Remote authentic Japanese tourism venture set to say ‘sayonara’
New Zealand’s most authentic Japanese-themed tourism venture – and home to the most remote ethnic cuisine restaurant in the country – has been placed on the market for sale.
The Maruia Springs Thermal Resort - mid-way between Christchurch and Westport on the Lewis Pass - was developed in its current Japanese bathhouse style in 1991 by a Japanese couple living in Christchurch. The couple wanted to wholly replicate the spa experience of their homeland in the rustic countryside of New Zealand.
The mineral waters at Maruia Springs were first discovered by weary pioneering explorers in the 1880s - with various hotel and public bathing amenities coming and going on the riverbanks over the ensuing 110 years.
Over the past two decades, the business has seen a rise in visitor numbers among the ‘free independent traveler’ sector driving rental vehicles and motor homes. Tourism New Zealand statistics show these visitors are predominantly from North America, Europe, and Australia, with domestic New Zealand holidaymakers also making up a sizeable chunk of the market.
However, after 23 years operating the resort, its Japanese-born owners Akira Matsushita and kimono-wearing Takako Ongino are selling up to return back to their homeland.
The property is being marketed for sale by Bayleys Canterbury tourism and hospitality sales specialist Peter Harris, who said it was interesting to see how the venue’s guest demographics had changed over some 35 years – opening up an opportunity to reinvigorate the property under a new guise.
“While Maruia Springs Thermal Resort has historically traded on its Japanese bath-house theming, the owners fully appreciate that its future may well lie with returning the ambience to be more reflective of its New Zealand surrounds,” Mr Harris said.
“The resort is strategically located in the triangle junction linking Christchurch with the West Coast, and Nelson/Marlborough to the north via Murchison. Visitor numbers from the north in particular have been trending up over the past three years with a parallel rise in eco’ adventure tourism such as white water rafting and most recently the opening up of various cycle tracks,” he said.
“That sort of activity compliments the rural and natural attractions of the hot pools at Maruia.
Being the biggest accommodation provider on the spine of Lewis Pass, the lodge benefits from having a virtually captive market among those seeking somewhere to stay in the latter part of a day’s travel.”
Mr Harris said Maruia Springs Thermal Resort had multiple revenue streams:
• Accommodation onsite features 19 guest rooms
in various single and double bed
configurations, with nightly rack rates ranging from $159 - $259
• Food and
beverage offerings on the licensed premises ranging from
simple café-style breakfasts and lunches, or bar snacks for
the take-away market, through to a-la-carte dining in the 45
seat Asian-fusion cuisine restaurant
• Various outdoor thermal hot pool, private spa, and Japanese bath-house experiences taking advantage of the natural environment. Pool entry ranges from $10 for children to $22 for adults.
The resort is among the most environmentally-friendly tourism ventures currently operating in New Zealand. Maruia Springs is self-sufficient for its electricity supply – utilising a 140 kilowatt hydro’ power plant to generate power; and a specially-designed sewage purification system means there is minimal waste treatment fed back into holding ponds.
“There is now a well established network of thermal pool resort operators throughout New Zealand – from Kaikohe in the Far North, to Queenstown in the south. Their popularity has been exacerbated by the ability for free independent travelers to make their own way to these destinations, and by the appreciation of their mineral-laden health-promoting qualities,” Mr Harris said.
In keeping with the eco’ theme and Japanese minimalism, none of the guest rooms at Maruia Springs are fitted with TVs, radios or telephone. In addition to the guest rooms and communal dining and drinking areas, the resort also has staff accommodation for up to 12 people, a separate owner’s residence, a staff kitchen and dining room, gymnasium and laundry facilities.
The business employs five full-time staff and 10 part-time staff. In keeping with the venue’s oriental theming, most of the staff are Japanese – with female staff often attired in kimonos and sandals. Menu items in the dining room feature the likes of pork dumplings and sushi with a blend of western dishes, while shiatsu massages are part of the relaxation offerings.
The land, buildings and business at Maruia Springs are being marketed for sale by negotiation.