BY JAMES WILKINSON
The former Westin Auckland Lighter Quay, a hotel that was surrounded in controversy during 2011, has finally become a Sofitel, a long-held desire of owners’ representative Graham Wilkinson.
Accor gained management of the property – now known as Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour – in late September 2011, two months after Wilkinson received approval from a majority of the property’s owners to pass across management control to him from Starwood.
As a result, Starwood then terminated the management agreement with the remaining owners and the property was operating under the name Hotel Viaduct Harbour for a number of weeks before the Accor deal was signed and subsequently, the property then traded under the MGallery brand until last week.
Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour is Wilkinson’s second luxury Accor property in New Zealand alongside Sofitel Queenstown Hotel and Spa, and that property’s General Manager Wouter de Graaf has been appointed to oversee both five-star hotels.
“The Sofitel (Auckland) will offer exceptional quality accommodation and service, matching the hotel’s prestigious location,” de Graaf said.
“We anticipate the Sofitel having a similar effect on Auckland’s hotel and tourism scene as the Sofitel did when it launched in Queenstown.
“Auckland is one of the world’s desirable harbour cities and the Sofitel really takes advantage of its location and showcases the exceptional beauty of Waitemata Harbour,” he said.
Wilkinson’s desire to turn the former Westin into a Sofitel in Auckland was well known in the New Zealand hotel industry for some time, but the rebranding has come sooner than many expected.
De Graaf said Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour – Accor’s 10th property and its 33rd in the country – would become the flagship hotel for chain in New Zealand.
“We’re particularly happy to be welcoming this new flagship hotel to our network,” he said. “Accor has long been searching for an appropriate address in Auckland to wear the prestigious Sofitel Luxury Hotel’s label, and we believe that this hotel is the ultimate prestige address for this brand.”
De Graaf will oversee both Sofitels in New Zealand until a General Manager is appointed for the Queenstown property.