxury accommodation in Rotorua was sought-after, and after a very good season last summer, business was looking promising again for next year.
“We are looking to see an upward trend next year because the demand is very high.”
While there were no current plans to expand Rotorua’s first five-star hotel, the Pullman Rotorua, which opened in 2020, a spokesperson it was seeing strong demand for Rotorua with increases across both the domestic market and European travellers.