20 MINUTES WITH: MIKE SHARP – THC GROUP

The Tourist Hotel Corporation was started by the New Zealand government in 1955, with the intention of driving tourism towards what were perceived at the time as non-viable tourism areas – areas like Milford Sound, Rotorua and Wanaka. The success of these hotels eventually led to them being bought out by the Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation in the 1980s. THC Group, as it stands today, was born out of the desire of Mike Sharp, Ken Harris and Russell Kenny to reinvigorate the brand and provide expert support to hospitality brands, managers and investors.

One such service is the offering of admistration services to bodies corporate around the country. Mike Sharp sits as secretary on a number of bodies corporate around Christchurch and the South Island. This is often an essential service – the administration of unit title developments is strictly governed by dense legislation, and there is a shortage of people in New Zealand with this body corporate administration experience.

“The Unit Titles Act is a monster,” Sharp explained. “Many administrators don’t understand the act as well as they should, and the consequences of stepping outside the Act can be significant.” Body corporate administrators can leave themselves open to legal action, simply through a lack of understanding. This is where THC comes in – “Give me an hour, and you’ll walk out understanding how it all works.”

Sharp began his career as a trainee with SPHC following the completion of a BCom at University of Canterbury, working his way through the ranks and ending up as a financial controller in Wellington. In 2002 he returned to Christchurch and assumed the role of general manager at Clearwater Resort, where he met his eventual business partner Ken Harris. Due to the staggered development of the Clearwater complex, there were eight operating bodies corporate– it was up to Sharp to establish and thereafter manage them, which he did for ten years.

Any number of chartered accountants with a solid understanding of the UTA could manage a body corporate, said Sharp, but what sets THC apart is an understanding of hotel service. Both Harris and Kenny worked under the THC model for years, with a strong focus on training and work ethic (Sharp is the “young one – I missed out on that by a few years!”). This knowledge and experience in the hotel sector means that THC can engage with and understand the finer details of hotel operation, as opposed to a chartered accountant.  “They may be able to manage the profit/loss side and understand the Act, but we also understand complete hotel service.” THC can deal with facilities management, and manage all service contracts as well.

At the moment THC operates primarily in the South Island but is currently looking at a number of properties in the North Island.