Progressive Queenstown hotel drives social change

Queenstown’s newest hotel is driving social change for New Zealand’s hotel industry.

Opened nine months ago as the country’s first fully smart hotel, mi-pad Queenstown has been paying all its staff at least the living wage – rather than the minimum wage – since February this year.

The property’s 16 staff, from housekeepers to those working on reception and management, are paid a minimum of $20.55 an hour, well above the current minimum wage of $17.70 per hour.

Mi-pad Queenstown launched last year with a unique, intelligent mind-set at the very heart of its approach, mixing technology and sustainability to challenge conventional thinking.

Hotel manager Joshua Keeble says its commitment to responsible tourism through a number of ‘smart’ resources also extends to the overall welfare of its people.

“We all know that Queenstown’s not a cheap place to live so we’ve made a conscious decision to invest in our team,” he says.

“The upside of that is we’re able to recruit and retain amazing staff who receive lots of praise from guests for being friendly, efficient and helpful.

“In turn that means they’re really happy to work here and they’re not having to take on second jobs or work long hours just to make ends meet.”

Mi-pad Queenstown has embarked on the process of obtaining official accreditation from the Living Wage movement for its employment stance and hopes to see others in the industry follow suit.

“We’re committed to offering this rate to all new future staff recruits and we know this will help attract some of the best in our industry, so for us it’s win-win,” says Joshua.

The 57-room hotel in the heart of Queenstown is renowned as New Zealand’s first fully ‘smart’ hotel. It’s a next generation, energy-conscious hotel experience for the smart traveller, marrying technology, sustainability, comfort and convenience.

The key to the hotel is that there is no key. Once guests download the hotel’s personal app ‘mia’, their smartphone becomes a room key, the means of setting room temperatures and mood lighting in their room, calling for room service and even transforming into a digital concierge.

To unlock the key to the full mi-pad experience, book online at www.mipadhotels.com

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New Queenstown wine tour company will capitalise on booming industry

With local family and tourism connections dating back three generations, a Kiwi couple are looking to make their mark on the booming Queenstown wine tourism industry.

Husband-and-wife to be Emma Chisholm and Lee Saunders have launched Alpine Wine Tours, a new wine experience offering unique, personalised and ‘adult-only’ experiences for every wine-lover.

Central Otago’s wine tourism industry is heading into a boom period, following research by Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand winegrowers showing that around 25% of international tourists seek out a wine experience, (increasing to 42% for those who visit to cycle or play golf).

Wineries around the country are ramping up their tourism offerings as part of a strategy expected to see wine exports reach $2 billion annually by 2020, and Alpine Wine Tours says there’s never been a more exciting time to launch a new wine experience.

Alpine Wine Tours offers memorable group, private and custom wine and distillery tours from Queenstown, showcasing the unique wine and spirits of the region.

Co-owner Emma Chisholm is thrilled with how well received their new tours have been by locals and tourists.

“It’s been a huge success,” she says. “We saw a gap in the market for unique and personalised wine experiences in Queenstown and people’s initial reactions have been incredible.

“Our guests have nothing but positive things to say. We pride ourselves on providing good old-fashioned authentic Kiwi hospitality and I think that really resonates with people.

Emma and Lee are no strangers to the Queenstown tourism scene, as they also run successful tour company Alpine Adventures.

Emma is the third generation of the Chisholm family to work in Queenstown’s tourism industry. Her parents famed ‘flying pub crawl’ tour of the 1980s propelled her passion for creating some truly unforgettable adventures.

“It was called Henry’s Backcountry Flying Pub Crawl, and the name pretty much sums it up. It was fun, it was rowdy, and it was unique,” she says.

“Like Mum and Dad, we try to make every tour memorable. We’ve built great friendships with the winery owners and businesses we work with, and as a result, our guests leave Queenstown feeling like locals.”

Setting themselves apart from the rest, the local family-owned and operated business has created three adult-only group experiences, while those with children can enjoy a private tour.

Director and Tour Guide Lee Saunders said their adults only tours are already receiving rave reviews.

“People love it! There’s over 15 wine tour companies in Queenstown and almost all of them allow kids on their group tours,” he says.

“We wanted to give adults a chance to kick back and completely relax. We love kids, we have one of our own, but we all know that sometimes you just want a day to yourself.”

Alpine Wine Tours offers half and full-day tour options, taking visitors through the stunning Gibbston sub-region and into the beautiful Cardrona Valley in the comfort of their impressive fleet of luxury European vehicles.

Recognised with Tourism New Zealand’s Qualmark silver rating, the company prides itself on employing local and knowledgeable guides.

“All our guides are certified, passionate and just all-round fun,” says Lee. “We love to go the extra mile with the little touches like giving personalised water bottles and wine sleeves as gifts, to sharing our family history and local knowledge.

“Because we specialise in wine tours only our guides are super knowledgeable. They’re not your average sightseeing guide, they’re real wine experts.”

Alpine Wine Tours operates daily group, personal and customisable experiences from Queenstown. For more information see their website.

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Holiday Inn Auckland Airport completes multi-million-dollar transformation

Media Release from Holiday Inn Auckland Airport

Holiday Inn Auckland Airport hotel is now the perfect place to ‘holiday’ before or after connecting to domestic and international destinations, thanks to a multi-million-dollar refurbishment.

Drawing inspiration from New Zealand and the Pacific, Holiday Inn Auckland Airport has a contemporary new look following a full renovation of its public spaces.

