New 494-room $200m Auckland hotel – Holiday Inn Express/voco brands at Pro-invest tower

Construction of Auckland’s tallest new hotel is nearing completion in a 37-level $200 million job planned to bring the new-to-New Zealand voco brand here.

Icon Construction is finishing the new 494-room building on the Albert St/Wyndham St corner in the CBD on the ex-Wilson & Horton/APN/NZME site two blocks up from the waterfront.

Abhijay Sandilya, IHG Hotels & Resorts’ development vice-president for Japan, Australasia and the Pacific said today that, despite Covid, the hotel was a large asset that had been built for the longer term.

“This was a project committed to and built pre-Covid but we definitely believe in the long-term fundamentals of tourism in Auckland and New Zealand. Hotels are a long-term asset class. We believe in the strong fundamentals of tourism as a proposition in Auckland,” Sandilya said.

A spokesperson for Sydney-headquartered Pro-invest Group, which owns the building, said it would be duel branded, having two hotels in one.

The lower 294 rooms would be Holiday Inn Express. The upper 200 rooms would be voco, she said.

British-headquartered IHG Hotels & Resorts will manage the property, to be owned by the Pro-Invest Australian Hospitality Fund II.

“The property was originally announced as an Even Hotel in 2017. However, following IHG’s launch of voco in 2018, it became clear that the new brand would not only resonate with the colourful, unstuffy and laid-back Kiwi spirit, but also that its tread-light philosophy made it a perfect fit with Pro-invest’s culture of environmental governance, which includes a commitment to targeting high-energy efficiency ratings across its portfolio,” the spokesperson said today.

In 2017, the Herald reported on plans for the site and its sale to Pro-invest.

The Wilson & Horton/APN/NZME business originally owned a site between Albert, Swanson, Wyndham St and Mills Lane but in 2001 sold it for $20m to a business owned by active investor Steve Owen.

He held it for more than 10 years till Mansons TCLM paid $40m for it, then sold part of the site where the hotel is being built for around $38m, leaving that privately owned family business with most of the rest of the site.

Mansons is now building a new $650m 12-level 28,873sq m block, labelled Fifty Albert.

The Pro-invest spokesperson said the new hotel had topped off and was due to open either later this year or early next year.

An IHG statement said the upper levels would be branded voco Auckland City Centre.

IHG has 51 Australasian hotels operated under the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, voco and Holiday Inn Express brands. It says it plans a further 35 new hotels in Australia and New Zealand, including Hotel Indigo.

Last June, the Herald reported Auckland’s biggest hotel-building boom would see six new CBD properties worth $1 billion-plus opening amid the global tourism downturn, bringing an extra 900 rooms to the city.

Dean Humphries, Colliers International’s director of hotels for New Zealand and the South Pacific, said last year the largest number of new hotels built simultaneously in the city resulted in the six opening in the latter half of 2020.

“Timing is unfortunate,” he said at the time.

“These were planned years ago but once Covid runs its course in six, 12 or 18 months, demand is going to pick up again,” he forecast.

Ronald Barrott, Pro-invest chief executive, said of the new $200m Auckland hotel: “We are extremely excited to have the honour of opening New Zealand’s first voco. Such an iconic address demands a great brand and when IHG first launched voco in 2018, its sustainability focus really struck a chord with me and I realised that it was a perfect fit for us.”

Leanne Harwood, IHG’s managing director for Australasia and Japan said: “With the momentum voco has created since its launch, we are delighted that Pro-invest has taken the opportunity to realign their Even project with the new sustainability-focused voco brand. It’s wonderful to continue this journey with Pro-invest as they bring our sixth voco to Australasia in the very heart of the Auckland CBD.”

Pro-invest opened the Holiday Inn Express Melbourne Southbank in December 2019 and operates that brand in Sydney Macquarie Park, Brisbane, Adelaide and Newcastle.

Last year, Holiday Inn Express Sydney Airport and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Queenstown was being planned, followed by Melbourne Little Collins and Sunshine Coast, the IHG statement said.

The voco brand was launched in June 2018 and hotels branded under that name are on the Gold Coast, Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, Melbourne and Sydney, IHG said.

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