A tourism surge in New Zealand is driving massive investment in hotels, as the industry prepares to meet the demand of an additional 1.28 million visitors by 2024.

MBIE estimates that international visitor arrivals will grow from 3.13 million in 2015 to 4.51 million by 2022, reaching 5 million in 2025. Growth is being driven by major events and business activities, fuelled by the potential of proposed convention facilities in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

Here we look at how Queenstown, arguably the jewel of our country’s thriving tourism industry, is preparing.

Queenstown feels the love

Tourism in Queenstown is booming, and the region needs an additional 1,170 hotel rooms by 2024 to keep up with demand.

With construction either underway or pending approval, Queenstown is on track to have around 3,000 beds added to the supply. Presently, two large scale hotels are under construction (368 rooms), eight hotels have been approved (1,016 rooms) and a further eight hotels are undergoing the consenting process (1,715 rooms).

Industry figures from 2016 show that 2% of hotel room nights were spent in 3-star establishments within New Zealand, 14% spent in 3.5-star, 22% in 4-star, 45% in 4.5-star and 16% in 5-star.

Two thirds of our tourist market originate from China and Australia; catering to these preferences is crucial. Based on current trends in behaviour, 4.5-star hotels are most popular across all markets, with the exception of the Chinese market which currently prefers 4-star.

How will Queenstown afford it?

Jim Boult, Mayor of Queenstown Lakes District Council, says there are challenges facing the town of 24,000 permanent residents which supports more than three million visitors a year. This figure equates to 34 visitors for every resident.

Spending on infrastructure is critical to the economic success of the district, to meet the needs and expectations of both the local community and visitors. However, the cost of providing services for visitors in the 2018-2028 long-term plan has been estimated at $374 million.

To help ease the burden on ratepayers, a visitor levy has been proposed, most likely a bed tax on short-term accommodation including providers such as Airbnb. It is hoped the levy, which could be in place by 2021, will raise between $25m and $40m annually.

WSP is involved in several of the hotel projects in Queenstown. Peter O’Leary, Head of Structures, is excited about the innovative and internationally-influenced spaces that are being delivered.

Consumers drive eco-design

Peter is particularly excited about the trend towards healthy and environmentally friendly spaces through the adoption of eco-design principals.

The number of consumers wanting eco-friendly options increased by 36% between 2016 and 2018
(Hotel Designs, 2018). Unsurprisingly, this has also influenced travel preferences too. In its annual Sustainability Travel Report, Booking.com reported that 73% of travellers worldwide intend to stay in eco-friendly or green accommodation in the near future.

“Being mindful of, and reducing output is the first step for today’s eco-responsible hotel. But the incorporation of sustainable design principals, such as green building design and resource efficiency will drive recognition in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) ratings.”

Resource efficiency and green space is the most obvious identifier for the eco-conscious guest. This has seen demand increase for Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), which is used for residential, hotel and commercial builds.

“Our engagement with CLT in New Zealand is pretty limited by supply and the preference from the industry has typically been for more traditional materials. However, we should persevere with the technology as it can reduce carbon emissions between 9-13% when compared to reinforced concrete.”

Designing for all abilities

Another trend which Peter hopes to see, is the concept of accessible-inclusive design, ensuring beauty isn’t lost in function when designing for disabled guests.

“It’s fair to say that on a global scale, the hotel industry has been tone-deaf when designing for the less-abled. However, we’re now beginning to see initiatives like AllGo that make accessible rooms the standard by delivering personalised, beautiful, inclusive environments.”

In addition to ensuring that all rooms and amenities are wheelchair and mobile-aid appropriate –  it’s the hidden features, like floor finishes, braille, integrated handrails, motorised racks, beds with built-in hoists and voice-controlled lighting – all wrapped in a luxury-fitted package – that will identify the leaders in
this space.

“Queenstown is known as the adventure capital, but we can’t forget to design for those less able to get around. When we design for disability first, we are designing for a more inclusive world.”

Smart spaces

The evolution of the lobby and the utilisation of flexi-rooms have all influenced the design and fit-out of today’s hotels. Peter believes we will continue to see this trend in Queenstown as hotels utilise space and amenities to enhance the overall visitor experience.

With smart spaces, comes smart technology. Hospitality is the second fastest adapter of Internet of Things (IoT) after the healthcare industry. Major hotel chains are leveraging its capabilities to ensure seamless guest experience; offering hyper-personalised rooms, voice-controlled conveniences, easy room access and instant information and services, all from a touch of their smartphone.

How will this shape the hospitality industry?

“The purpose of a ‘receptionist’ will become redundant as we move towards a more digitally connected world. This, in turn, will completely change how we design our lobbies; something that today’s developers should consider.”