The Press

Hoteliers play the long game

- AMANDA CROPP

The InterConti­nental Hotels Group is looking at developing half a dozen new hotels around the country.

IHG chief operating officer for Asia, the Middle East and Africa Alan Watts said high occupancy rates and double digit increases in revenue had made the Australasi­an hotel market a hot propositio­n with both domestic and internatio­nal investors.

His group is in discussion­s about new hotels in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown.

Singapore-based Watts signalled that three Auckland developmen­ts were on the cards and hoped to be in a position to make an announceme­nt next week.

IHG recently opened the Crowne Plaza hotel in central Christchur­ch following conversion of the former Forsyth Barr office building.

Watts, who started his career at the city’s long-demolished Park Royal hotel, was in town to view the new addition to the IHG stable.

He said the group also planned to build a 120-room Holiday Inn Express in Gloucester St and completion would be timed to coincide with opening of the new convention centre, scheduled for late 2019.

Refitting an existing building was much faster and there were fewer planning and developmen­t hurdles, Watts said.

Making a new build stack up in the current environmen­t was a challenge given occupancy rates, and matching the pace of hotel developmen­t with that of the rebuild was critical.

‘‘There’s a lot of parties with land in Christchur­ch that are taking a wait and see approach as to how the market evolves. Timing is everything, it’s a city on the rise.’’

Watts said it was a matter of looking five to 10 years ahead in Christchur­ch, ‘‘unlike Auckland and Queenstown where you would want to bring a product to market as soon as you possibly could.’’

Auckland’s new targeted rate levied on the capital value of hotels, motels and B&Bs has been blamed for putting a dampener on investment in new developmen­ts.

Watts said using state or regional taxes to raise funds for tourism infrastruc­ture was common in the markets he worked in, and they were well understood and accepted by the visitors who paid them.

But the Auckland property tax fell on owners and he said it would be a concern if this form of revenue-gathering spread to the rest of the country.

Last year New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) market analysis concluded that the country needed another 26 new hotels and launched Project Palace to match investors with potential sites.

NZTE’s general manager investment, Dylan Lawrence, said they had identified about 20 sites. After presentati­ons in eight overseas markets one internatio­nal investor had bought land in Christchur­ch for a potential new hotel, and another four potential hotel developmen­ts were under negotiatio­n across the country.

 ?? PHOTO: AMANDA CROPP/STUFF ?? Interconti­nental Hotels Group spokesman Alan Watts says timing of further new hotels for Christchur­ch will need to match progress on the city’s rebuild.
PHOTO: AMANDA CROPP/STUFF Interconti­nental Hotels Group spokesman Alan Watts says timing of further new hotels for Christchur­ch will need to match progress on the city’s rebuild.

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