Christel Yardley / Stuff
Since 2020, 42% of Hamilton’s hotel beds have been used for managed isolation. Pictured is the Distinction Hamilton Hotel.
City leaders want MIQ hotels in Hamilton urgently released as the country rolls out the welcome mat for the return of the Kiwis.
Hamilton’s push to get his hotel rooms back comes as the government announces that fully vaccinated Kiwis traveling from Australia will no longer need to self-isolate from midnight Wednesday.
And, from Friday, the border will reopen to all returning fully vaccinated Kiwis without the need to self-isolate.
Managed isolation will remain for unvaccinated New Zealanders, refugees and some community cases, but the scheme will be scaled back, with Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins due to provide more details this month.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is bringing forward the deadline for reopening the border and ending the requirement to self-isolate on arrival.
The decision to free up MIQ rooms can’t come soon enough for Hamilton businesses as the economic impact of the city’s crippling housing shortage is revealed.
A new report commissioned by Hamilton City Council shows that, since 2020, 42% of hotel beds in Hamilton have been used for managed isolation. To make matters worse, 55% of motel rooms have been taken off the market and used as emergency housing by the Department of Social Development.
Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said at least one of three MIQ hotels in the city – Distinction Hamilton Hotel, Ibis Hamilton Tainui or Jet Park Hotel Hamilton – is due to come back on the market in the coming months.
“What we don’t want is Hamilton being left out when our borders open up,” Southgate said.
“These MIQ hotels have been inhabited full time by people returning to New Zealand, so they will need maintenance, renewal and refreshment. We must be aware that they will not be ready for use the day after they are not in use for Covid.
The hotel report, authored by Horwath HTL, predicts the city will need 160 additional hotel rooms and serviced apartments by 2023, in addition to hotel space currently used for managed isolation. Around 850 more rooms will need to be added to the city’s accommodation supply by 2033 if Hamilton is to maintain an average annual occupancy rate of around 75%.
The report’s writers also conclude that the city’s motels will continue to be used as emergency housing for several years and that some may be permanently repurposed.
Southgate said Hamilton needed one, if not two, new, more decently sized four-star hotels as well as an increase in the city’s motel supply.
Comments from council staff say Hamilton’s Claudelands event center missed a ‘substantial volume’ of business due to a lack of accommodation in the city, including a five-day veterinary association convention days with 3000 delegates and a four-day annual conference in Harcourts with 900 delegates.
Vanessa Williams, chief executive of the Hamilton Central Business Association, said the city was running out of accommodation space even before hotels were converted into MIQ facilities.
The loss of events and conferences at Claudelands is having a “huge” impact on businesses city-wide.
“It’s not just about what happens at conferences. It’s shopping going around, people eating out, taking the opportunity to visit and see different things in a different city,” Williams said.
“As a city, we want the best chance of bringing people here, and we need more hotel space to meet demand when we have these big things.”
Southgate said conversations are ongoing with potential hotel developers, but those discussions remain confidential at this time.
Councilor Ryan Hamilton, who chairs the council’s economic development committee, said the town’s municipal endowment fund could potentially be used to encourage hotel development. The fund is valued at $56.3 million.
The report on the state of the Hamilton hotel market was presented to elected members in November, but was not released until this week.
Hamilton is unsure why the report was not shared publicly last year, saying its release could have been left to the discretion of council staff.