Rebuild sets scene for future

The Devon Hotel owners Peter and Rosemary Tennent in the hotel's Hobson Room.
The Devon Hotel owners Peter and Rosemary Tennent in the hotel's Hobson Room.

The Devon Hotel is a bit like the Auckland Harbour Bridge - there's always another upgrade on the cards, says owner Peter Tennent.

The 103-room hotel on New Plymouth's Devon St East, which features Marbles Buffet and The Rocks cocktail lounge, has just undergone a multi-million dollar upgrade.

Mr Tennent doesn't like to say exactly how many millions were spent but rest assured it's a fair few.

Mr Tennent, the former New Plymouth mayor, and his wife Rosemary are filled with excitement when giving a tour of the new-look Devon.

It involved the refit of every hotel suite and the construction of an auditorium which could host in excess of 950 people - more than twice the capacity of the original complex.

"We've now got a facility that can cope with very, very big conferences," Mr Tennent said.

"It's a market that we've been in for a long long time and it's a market that we find very exciting."

The main auditorium could be divided into three spaces using soundproof walls.

Each wall cost as much as a nice home, Mrs Tennent said, with tongue in cheek.

The work saw the hotel's old Courtenay Room demolished and replaced with a new Courtenay Room, a Hobson Room and a Watson Room, along with four new bars, food service areas and all the facilities required at a high-end conference venue.

Mrs Tennent said the upgrade had to be done to stay ahead of the game and please customers.

"The expectation is high," she said.

Mr Tennent said each room was given a full facelift. "Literally, it has been top to bottom."

The couple embarked on the development because they loved Taranaki and saw a need for high- end conference facilities here, Mr Tennent said.

"Most of it's emotional, it's not a business decision."

The project had raised the standard of the whole hotel, he said.

"It's given us an opportunity to tidy up and co-ordinate things."

Venture Taranaki visitor industry manager Paul Stancliffe congratulated The Devon on developing an excellent conference event facility.

"It's a positive step for Taranaki's meetings, conferences and events market and will lift our region's quantity and quality in this section of the market," Mr Stancliffe said.

National forecasts for the region showed that about 17 per cent of visitors came to Taranaki for business purposes.

"Any development that increases the options for the conference sector will give Taranaki a greater opportunity to grow this valuable sector of the market."

Mr Tennent said the new facility was multi-purpose, accommodating anything from weddings and business functions to shows and entertainment. "There's a fair bit of versatility.

"The plan with this building was that it could suit anyone's requests."

The technology involved in the project cost nearly as much as the construction itself, he said.

Its five-metre high ceiling meant much of the lighting was done via a remote control.

A new courtyard, featuring a number of Taranaki-made rock sculptures, linked the Rocks cocktail lounge to the new conference centre.

The courtyard also housed LED furniture which can change 36 different colours. "The gardners and the team have done a fabulous job."

Hotels were challenging environments to carry out such extensive renovations, with noise levels restricted between the hours of 10.30am and early afternoon.

The Devon employs between 100 to 150 staff and the new centre would see this number increase, Mr Tennent said.

Taranaki Daily News