Pen-y-bryn Lodge owners James Glucksman and James Boussy said they wanted to try something “novel” to help New Zealanders travel around their own country.
“Recognising that we will only have New Zealanders as guests for a while to come, we have been trying to come up with ways of getting more Kiwis to stay with us,” Mr Glucksman said.
“I had been reading on Facebook and elsewhere all the comments about how expensive it is to travel around New Zealand and, while I think some of the commentary on that topic misses out on the costs associated with running a successful business in this country, I wanted to do something to help people who need a break to do so.”
The “name your own price” strategy was simple, Mr Glucksman said.
“Someone who wants to book a stay with us sends us a note by email or by Facebook Messenger with the dates they have in mind, the number of rooms, and what they want to pay.
“As long as it’s reasonable (i.e at least covers our costs), we’ll accept it and welcome their visit.”
The lodge has already accepted bookings, after announcing the initiative on Monday.
“The best thing about it is that the people writing in have shared amazing stories about their lockdown experiences, and why they want to take us up on our offer. It’s been really gratifying to be able to do some tiny thing to thank them for all they’ve had to go through.”
Pen-y-bryn Lodge reopened on May 15 and welcomed six guests on the first night.
“It was an interesting group, consisting of two families of three each, one living in Dunedin, and the other living in New York City,” he said.
The family from New York had spent lockdown in Queenstown, after getting stranded in New Zealand during Alert Level 4.
Pen-y-bryn Lodge suffered significant cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with about 90% of guests usually coming from overseas.
“We lost easily around $50,000 just for bookings that already existed that had to be cancelled through the end of May.
“That doesn’t even take into consideration the new bookings that never materialised, nor the bookings that were cancelled for the coming season. I prefer not to think what that amount might come to.”
However, domestic and international travellers had started making enquiries again.
“That has been very encouraging,” he said.
“I am not worried about the future of our business – we have earned an enviable reputation from our travel agent partners and our guests for what we do here, and have firmly put ourselves and Oamaru on the map for visitors to New Zealand from overseas.
“Also, we are confident that people from overseas will return to New Zealand when things settle down, and I think the wide open spaces of New Zealand in general, and Waitaki in particular, will make us a popular destination for some time to come.”
Mr Glucksman and Mr Boussy also worked on some restoration projects at Pen-y-bryn during the lockdown, including a redevelopment of the laundry room and storage area.