It's been two years in the development phase but Rotorua's new five-star hotel is now preparing to open. Journalist Kelly Makiha talks to the Pullman Hotel's new general manager and finds out who they are looking for to fill the new roles and how many applicants they've had.
More than 500 people have applied for 11 key roles at Rotorua's first five-star hotel as management set about hiring the 80 people needed to run the hotel.
General manager Richard Bungeroth will lead the 130-room hotel nearing completion and said already 11 key roles had been advertised, prompting 506 applications so far.
A further five roles were advertised at the weekend for barista, bartender, concierge/welcomer, accounts receivables and reservations agents.
Bungeroth said it was hoped locals could fill some of the 80 jobs. Of the 506 applications for the 11 key roles, 140 were from New Zealand residents or citizens legally entitled to work in New Zealand.
He said many of the applications required sponsorship to get them to work in New Zealand.
"We are trying to recruit from the local economy and trying, if we can, not to go offshore.
"There is some real talent here in Rotorua and this city has got a really good service history. Even if the person is not from the hotel industry per se but they think they have something to offer, I will consider them."
The multimillion-dollar hotel has been built in the former Zen building on Arawa St and management is still keeping tight-lipped about an opening date, despite it earlier being estimated to be this summer.
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The Accor website says the hotel is opening in January and is taking bookings from the middle of next month. Rooms are being advertised as starting from $349 a night.
The hotel was consented in January last year and has been built by developers Chow Group Management Ltd.
It will have panoramic views of the city and lake area and feature an executive lounge, business lounge, chill-out lounge, restaurant and bar, gymnasium, carparking at the rear of the building as well as five meeting rooms catering for conferences and events.
Bungeroth, who has been in the role for just over a month, said 61 people had so far been interviewed via Skype or in-person and the average interview time was 30 minutes, which equated so far to just over 30 hours of interviewing.
There have been five internal job transfers from within Accor, which is the hotel connected to the Pullman brand.
"We are working with the local Work and Income office, Toi Ohomai, New Zealand School of Tourism to help find our employees."
He said different cultures had been employed so far, including Māori, New Zealand European, South African, Asian, Romanian, Italian, Indian and Mexican.
Bungeroth said the hotel's new bar and restaurant, Barrell & Co, would not only provide for hotel guests but would be a wonderful addition to Rotorua's restaurant scene.
He said the food would showcase local flavours and ingredients and while it was stylish and up to five-star standard, it would be an easy-going brassiere style with prices "not too daunting".
"We want to tap into foot traffic too. It will be classy but we don't want to price ourselves out."
Bungeroth, who won the General Manager of the Year 2018 at the New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards, previously spent seven years in Franz Josef Glacier overseeing the five-star Te Waonui Forest Retreat & Amaia Spa.
He said he and his family jumped at the chance to move to Rotorua and be involved in the city's first five-star hotel.
He said having the opportunity to work for Accor, which he said was a respected and established hotel brand, was also a bonus and he was able to tap into existing networks and friendships, including his long-standing friendship with Rotorua Novotel and Ibis general manager Edward Judd.
He said the Pullman would provide competition for Rotorua's existing hotel network but it was always a good thing to lift the bar.
"It's going to be so great for Rotorua and will bring in a lot of business to the city."