French luxury-hotel chain Sofitel has announced plans to open what it claims to be Wellington's first new internationally branded five-star hotel in more than 20 years.
An estimated $35 million is being spent adding five or six floors to the top of the long-vacant old Enza head office in Bolton St and converting it into a 130-room hotel across the road from the five-star Bolton Hotel. It is scheduled to open in mid-2014.
Bolton Hotel managing director Warwick Angus was none too pleased with the announcement, saying: "Nobody wants a hotel right next door.
"I have to say I don't like it, but to have a good hotel right next door and be competing with them . . . I think we can foot it with them . . ."
Sofitel is part of the Accor Group, which already operates five hotels in Wellington - the Mercure hotels in The Terrace and Willis St, the Ibis in Featherston St, the Novotel and Grand Mercure Apartments in Victoria St.
Accor Asia-Pacific spokesman Peter Hook said Sofitel was the group's luxury brand and it was important for a city like Wellington to have an internationally branded luxury hotel.
The hotel is being developed for Accor by Auckland-based CP Group, operated by the Pandey family, reputedly the largest owners of hotel real estate in New Zealand.
The CP Group bought the eight-storey Bolton St building from the Apple and Pear Marketing Board in 2005 for $6.3 million and tried to sell it again in 2009 for $9m.
Sofitel New Zealand general manager Wouter de Graaf said the development would elevate Wellington's international profile.
"It is a long time since a hotel development of this status and quality has been announced in the national capital and it will help attract significant increases in tourism, business travel and conferences to the city."
The Sofitel chain has 120 hotels throughout the world.
The Wellington Sofitel will be the city's third five-star hotel. The InterContinental opened in 1990 and the Bolton Hotel in 2005.
- The Dominion Post
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