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As travellers start coming back, activity returns to Auckland Airport’s hotel business

As international travel begins its return journey, the Novotel Tainui Auckland Airport Hotel is readying itself to throw open the doors to visitors from around the globe.

 After two years providing a socially distanced welcome to more than 15,000 returning Kiwis as a managed isolation facility, the Novotel, a joint venture partnership between Auckland Airport and Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), is mid-way through a transformation back to a full-service hotel.

Set for completion in July, every one of the 4-star hotel’s 263 bedrooms, 12 levels, 11 meeting rooms, nine corridors, plus conference room is undergoing a makeover, from a repaint to a complete refurbishment.

Any item used by guests, including 325 beds, 350 duvet inners, 1,700 pillows, 1,000 waste bins,  275 clothing irons & boards, and 275 hairdryers, have been replaced. Every item has been donated to charitable causes either in the local community or further abroad, including more than half to the disaster relief effort in Tonga.

Auckland Airport’s General Manager Property and Commercial Mark Thomson said operating the hotel as a managed isolation facility not only complemented the airport’s work managing New Zealand’s COVID response at the border alongside government agencies, but meant the hotel was able to retain a significant number of staff.

“Novotel played an essential role for New Zealanders throughout the pandemic in protecting our communities; we also kept our skilled hospitality teams in stable jobs which means we are now well placed for a smooth reopening to global travellers.”

Immediately adjacent to the Novotel, construction of Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel has been ongoing with the exterior facade of the hotel now complete. Both hotels are operated by Accor Pacific.

Work on the project, also a partnership between Auckland Airport and TGH, began in mid-2019 but when borders closed in March 2020 construction was split into two phases: structure and exterior shell, and the internal fit out. Auckland Airport and TGH have now announced that the fitout works will be advancing, with Dominion Constructors engaged on construction.

“The global pandemic introduced considerable uncertainty and the partnership felt that a phased approach to the build was a prudent decision,” said Mr Thomson.

“We’re now in a position where we’re starting to see a clearer recovery path for air travel and can get underway on the interior with a greater degree of confidence.  Before the pandemic the occupancy profile at the Novotel had Australian and New Zealand travellers comprising around 75% of guests and this will likely be the region where we will see recovery coming first.”

Te Arikinui Pullman will provide a spectacular gateway for guests arriving and departing Aotearoa New Zealand, said Chris Joblin, Tainui Group Holdings’ Chief Executive Officer.

“Whether it’s Kiwis who haven’t travelled for a while, the welcome return of Australian travellers or the increasingly opening up world beyond; Te Arikinui Pullman will mark a memorable experience to bookend the travel experience in a distinctly New Zealand way.”

Infused with uniquely Waikato-Tainui cultural elements, the interior uses natural materials and light to bring luxury and grandeur, while referencing the connection between land, sea, and sky.

A key feature of the Te Arikinui Pullman is a top floor restaurant and bar with spectacular views across the runway and out to the Manukau Heads – a place of significant cultural importance an account of this being the route navigated by the original Tainui waka.

The stunning location will be reflected in a dining experience to match. For those looking for a more casual meal, there is a choice of either the Te Arikinui Pullman’s ground floor café or the bistro-style restaurant ‘THIRTEEN50 Bistro & Bar in the Novotel next door.

The Novotel’s THIRTEEN50 Bistro & Bar area was fully refurbished immediately prior to the pandemic, however it has never been used before as a restaurant, as the approximately 450,000 guest meals were delivered directly to rooms.

“We never had the opportunity to re-open the restaurant before it converted to MIQ use, so it will be wonderful to welcome diners back into that space,” said Mr Thomson.

“In conjunction to the construction of the Te Arikinui Pullman, work is underway to redevelop and landscape the external precinct in between as well as surrounding the hotels, which will create an exceptional arrival experience for hotel guests and airport passengers.

“The positioning of the hotels means there’s a real opportunity for guests to mix and match services and facilities across the two properties. You could be a guest at the Novotel but decide to treat yourself to a meal in the Te Arikinui Pullman’s top floor restaurant. Or stay at the Te Arikinui Pullman and use the conference facilities in the Novotel. Both hotels are really designed to complement each other.”