The highly-anticipated Novotel Christchurch Airport opened its doors earlier this week. Spanning six floors, the 4.5-star hotel features 200 guestrooms, including 10 suites and 10 accessible rooms showcasing high-end finishes, marble, copper tiling, and extensive American Oak panelling.
Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala is the owner and CEO of HIND Management, the company behind Novotel Christchurch Airport, and Sudima Hotels. The Sudima Group’s business interests span Asia-Pacific, and Jhunjhnuwala himself has lived in a number of remarkably diverse places, including Myanmar, Nepal, Hong Kong, and California.
Jhunjhnuwala first worked in his family business manufacturing watches. He moved to New Zealand in 2001, after falling in love with the country on his 1985 honeymoon. “Coming from Hong Kong, from very much a hustling, bustling place that moves at a hundred miles an hour – I was ready to take that step and change of lifestyle,” he told Hotel Magazine. “In New Zealand, not everything is materialistic. It’s more about your work-life environment, your family, and the greenery – everything just appeals to us.”
Alongside their watchmaking business, Jhunjhnuwala’s family also owned commercial and industrial properties. Over a number of years, they sold them and got further into the hotel business, expanding on a portfolio which already included a 600-room five-star hotel in Singapore. “Our family knows about hotels, and I’ve grown up around hotels, so it was something that I was comfortable with.”
Sudima Hotels was the first hotel group in New Zealand to be awarded carboNZero certification in 2013, something Jhunjhnuwala sees merely as an extension of the hotel’s fundamental philosophy. “We care, not just about our guests and our employees, but we also care about our environment, and the communities that our hotels operate in,” he said. “I think what it has done is help us attract a lot of good people, young talent who want to try and work for us because of our culture.”
Calm and affable, Jhunjhnuwala is naturally hospitable in conversation, and clearly passionate about his chosen industry. He cites Barack Obama as a personal hero, and over the course of his career, he has witnessed a great many changes in New Zealand’s hospitality industry. “Until about ten years ago, a lot of the hotels were run down, but as the hotels have started to make more money the owners can see that it’s possible to put money back in and improve our assets,” he said. “And that improves the guest experience.”