Tourism heads and local mayors say a $4 million upgrade of the Hamilton Airport Hotel will help fill a desperate shortage of plush hotel accommodation in the region.
Guests inspected the revamped hotel on Thursday, checking out the refurbished conference facilities, newly painted exterior and made-over gardens, new kitchen and relocated reception. Around half of the 62 rooms have had a top-to-toe makeover with the remainder to be redone by April.
A revamped standalone bar and restaurant — Propeller — has already opened for business to hotel guests and the public.
Overall, the hotel is expecting a 4-star Qualmark rating when it is formally assessed this week.
Hamilton Airport Hotel was purchased by Waikato Regional Airport Ltd (WRAL) in January 2018 as part of its strategy to grow non-aeronautical revenue streams. It is managed on behalf of WRAL by Jet Park which already operates hotels in Rotorua and Auckland.
WRAL chief executive Mark Morgan said investment into the hotel was "perfectly timed" given the regional accommodation shortage and huge passenger growth into Hamilton airport.
"The Waikato is now the fourth largest region behind Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch for conventions, meetings and business events and has just over 10 per cent of that market," he said.
"Hamilton is the fourth largest city in New Zealand but we rank only ninth when it comes to hotel inventory, so I'm absolutely confident this will help plug a significant gap.
"Over the last three years we've had a 26 per cent increase in passengers coming through the airport and there's no sign of that slowing down.
"The fact is, more and more people are coming to our region and they all need somewhere to stay."
The 12-month refurbishment programme had turned the hotel upside down and inside and out.
"From new beds and linen to the breakfast menu, we've done it all," said Mark.
"This is not a budget hotel; it's a top quality facility. I'm confident we will very quickly pick up market share and the hotel will do well."
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson confirmed there was already strong interest in the spruced-up hotel from the wider tourism industry, business sector and conference and events market.
"Jet Park is a national operator known for exceptional service, great hospitality and great food so this is a known, reputable brand," he said.
"The hotel is a fantastic addition to the region's accommodation, event and conference inventory and will help meet the increasing demand for large-scale, commercial accommodation." Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate and Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest have both welcomed the upgrade.
Paula said the shortage of hotel accommodation in the city was "blindingly obvious".
"We absolutely know Hamilton and its Waikato neighbours are losing lucrative business due to a lack of high-end hotels. And we all know the challenges posed by big calendar events like National Fieldays when quality rooms are like hen's teeth," she said.
She was advised of a major conferencewhere more than 1000 people would stay in Hamilton for four or five nights.
"But we simply couldn't host that conference because we were two hotels short at the right level. There is a huge flow-on effect from visitors staying overnight and the more we can encourage it the better."