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by Chris Tobin

After at first being knocked for six by Covid-19, staff at the famed Hermitage hotel at Aoraki/Mt Cook have been delighted with the response from New Zealanders staying at the hotel and calling in.

“It’s been overwhelming,” hotel sales and marketing manager Kylie Hogan said.

The hotel reopened on July 3.

When the Covid-19 lockdown began at the end of March the hotel lost its steady stream of overseas tourists.

At the beginning of May, the owners said the hotel would be mothballed and 170 jobs were likely to go.

That number later dropped to 157 until it was decided, with the lockdown having been lifted, to reopen the hotel on July 3 because of unexpected demand.

A total of 45 staff were now employed there.

“We’ve had families, couples and small groups coming. They’ve been blown away and many of them had never visited the region before.”

She said most of the visitors were from the Canterbury region and were attracted by the reduced rates being offered, in the region of 50% less than usual.

“Many of them have stayed for two to three nights which is new to us.

“A lot usually just transit through between Christchurch and Queenstown.

“The school holidays also provided the opportunity for a longer stay. We had people looking to park up and settle in.”

The positive trend was also showing no signs of abating, Mrs Hogan said.

During the school holidays the hotel had on average 200 to 300 overnight guests with a couple of hundred visitors passing through each day.

Mrs Hogan said the hotel had taken a new approach coming back.

“It’s a new-look Hermitage. We have 164 rooms but we’ve only reopened 100.

“The expectation for forward booking is on a new-look model; we hope to get enough here to create a beautiful experience.

“If it’s 50 [guests] a night that’s a great start.”