Here is an exclusive extract from an interview in the October 2012 edition of HM with Chris McIntosh, Group General Manager of The Eichardt’s Collection in Queenstown New Zealand.
By James Wilkinson in Queenstown
Chris, how has business been this year and what are you expecting for the remainder of 2012 and early 2013? We have started the Australian financial year with July and August being the highest revenue months since the business was started in 2001 for the Winter Season with excellent growth out of the Eastern seaboard of Australia, strong domestic pickup from Auckland, and an increase of high end visitors travelling to New Zealand from the Western seaboard of the United States. Our partnerships with Virtuoso and Andrew Harper are providing excellent room nights into the hotel and I am confident our peak season ahead will prove very strong with backup from our inbound operators.
Some plans are in place to expand the hotel into the car park next door. Can you reveal what the owners are planning to do? At this stage we are still in the planning stages so I can’t reveal too much, but the plans to expand the hotel are very exciting, giving us additional accommodation areas, conferencing, and further food and beverage spaces. As the smallest property in the Virtuoso network, I want to remain the leading small luxury hotel available.
There are three products in the portfolio – tell us about the highlights of each. Eichardt’s provides fine accommodation in five luxurious Hotel Suites, four delightful Lakefront Apartments, and Owner’s Residence all on premium positions at the heart of Queenstown’s café and restaurant precinct. Decorated by renowned designer, Virginia Fisher, the Hotel reflects contemporary provincial elegance, its modern features in perfect harmony with distinctive antiques and luxurious furnishings. Sumptuous Hotel suites exhibit the character infused over the years, warmth and comfort tie in with inspiring décor offering a relaxing atmosphere required to soak up the unbeatable lake and mountain views. Eichardt’s Lakefront Apartments is perfect for larger parties, families, or longer staying guests. The split-level suites are interconnected and can be opened to become a large single accommodation space, or sectioned off for smaller groups. The Owner’s Residence set over three spacious floors, decorated in true Eichardt’s style, offers guests three bedrooms each with ensuite. Features include three balconies, spacious living areas, media suite, full kitchen, and is the ideal retreat in Central Queenstown. Eichardt’s renowned Bar, with its comfortable sofas, soul warming fireplace and gracious service, provides an inviting atmosphere in which to enjoy premium cocktails and some of the area’s very finest cuisine. Signature lunch dishes, tapas and breakfast menus feature fresh and organic produce sourced from the very best local growers.
Which markets are the strongest for the property and which ones could be better? Our strongest market is North America followed closely by Australia. I have just attended Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas with excellent feedback and follow up. The North American market whilst struggling over the past two years is now showing excellent growth through our New Zealand-based inbound operators and connections through Virtuoso and Andrew Harper in the United States. Our emerging markets of China and Russia are growing steadily with several major exclusive use bookings in the hotel, and we are seeing repeat business already from these markets. I would like to see our European markets gain more traction but our marketing shift has moved away from Europe due to the global economic malaise to the markets mentioned above where we are seeing positive results from targeted region specific campaigns and sales calls. International visitors are continuing to be exposed to the benefits of visiting a small country such as New Zealand through ease of access with direct flights from the United States, China, and Australia and the quality of the other ‘super lodges’ of New Zealand assists us to set the benchmark of luxury tourism worldwide.
Has the Australian market remained strong for the business? We are fortunate that our head office of the Imperium Group is based in Melbourne, and our FIT markets from the Eastern seaboard of Australia continue to strengthen seasonally with record numbers traveling to Queenstown for the ski season this year through sales calls and our SEO plan with Eichardts.com which had a major overhaul earlier this year.
How is the property working in with local operators – on everything from tours to serving Central Otago wines – to boost the area’s economy? Our philosophy in the Eichardt’s group is focusing on delivering the very best products and services and this starts from our focus on supporting local businesses ranging from produce suppliers for the kitchen through to high end tourism operators which we can recommend to our guests. As the major sponsor in Central Otago of The Cancer Society, we will be running a major annual event to support the goal of opening a local branch in Queenstown. Our wine lists focus on quality local wines and this starts by our service teams interacting with wine makers and visiting wineries to understand the process by which each individual wine is produced. We also have our own Pinot Noir produced by Mt Edward and as our main VIP gift, the focus is on our branding and ties us into the local area. Our local suppliers assist us to source the very best products available in the marketplace and we are fortunate to see them regularly recommending our accommodation options to visiting corporate clientele and we see the directors and staff of our suppliers in Eichardt’s bar on a regular basis.
Tell us about your history in the industry and how you ended up as General Manager of Eichardt’s in Queenstown? I started my career working for the original owners of award-winning Evergreen Lodge in Queenstown whilst completing my pilot training and enjoy flying when I have spare time. Prior to taking on my role at Eichardt’s I was the Executive Assistant Manager at the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Adelaide after holding the same role at Cypress Lakes Group in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, where my responsibilities included Cypress Lakes Resort, Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club and the Golden Door Elysia Spa. My career also includes being General Manager of Rarotonga Resorts Management in the Cook Islands, Food and Beverage Manager at AMI Stadium, Christchurch, and Group Food and Beverage Manager for the Wellesley Group, which gave me experience in New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Fiji after working at Huntley House in Christchurch. I have a strong passion for hospitality and for delivering a great experience to all guests and leading strong customer-focused teams.
HM flew to Queenstown with Air New Zealand, a leading Australasian airline which operates direct services to the adventure playground from across the east coast of Australia and domestically within New Zealand. The author recommends booking ‘The Works’ package and don’t forget to sign-up for Airpoints when you make your reservation at www.airnz.co.nz