Sofitel Queenstown sold to New Zealand hotel fund

Sofitel Hotel and Spa Queenstown. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Sofitel Hotel and Spa Queenstown. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Queenstown's five-star Sofitel has been bought by a New Zealand hotel fund as it struggles without international guests.

Resort hotelier Graham Wilkinson, who has had a controlling stake in the town centre property since 2010, said it was evident ‘‘quite a bit of capital expenditure is required for refurbishment’’.

The sale followed an approach earlier this year by a partnership consisting of Russell Property Group, New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Lockwood Property Group, which was looking for a ‘‘trophy’’ in the resort to add to its hotel portfolio, Mr Wilkinson said.

‘‘It was just a nice little marriage between the two of us.’’

He had received approaches fromoverseasinterests, but all the hotel’s owners had a strong desire to keep it in New Zealand hands.

The sale, for an undisclosed sum, takes effect on March 31, but Accor AsiaPacificwould continue to manage the hotel.

Mr Wilkinson, who was the founder developerof Queenstown’s Hotel St Moritz, said he first became involved with the Sofitel in 2008, three years after it opened, at a time when trading was very difficult.

He and a partner bought all the commercial units and a large number of the 82 hotel units, ending up with about half the property.

They had since spent millions on upgrades, including a new foyer and French Revolutionthemed 1789 bar.

In the past four to six years, they had earned ‘‘great returns’’ on the hotel, but Covid-19 had robbed it of its well-heeled overseas clientele, making trading more difficult.

However, heexpected the hotel to trade‘‘very,very well’’ once a transtasman travel bubble was established.

Russell Property Group managing director Brett Russell said it was confident the hotel would continue to be amarketleader in the long term, ‘‘and with our expertise we hope to add further value to the asset over coming years’’.

The sale of the Sofitel comes on the heels of the sale of the nearby Base Backpackers, in Shotover St, announced a fortnight ago.

Once the lease expires, the new owner will convert it into another five-star hotel. 

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