Proactive approach to motel management gains gold

Tourism operators looking for the best approach to run a business should head to Hanmer Springs in the South Island.

Nestled among the mountain ranges and thermal pools is one of New Zealand’s best motels – the Qualmark 5 Star Motel and Gold Sustainable Tourism Business Award recipient, Settlers Motel.

It is a facility that continues to impress thanks to the dedication of its operators, Alan Butts and Sally McDonald, who could well write the book on motel management.

“We’ve been Qualmark certified from the get-go and have always maintained a  policy of treating our customers the way we like being treated ourselves, which is why we have 98% customer satisfaction [on feedback sites including TripAdvisor].  We have a property people enjoy,” says Alan.

Sally McDonald and Alan Butts

Alan and Sally have been based in Hanmer Springs for the past 20 years, and are proactive members of the local business community improving the experience of both tourists and tourist operators.  In 2016 they teamed up with several local accommodation providers to produce a guest etiquette information sheet in Mandarin for Chinese visitors staying in the area.

“There was quite a lot of information we couldn't get across because of the language barrier.  [Guests] eyes light up when they see it because it's something they can actually read.  We've noticed a big difference and check-in is now a stress-free process because staff no longer have to resort to hand signals to explain the motel’s processes.  Now when we see a minibus of Chinese guests arrive we know exactly what we're doing, it's a pleasant interaction and there's lots of smiles,” says Alan.

It is this intuitive approach to motel management and ability to modify systems efficiently that has made Settlers Motel such a successful and resilient business, particularly in times of fluctuating visitor numbers and challenging economic conditions. 

 “The Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016 certainly changed tourists’ travel patterns.  Traditionally tourists travel along the east coast between Picton and Christchurch including a side-trip visit to Hanmer Springs.  Now tourists need to divert through the Lewis Pass and possibly bypass Hanmer Springs.  We’ve had to do a lot of marketing to get back on the radar and be seen as a destination, rather than just a weekender location for Cantabrians,” says Alan.

“Hanmer Springs is a great village that is well equipped for its population size.  We are certainly growing as a destination and the Qualmark rating is something that we make noise about.  It sets us apart.”