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Special report: highlights of NZHIC 2014

NZHIC 2014 edited

By James Wilkinson at NZHIC in Auckland

This year’s New Zealand Hotel Industry Conference (NZHIC) has been a success in Auckland, with over 250 hoteliers, suppliers and tourism leaders turning out in force to talk hospitality.

The 8th Annual NZHIC, proudly sponsored by HM and held at Pullman Auckland, has looked at the challenges for the industry and what opportunities.

Horwath HTL’s New Zealand Director Terry Ngan, one of the hosts on the day, released the company’s Autumn 2014 Outlook at NZHIC and that was a talking point on the day thanks to the significant amount of positivity the report showed.

Ngan said with bright international visitor and domestic economy prospects, “New Zealand hotels should achieve 2-3 ‘golden’ years of increased occupancy, room rate and profitability”.

He said strong inbound and domestic visitation trends which “should flow on to positive hotel demand, together with limited new hotel supply under construction”, should allow hoteliers the “opportunity to increase average annual occupancies and or room rates in the high season in the next three years, and hopefully also in shoulder and low seasons”.

For a full story on Horwath HTL’s Autumn 2014 Outlook, click here.

The Conference kicked-off with a welcome address by New Zealand’s Associate Minister for Tourism, Todd McClay, who said the hotel industry should be positive about the coming years, particularly with upcoming major events, like the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup set to bring in tens of thousands of additional visitors.

McClay also highlighted the upcoming convention centre developments in New Zealand, including the latest proposed project, which would see a large centre built in the capital Wellington.

“We also have 50 incentive groups coming to New Zealand from Asia and America this year,” he said, highlighting the importance of the MICE market to the nation.

Accor’s Senior Vice President for New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Japan, Garth Simmons, followed and said 2014 was a milestone year, with the company marking 20 years in New Zealand.

“We’ve come a long way since we opened our first New Zealand hotel in 1994, a Novotel in Auckland,” he said.

Simmons said business is good for Accor in New Zealand at present.

“It’s been quite a year since our last [NZHIC] Conference,” he said. “Market segments are moving towards 2008 levels and we’re starting to see good gains in yields in a lot of our markets.”

Mantra Group CEO Bob East was the subject of a keynote Q&A by Ngan who discussed a range of topics with the hotel chief about the upcoming IPO and growth for the company.

“The opportunities are outstripping available capital,” East said, when asked why the company was listing on the Australian Stock Exchange.

He said while the company was expanding into Asia at present, specifically Indonesia, the capital raising would be used to target opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

East also revealed the company had signed a Peppers hotel in Canberra, which comes alongside a Peppers under construction in Melbourne’s Docklands, and these two projects were important pieces to the company’s CBD plans for the brand.

Straight after, he spoke exclusively to HM on video about the IPO, performance, growth and more.

The Hotel Leaders panel also drew significant attention on the day and the session – including Simmons; Wyndham’s CEO and Managing Director for Asia Pacific, Barry Robinson; and InterContinental Hotels Group’s Head of Operations for Australasia, Bill Edwards – looked at change in the industry, OTAs and Airbnb.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a B&B or a chain, its competition,” Edwards said.

Robinson said Airbnb was “just another offering” and he wasn’t concerned at the businesses’ growth at present.

Edwards said OTAs remained a contentious issue and “the challenge is if you give them too much control there’s the commission rates that keep creeping up”.

He also said as a whole, the hotel industry “doesn’t focus enough on the guest experience”.

Airline were also in focus with senior executives from Air New Zealand, Jetstar, China Southern Airlines and airports talking about the opportunities and challenges in aviation.

“What’s the drive locally to increase tourism?” asked Jetstar’s Head of New Zealand, Grant Kerr.

Air New Zealand’s General Manager of Networks, Richard Thomson, spoke about the carrier’s new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners set to join the airline this year.

Thomson also spoke about the challenges in the Trans-Tasman market and he said he doesn’t see the market changing shape in the near future.

Hotel development was a popular session late in the day, with hoteliers, advisors and valuers discussing opportunities in the market in both Australia and New Zealand.

Accor’s Vice President of Development – Pacific, Lindsay Leeser, said there were a number of opportunities in the New Zealand market and Accor had a significant pipeline, including the upcoming luxury hotels under the Sofitel brand in Wellington and Sofitel So brand in Wellington.

Starwood’s Director of Acquisitions and Development – Pacific Region, Andrew Taylor, discussed the company’s phenomenal growth in recent years, highlighting a number of upcoming projects in Melbourne.

He noted the company didn’t have any hotels in New Zealand at present and was interested in bringing brands like Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft to the country.

“We think there’s a huge amount of opportunity in this market,” Taylor said.

Air New Zealand Business Premier

HM travelled to Auckland with Air New Zealand. In Business Class, Air New Zealand offers world-class food and wine that highlights the best New Zealand has to offer, while also not compromising on comfort with flatbed seats which feature super-comfortable seat-toppers, large pillows and duvets. You won’t get bored, with hundreds of hours of entertainment available on demand. Visit www.airnz.com.au

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