Big hotel chain planning to expand in NZ

10:30 AM Friday March 13, 2015 Grant Bradley

Rendezvous Grand Hotel, Auckland. Photo/NZME.

TFE group optimistic about prospects but says ‘it has to be the right brand and return’.

An international hotel group is on the lookout for opportunities in New Zealand as the outlook for the sector remains buoyant.

TFE Hotels' group director of marketing, Emma Fraser, said the outlook for the next year remained "healthy and positive" and her group was open-minded about prospects in New Zealand.

"We have an ambitious growth strategy that we will continue to push but it's a matter of finding the right opportunity," Fraser said.

This could mean owning or operating an existing property or a new one.

"It has to be the right brand and return on the investment for the owner," she said.

The company's Rendezvous hotel in Auckland had occupancy above 80 per cent as the sector enjoyed one of its biggest summers ever.

"We have healthy average rates and that will continue to spike given the business mix that's coming and the growth in domestic and international travel."

TFE, a joint venture between Toga Hotels and Far East Hospitality, owns or operates more than 70 hotels in New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

It has Rendezvous hotels in Auckland and Christchurch and the Travelodge in Wellington which is going through a rebrand.

A study by an international consultant in the hospitality business, Horwath HTL, found almost 70 per cent of hotel general managers believe room occupancy will be better this year than last year.

The sentiment survey of 93 managers found 57 per cent expected room rates to rise by 5 per cent and 25 per cent expect them to rise by up to 10 per cent.

"The trend is consistent with market data which shows increased occupancy and room rates in 2013 and 2014 and could indicate the continuance of strong profitability in the next two to three years," the Horwath HTL report says.

Hotel market performance was being driven by strong domestic growth, global economic growth in the biggest international visitor markets, improved airline connectivity and increased event activity such as concerts and sports events.

The managers were most worried about room rate discounting, 70 per cent expecting it to have a negative effect this year.

Fraser said boom times in the hotel industry meant recruiting staff was tough.

"The war for talent is real - it's competitive but we believe in what we have with brands and development opportunities."

Despite the proliferation of online travel agents and specialised hotel booking sites, TFE was putting emphasis on its own booking site.

"We have the ability to own the guest experience from the time of researching the booking to post-stay."