|Waitomo Caves glowworms|
A $12 million, 100-bedroom hotel is on the drawing board a glow-worm's shine away from Waitomo Caves Hotel where a $4m restoration project has begun.
The two schemes, from two different tourism operators, are aimed at getting more of the average 1270 tourists per day to spend a night in the area.
Currently, 17 per cent of those visitors stay in the village, compared with about 40 per cent in other tourism hotspots.
Waitomo Adventures and Juno Hall Backpackers are building a $4m conference centre with a restaurant, bar, nightclub and retail space, on Waitomo Valley Rd, called Waitomo Rock. They are yet to apply for consent for a 100-room hotel which they hope will follow on the 24-hectare site. Work began last autumn, before it was halted for winter. It resumed in November, with 30,000 cubic metres of earth being moved, Waitomo Adventures founder Nick Andreef said.
"As far as the hotel goes, we have done a feasibility study and Waitomo needs a lot more rooms. One hundred rooms is the minimum we need to make it viable." Mr Andreef said visitor numbers fluctuated from 1900 per day in the summer to 880 per day in the winter, which amounted to 200,000 fewer visitors than a decade ago.
"If we want a hotel, we have got to make the most of summer and that means a good 100 hotel rooms."
The feasibility study from Campbell Consulting predicted a 100-room hotel would lift tourist retention to 23 per cent and pump an extra $90m into the district per year. Mr Andreef hoped his hotel would be so full that Waitomo Caves Hotel would have to take the overflow.
Waitomo Caves Hotel board chairman Eric Tait said any developments undertaken in the village would be mutually beneficial to all in the area.
"We are probably averaging five to 10 rooms filled per night but we are full up for special events, conferences."
Work had already started on renovating the grounds of the hotel where the Queen stayed during her 1953/54 tour of the Commonwealth.
Mr Tait, speaking on behalf of the Tamepinorau Opataia Whanau Trust which owns the hotel, said there were plans to spend up to $3.5m redecorating and refurbishing all 45 rooms. "The hotel is only partially utilised and we are only using 25 rooms. There are 20 rooms that are not at a reasonable standard for occupancy. We do have cash funds available and we do have assets that we can mortgage; it's a matter of working through that. I would like to have it completed by the end of this season."
The projects follow Tourism Holdings Ltd's $13m spend on a new visitor facility at the entrance to the glow-worm caves.
Source: Fairfax NZ News