Rydges in campaign to lift hotel's profile

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2011

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Rydges is launching a campaign to raise awareness of its new landmark Wellington hotel, with its new manager admitting that, despite the coloured history of the landmark building, many locals do not know where it is.

The 17-storey, 280-room hotel abruptly changed from Holiday Inn to Rydges in late March, after financial troubles for the building's management company, an entity controlled by developer Nigel McKenna, which fell behind on rent.

This led the building's owners, a large group of investors who owned the units, to conduct a competitive tender for the management contract.

General manager Simon White said the hotel, despite its size and proximity to Parliament, was struggling against a lack of recognition, as few people knew its location.

"It's about changing the perception of where we are," he said.

"In my short time here, when I have said Rydges, people have said `where is it?' When I say it's the old Holiday Inn, about one in three people still don't know where it is," Mr White said.

"It is a landmark hotel but it is harder than you would think to raise its profile."

Rydges is running a $70,000 competition in which the winner will "live like a VIP", with a range of prizes including living in the penthouse suite for three months.

The 4.5-star hotel has revamped its foyer and is adding signage to the building in a bid to gain more prominence.

Opened in 2007, the Featherston St hotel has been the subject of lengthy legal battles between Mr McKenna and Fletcher Construction, which claimed it was never fully paid for its work. It was the pursuit of this debt through the courts that ultimately saw the developer declared bankrupt last month.

Graham Wilkinson, a consultant who now manages several hotel properties on behalf of unit holders, said the leases put in place by Mr McKenna were not appropriate, as was the case with several hotels, with excessive fee structures.

"We've set up transparent and more highly competitive structures to ensure the owners receive a better outcome than what they were receiving from McKenna."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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