Hotel Magazine sat down with the owner of Auckland’s Best Western Ellerslie to have a chat about its recent refurbishment, achieving a top level of service, and seeing what’s ahead.

This year has been a truly successful one so far for Best Western Ellerslie International, having been placed 12th in the Tripadvisor’s 2016 Top 25 Hotels in New Zealand. For the team, the achievement was a fantastic way to start the year and set the benchmark high going forward at Best Western. Heading a small team of 20 employees, Murray and Margaret Wansbone know what it takes to succeed in the industry.

“It’s a magnificent achievement and it’s very rewarding. Everyone should be striving to be the best. We would like to get in TripAdvisor’s top 25 again,” managing director Murray Wansbone said.

Located in the central suburb of Ellerslie, the Ellerslie International is walking distance to Ellerslie Village, all bus and train networks, and near Sylvia Park Shopping Complex. The central location makes it the ideal place to stay when guests are travelling to Auckland.

“It’s a good location. We’re walking distance to the Ellerslie township, so it gives people choice with bars and restaurants. Our catchment is huge and includes Penrose, Otahuhu, Onehunga, Mt Smart, Greenlane, Highbrook, Panmure and Glen Innes to name a few.”

With more than 15,000 companies within 15kms of the premises, Best Western is in the beating-heart of the Auckland business community.

“We understand it is essential to provide modern travelers with not only the latest technology available but also the creature comforts of home. For this reason, we were one of the first properties in New Zealand to implement Sky’s Guest Select service; meaning each room has their own decoder and access to Sky’s full channels – just like at home,” said Murray.

Best Western Ellerslie International opened in 1991, with the pair taking over the reins of the then 36 room complex in 2004. A dilapidated house and run down block of flats located adjacent to the hotel were purchased by the couple, meaning the expansion project they had envisioned could become a reality. In the winter of 2012 the new wing was opened, offering 18 new rooms built to high specifications. A fully equipped guest gym was also designed and fitted in the extension.

“Once the new wing was completed we turned our attention to the original facilities,” Murray said.
Refurbishment of the original building has been slow but steady, happening one room at a time.
“It’s all part of upscaling and it has to be a constantly evolving thing. For us, the challenge is having the room out of commission for two weeks, which means loss of income.”

Each room received a complete makeover, including repainting, new carpet and tiled bathrooms. Best Western also added new headboards, bedside cabinets and entertainment panels for the TVs, which also include media hubs. Bluetooth clock radios are fitted in all of the refurbished rooms.
Other refurbishments undertaken by the hotel include repainting and recarpeting of the conference facilities, a new bar and front reception desk, reupholstering of furniture in the restaurant and bar plus new window furnishing in the bar area.

Upgrading the commercial laundry washer and dryer in February was a huge capital expense but is already showing huge savings for the business through monthly energy bills.
The momentum shows no sights of slowing down, with a $30,000 investment being spent on the hotel kitchen in the coming months.
Murray and Margaret draw on their years of experience and extensive travelling for inspiration when refurbishing.
“Hotels are notorious for cutting costs in relation to lighting. We have lots of lighting here. While the outlay is expensive, with the improved LED lighting it actually becomes more cost efficient in the long run.”

The restaurant has come into its own and has been rebranded, now called the Pavilion Restaurant. The Pavilion Restaurant is open daily for cooked and continental breakfasts, a la carte dinners, and room service during restaurant hours. The a la carte menu is seasonal and changes on a regular basis.
With the TripAdvisor award as proof, the staff at the Best Western Ellerslie prides themselves on going the extra mile to make guests feel welcome and provide everything needed for a comfortable stay, regardless of whether guests are travelling for business or pleasure.

“We’ve evolved. I guess that evolvement comes down to our small and passionate team. You must have very motivated staff, and our staff are very accomplished. That is our point of difference. That’s how we’ve succeeded.”

Operations manager, Kelly Flux, said “We have successfully transitioned from a Motor Inn to a strong corporate based hotel, while still offering a family friendly environment for those travelling with their loved ones.”

Looking ahead, Murray said the company wants to become better at what they do.
“The feedback and comments from guests have been very positive. We haven’t always got it right, but we’re constantly monitoring and striving for excellence.”
Future goals include adapting to new challenges and to become better at what they do.
“I try to emulate good service. It comes back to attitude. Knowing that you’ve achieved that level of service is very humbling and satisfying.”