Eden Anderson came to Rotorua five years ago for a shot in New Zealand's "culture capital".
She got just that as the Pullman hotel doors opened yesterday. The local mum was one of 80 local staff at the frontline of Rotorua's first five-star hotel's official opening. .
Community, business and iwi leaders packed out the glistening new foyer for a blessing and karakia before the first guests arrived.
The hotel which had a consent issued for $10.9 million has been in the works for almost five years, after Chow Group Management Ltd bought the well-known former Zen building in the Rotorua CBD in 2015.
It was later announced the contract was awarded to Accor Hotels for a high-quality hotel.
The Chow group stated a key value was keeping the local economy at the centre of its projects.
Anderson said the team was "so humble" and a great pick of local talent.
Anderson was selected for the role of guest service agent after finishing her study at the Rotorua School of Tourism.
She said she was certain that she wanted to work in the city as relished in how "culturally advanced" it was.
The nine-story hotel boasted 130 rooms, advertised as starting from $349 a night. It included a range of amenities, different sized rooms and even top floor presidential suites.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the city had waited "a long time" for a five-star hotel investment and the Chow brothers had been the "first off the rank".
The hotel was designed to encapsulate the values and identity of the city with wood-carvings, carpet designs, and even a geothermal colour palette, she said.
The benefits the hotel would bring to the city were huge, Chadwick said.
In addition to the Pullman, several high-quality accommodation projects were in the works for the city, which Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said would bring back the "big spenders".
In the past, many had bypassed the city due to a lack of five-star accommodation, he said.
The new hotel would "fulfill the need in a good area" and had created a raft of employment opportunities, he said.
"Any way you look at it, it's a plus."
Chief executive of Destination Rotorua Michelle Templer said demand for luxury accommodation had exceeded supply in the past, so the Pullman was a welcome addition.
The build would also be well received by travel trade selling Rotorua to offshore markets, she said.
Luxury tour company MDA Experience's co-owner Tak Mutu said the hotel would "elevate the city's offerings" and keep "premium spending clientele" in the city.
His business had already begun fielding inquiries for pick-ups from the Pullman.
The new hotel would bring the "premium spending tourist" to the city, which was a whole different market than the city was currently dealing with, he said.
Getting it up and running was not an easy feat though, with the new hotel's general manager Richard Bungeroth saying the night before opening was his first good night's sleep in three months.
He said he was thrilled about how it had all come together and he had a great bunch of staff behind him.
The next few months were already looking busy with bookings flowing in. Sixteen people had checked in on opening day alone.
"It really is exceeding all my expectations."
A special and vital feature of the new hotel was the large contribution from iwi leaders, who provided cultural advice.
Ngāti Whakaue leader Monty Morrison said a key highlight of the project was the opportunity to help name some rooms with something of cultural significance.
"This place holds real significance to the iwi... it is great to see how it will enhance and grow our community."
Co-owner Michael Chow said everyone involved had become like "one big family".
Each person had worked "around the clock" for a number of years to get the luxury building up and running, he said.
Chow moved to New Zealand from Hong Kong back in 1984. He and his brother now own upwards of 30 properties nationwide.
The project had been completed "on-budget" and had managed to take on local influence and local staff like he had hoped, he said.
Chow said will monitor the progress of the hotel closely and had plans to expand and build 150 more rooms next door if needed.