The $3million refurbishment, which commenced in June last year, has transformed the hotel’s ground floor restaurant and bar, hotel lobby, reception and swimming pool into eye-catching yet welcoming spaces, with a nod to cultural New Zealand and Pacific heritage.

The property’s ‘open marae-inspired design’ offers the perfect meeting ground for travellers and Aucklanders alike, giving it a ‘welcoming heart’ with bursts of colour, life and energy.

The stylish new lounge bar sits at the heart of the hotel, where the removal of its original floor and ceiling features has revolutionised the space and opened it up to the sub-tropical gardens and the new swimming pool deck.

The hotel’s restaurant is now a destination in its own right, taking diners on a culinary journey of native New Zealand in a Pacific holiday setting – think hanging plants, bursts of colour and authentic finishing touches.

Ten flexible meeting and function areas have received a fresh new look. The refurbishment reinforced the popularity of these rooms which have a relaxed resort, rather than city ‘feel’. The rooms are known to be particularly spacious, with an airy atmosphere and plenty of natural light.

Delighted with the transformation and the investment in Auckland and New Zealand tourism, Holiday Inn Auckland Airport General Manager Scott Schaefer described the new look as a “runway success”.

“From check-in to departure, there’s plenty to do to keep the family or colleagues entertained in comfort while you wait for your next flight or seminar,” he said.

“We have invested in games and other family-friendly amenities, reinforcing Holiday Inn’s family proposition and what the Holiday Inn brand is known for worldwide.

“A new cultural personality shines from within and it’s pleasing to say we’re now fully open for dining, weddings, ceremonies and family events. It is such a privilege to see the owner’s vision for the hotel come to life.”

New furniture, flooring, light fixtures greenery and artwork throughout has added a modern twist, complemented by injections of Maori wood carvings, gifted by the local Iwi.

The pool is an oasis of calm amidst sub-tropical gardens, although it’s just minutes away from Auckland Airport terminals and all major motorways.

A group of committed stakeholders in the project included owners Cockpit International, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Designworks, JSC Ltd and construction company Format.

The creative Designworks team designed the hotel so all public areas were on one level, with a strong central core.

“Guests gravitate towards the central courtyard and pool area now that a variety of spaces have been opened up and flow into what is the ‘welcoming heart’ of the site,” said Designworks’ Group Head of Spatial Design Clark Pritchard.

“The overall style is relaxed and inviting, using a fresh and natural palette of materials interjected with pattern and colour to reflect the Pacific holiday concept while also celebrating New Zealand and Pacific modern art, flora and fauna.”

Jacques De Lange, Managing Director of construction company Format, said they were “proud” to deliver the transformational project.

“Holiday Inn confirmed the strength in their brand by investing hugely in an improved facility,” he said.

“Hotel General Manager Scott Schaefer, the hotel management and design team were outstanding in the delivery process of this lovely project.”

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New faces at Crowne Plaza Queenstown

Media Release from Crowne Plaza Queenstown

Queenstown’s premier lakefront hotel, Crowne Plaza Queenstown, has welcomed two passionate ‘foodies’ to its food and beverage operations.

Chilean-born Alvaro Morales has been appointed Head Chef, while Colombian-born Juan Gomez takes the reins as F&B Manager.

With culinary experience from across the globe, Alvaro is elated to step into the head chef role at threesixty restaurant, following his most recent sous chef position with a global hotel property in Taupo.

Having worked for a number of international hotel chains in South America and Europe, he earlier honed his culinary skills working with renowned chefs Joan Roca and Albert Adrià while interning in three-star Michelin restaurants in Spain.

His passion for delivering banquets stems from fond family memories of enjoying huge feasts with his family in the Chilean countryside.

“Food is family, family is life, and life is family,” he said.

“This is something my grandmother taught me and is still at the heart of my cooking style today.

“Not only is Queenstown a paradise in which to live, it’s foodie heaven, and I’m so excited to be here.

“Food is an integral part of a visitor’s holiday experience and I’m looking forward to creatively showcasing my Spanish heritage, made possible with the exceptional New Zealand ingredients on offer.

For F&B Manager Juan, his desire to challenge himself and progress his career led him to Queenstown.

Joining InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in 2012, Juan has spent the last five years working in InterContinental Wellington’s Lobby Lounge, working his way up from host to supervisor to managerial positions.

His passion for drinks has naturally progressed into a love for exceptional food experiences, and he’s looking forward to being mentored by general manager Anna Edie.

“I’m really inspired by Anna’s comprehensive international hotelier experience and look forward to working under her leadership,” he said.

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to lead my team to offer unique guest experiences for visitors and locals dining at threesixty restaurant, as well as conference delegates and business groups.”

General Manager Anna Edie is “delighted” to welcome Alvaro and Juan to the property.

“It’s an exciting time as we’re heading into a busy winter, and I look forward to watching our food and beverage operations grow from strength to strength under their leadership.”

Conveniently located in the heart of Queenstown’s visitor, retail and business district, Crowne Plaza Queenstown’s ground-floor threesixty restaurant is the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, High Tea, or a good coffee.

About Crowne Plaza Queenstown
Located in the heart of Queenstown with superb mountain and lake views, Crowne Plaza Queenstown offers a rejuvenating, friendly and enjoyable experience.

As a 4+ Qualmark rated hotel, rooms provide a peaceful place to stay and are furnished in neutral tones. The chic bar area and award-winning threesixty restaurant enables you to connect with friends, family or colleagues in a modern and contemporary environment.

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