Kiwi made good returns to bolster Queenstown Resort – NBR Article on Tim Manning

Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013 at 10:00 am in

National Business Review – Article by Duncan Bridgeman

Published August 16, 2013



When Gavin Faull headed to Hong Kong in 1990 he worked for three months without pay to get his foot in the door of Swiss-Bel-hotel International. The Taranaki-born former freezing worker turned hotelier went on to own outright what is now one of the world’s fastest growing hotel management groups. He also happens to own the largest dairy farm operation in Taranaki. With a growing portfolio of 120 hotels, resorts and projects Swiss-Bel manages properties throughout Greater Asia, the Middle East, including Iraq and Australia.

And now, this week, Mr Faull has added New Zealand to that list. Thirty years to the month after he was last in Queenstown buying and selling hotels with Kingsgate International Mr Faull and his son Oliver have returned to the resort town to ink an historic deal.

Swiss-Bel has taken on the management of Coronet Peak Hotel and Strikebowl alley at Arthurs Point on the road to the ski field. The deal signed on Tuesday is a partnership arrangement with hotel owner Norwich Properties, which bought the property in a mortgagee sale last October.

Mr Faull who is based in Hong Kong, flew in from Switzerland for the launch of Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak Queenstown with a couple of his lieutenants. “So we are taking this seriously and really going to make it happen because as the Chinese say, and I say, we can’t lose face.”

Norwich Chief Executive Tim Manning says his company intends spending $3-$4million refurbishing the ailing resort inside and out, bringing it up to four stars and in line with Swiss-Bel’s specifications. Norwich will then separate titles for each of the 82 rooms and sell the individual units to New Zealand and Asian investors. In return the buyers will receive rental income from Swiss-Bel and the use of their unit for two weeks a year.

“Our plan for the hotel is simple,” Mr Manning said. We’ve got a very good operator in, who will boost the occupancy and get it rolling again. “It’s the closest hotel to Coronet Peak ski resort with the only ten bin bowling alley in Queenstown and on the bank of the Shotover River. So there are a few pluses here and some raw ,aterials that Swiss-Bel can move on with.”

Mr Faull is not someone who mucks around. On the same day he signed this deal he dumped a project in Hoi An, Vietnam, as the hotel wasn’t performing. So his faith in Mr Manning to deliver is written in goodwill.

“It’s exciting to be back in Queenstown and I’m pretty impressed by all the promises that Tim has made,” Mr Faull joked. “You deliver the product and I can guarantee that there will be more gold here than in the


He said he was proud to bring the Swiss-Belhotel brand “home” to New Zealand and plant the brand’s flag at the foot of Coronet Peak and the Adventure capital of Queenstown.

Plans for the hotel feature leisure facilities, including a spa, sauna, petanque, volleyball and croquet and services such as ski waxing and drying rooms. The ten bin bowling alley will be spruced up as well.

More New Zealand products are likely to follow this, he added with Swiss-Bel looking at a handful of other potential sites around the country. It is also seen as a good boost for Queenstown, with developments starting to come to life again following the downturn.

Mr Manning said he was confident of attracting buyers for the hotel units. Mr Faull returns to New Zealand every few weeks to keep an eye on his dairy farm and son Oliver, who heads up the group’s New Zealand operations. His other son Edward, also works for the company.

Faull Farms runs about 1100 dairy cows on 361 hectares near Waitara, making it North Taranaki’s largest individual supplier to Fonterra. “I started off in Taranaki as a local boy working in the freezing works and in car parks before becoming a chartered accountant,” he told NBR.

He now has more than 100 staff based in Indonesia, China, Hong Kong and the Middle East. Asked how many more hotels he’d like to add to the portfolio, he said 250 would be a reasonable number.

Right now, Swiss-Bel is opening a new hotel every six weeks.

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