Relais & Châteaux members from New Zealand were in Sydney this week for the first time in two years, meeting with travel agency partners on Tuesday night at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.
Among the Kiwi delegation were representatives from Blanket Bay (Glenorchy), Otahuna Lodge (Canterbury), Wharekauhau Country Estate (Featherston) and Robertson Lodges’ Matakauri Lodge (Queenstown), The Farm at Cape Kidnappers (Hawkes Bay) and The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs (Matauri Bay).
Hosting the event were Relais & Châteaux’s local executives, Tamara Kobiolke, Sales Representative for Australia/New Zealand, and Mandy Lovell, Director of Members Services for Australia, NZ and South Pacific.
Nine months into her role, Kobiolke told the 50-odd travel advisors present at the showcase event she was honoured to be working for the association, saying it was “a privilege to serve you and your clients, and the hotels and restaurants.”
“[Relais & Châteaux] is a brand that embodies some really wonderful values – sustainability is crucial; genuine heartfelt hospitality is at the core; and of course, something very dear to my heart – eating and drinking!”
Relais & Châteaux comprises 580 hotels and restaurants operated by innkeepers, chefs and owners globally (80 of which are restaurants with an impressive 380 Michelin stars between them). Additionally, and perfect for the affluent traveller seeking solitude and space, is the selection of private residences under the Villas by Relais & Châteaux which launched last year and whose numbers now top 600 globally.
All independently owned and operated, and with no more than 25 rooms, Relais & Châteaux retreats across the ditch are all members of the Virtuoso network.
Kobiolke encouraged advisors to take advantage of the ever-changing Relais & Châteaux website to assist with selling member properties. Frontline sellers can obtain useful PDFs to profile properties and past guest quotes for referrals for potential clients, accessible via the Travel Agent portal. New members can sign up here.
The platform also lists over 140 suggested routes around the world – labelled as Route du Bonheur (Road to Happiness) – which provide sample itineraries that encompass Relais & Châteaux hotels and restaurants. That list includes 9- and 10-night journeys through New Zealand with multi-night stays at member locations.
Hall Cannon, Owner of Otahuna Lodge, and local delegation spokesperson, said Relais & Châteaux was the only not-for-profit, membership hospitality association of its kind in the world.
“We are owned entirely by our members. That means we get a large say in choosing who joins us to become part of our family, and it also means we tend to work collaboratively,” Cannon said, reiterating the unique opportunity for travel advisors to confidently sell “what we believe and hope are the absolute best properties in the country.”
“We all know how to make your clients have an amazing stay and we know how to open doors with other properties. We work together really closely and we’ll do all we can to ensure that your clients have the most amazing stay possible,” he told travel advisors.
Speaking with LATTE, one key trend noted by Cannon to come out of COVID was the increased demand for sole use of Otahuna Lodge. That’s been in the form of corporate clients booking 2- and 3-night stays and families reserving the property for up to 8-nights. Between now and the end of the year, 32 nights at Otahuna Lodge are buyouts.
The pandemic also saw the seven-suite Otahuna Lodge open up its restaurant to non-guests for the first time, which Cannon said was highly successful. Reservations can be made for dinner up to a maximum of 30 days ahead of the booking date.
Not present but also a New Zealand member of Relais & Châteaux is Helena Bay Lodge (Hikurangi) which remains temporarily closed.
Currently, Relais & Châteaux has three members in Australia – all restaurants – Laura at Pt. Leo Estate in Merricks, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria; Tetsuya’s Restaurant in Sydney, NSW and Hentley Farm Restaurant in Seppeltsfield, Barossa Valley, SA.
Meanwhile, Relais & Châteaux will hold elections at its AGM in Venice, Italy in November to nominate a new President and Executive Committee for a 5-year term. Around 800 members are expected to attend.
Pictured at the travel advisor event on Tuesday night, from left are: Richard Rooney, Wharekauhau Country Estate; Amy Tapper, Robertson Lodges; Tom Butler, Blanket Bay; Mandy Lovell, Relais & Châteaux; Callum Farnell, Robertson Lodges; Tamara Kobiolke, Relais & Châteaux and Hall Cannon, Otahuna Lodge.