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'Unique' Waitomo Motel Takes Top World Hospitality Award

'Unique' Waitomo Motel Takes Top World Hospitality Award

LAST- MINUTE Kiwi ingenuity made the difference when motelier and raconteur Barry Woods took his black singlet and gumboots to Paris this month and came away with a top international accolade for his unique Waitomo motel business.

Barry's motel complex, Woodlyn Park near Waitamo Caves, was voted Most Innovative Hotel Concept at the 2012 Worldwide Hospitality Awards in Paris. Woodlyn Park scooped 72 percent of the votes, the greatest margin seen in the history of the awards.

The award recognises a new concept, a new service or an initiative done by an hotel group or hotel brand or an independent hotel, a new vision of comfort or a better service performance regarding general settings, space management, technology and services and covers the whole hotel or specific amenities.

Reflecting on the award and a win that's swung the world hospitality and tourism spotlight on Waitomo, Waikato and New Zealand Barry says the hours leading up to his departure for Paris for the judging ceremony were not without a drop of tension.

"Getting to the awards made mincemeat of our minimal budget but at the last minute we learned that, as a finalist, we were expected to make presentation in support of our entry," he says.

"We decided at that late stage to make a video so we put together a great film clip - two amateurs in the back of a tin shed just three days before flying out to France - but I reckon the film of me in my Swani and gumboots did the job, the panel and the audience in Paris loved it.

"All we knew at that stage was we were one of the three finalists selected in the Most Innovative category - that was an achievement enough but our video presentation did the rest for us."

Barry, AKA the entertainer Billy Black, is no stranger to the stage and the spotlight but the scope of the event in the grandeur of the InterContinental Paris-Le Grand Hotel got the better of him.

"Over the last 15 years I've spent a lot of time on stage entertaining with my show at Waitomo and around New Zealand and nerves don’t really get to me; but when we walked into the Le Grand’s amazing marbled Opera Room, its stained glass dome and massive chandeliers, I actually started to tense up," he says.

" When I was eventually called up on stage and then announced as winner I was absolutely speechless. With managers, CEOs and the founding members of huge operations making up the audience and judging the participants throughout the evening, it was a true David and Goliath story as Woodlyn Park not only won the award, but won by the greatest margin ever seen in the history of the awards".

He says that not only was this a personal win for him, but a great showcasing opportunity for New Zealand tourism.

“I couldn’t get any interest from Tourism NZ so I had to go it alone … one little old Kiwi against major players in the hospitality industry. So to bring home a world award, having knocked out these big guys is a win for all the small unrecognised tourism businesses in New Zealand.

"Representatives of the hospitality industry on all levels; managers, CEOs, journalists and the like were blown away by the Woodlyn Park concept saying 'We are definitely coming to New Zealand, we want to see this place,'.”

Woodlyn Park has unique accommodation – two accommodation units are in a Bristol Freighter aircraft, there's a unit in a 1918 train, five units in a World War II Patrol Boat and two units are unique Hobbit motels. The complex is close to Waitomo Caves and features Billy Black's Kiwi Culture Show, a live show covering the complete story on New Zealand's country life from native forest to farmland.


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