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Wave of interest expected in surf beach hospitality venue

A spiritually-inspired accommodation and function venue overlooking one of the most famous surf breaks in the world has been placed on the market for sale.

Solscape is uniquely positioned on the hills above Raglan’s famous Manu Bay and Ngaranui Beach on the Waikato’s West Coast, is a multi-faceted eco- tourism and function destination generating revenues from several complimentary operations – including accommodation and food and beverage.

Raglan was first made famous by the classic 1966 surf movie Endless Summer which featured the exploits of a trio of young American surfing buddies seeking out the world’s best wave-riding spots…. including Manu Bay’s legendary left-hand wave. The ground-breaking movie is still widely credited for making surfing the popular sport it is today.

Solscape was established in 2002 – building on what was a rustic accommodation venue known as Raglan Wagon Cabins, and was founded on the holistic dynamics of surfing, the surrounding bush environment, and plant-based wholefood cuisine.

The Solscape freehold land, buildings and business are now being marketed for sale by deadline private treaty, through Bayleys Hamilton salespeople Rebecca Bruce and Mark Frost, in conjunction with Bayleys’ tourism, leisure and hospitality specialist Carolyn Hanson.

Ms Bruce said the property at 611 Wainui Road had resource consent granted to add four additional accommodation structures – allowing any new owner to configure those buildings into multiple different offerings and price points, adding more choice to the existing accommodation pool.

Ms Bruce said a high proportion of Solscape’s wedding and corporate function bookings emanated out of Auckland and Hamilton – with a comfortable travel time of two-hours to Auckland, and 45 minutes to Hamilton.

“The business, leisure and wedding function clientele markets for Solscape self-segregate perfectly over the course of a week – with the majority of corporates booking between Mondays and Thursdays, the leisure market slotting in on weekends, and most weddings booking Saturdays,” she said.

“The multi-zoned layout of Solscape means multiple parties or large groups can be catered for simultaneously yet totally separately.”

For functions, Solscape can cater for up to 120 guests. The venue does not currently have a full liquor sales license, Ms Hanson said this was a huge and obvious opportunity for any new owner to pursue to add another substantial revenue stream to business’s wider activities.

“In summer, weddings are hosted on Solscape’s front lawn and covered dining verandah - with uninterrupted views of the surf beaches below. Food is prepared on-site through the lodge’s kitchen and the wedding parties exclusively occupy the full range of accommodations,” she said.

The diverse accommodations at Solscape sleep more than 80 guests in self-contained units, converted railway carriages, earth domes, and an off-grid teepee forest camp area.

Solscape’s food and beverage operations are supported by a full commercial-grade kitchen featuring ovens, hobs, griller, refrigeration, and extensive stainless-steel benching. The venue’s extensive organic gardens provide much of the restaurant’s fresh produce.

Mr Frost said that being located some five minutes from Raglan town centre, Solscape’s hospitality operations benefit from a captive audience.

“On a two-night stay, Solscape’s food and beverage division budgets on capturing at least one night’s spend, and one breakfast. That dynamic is obviously higher for the likes of weddings and corporate bookings,” he said.

Mr Frost said the vertically-integrated business model supporting Solscape ensured its multiple revenue streams worked collaboratively to deliver solid revenue figures and an interrupted growth trajectory.

Over the 2017/18 financial year, Solscape recorded an average annual occupancy rate of 65 percent – running at close to capacity during the summer high season from December through to March, while operating on skeleton staffing levels during the winter months. Trading records show Solscape’s gross revenues had virtually doubled in the past five years – from $459,000 in 2013 to 1.08 million in 2018.

In peak season, Solscape employs 30 full-time and part-time personnel across its kitchen, reception, housekeeping and property maintenance divisions. This number is scaled back to nine full-time and part-time staff in the quieter May to October winter and winter-shoulder seasons.

Waikato District Council recently announced an $868,000 capital works schedule for Raglan infrastructure – with a number of projects focusing on supporting growing visitor numbers to the town.

“Raglan is one of the most significant tourism offerings in the Waikato, and has the potential to attract a great number of international visitors given the quality and profile of the surf break,” said the Raglan Visitor Infrastructure Study.

“These world-class surf breaks are on Solscape’s doorstep,” Mr Frost said. “Solscape’s is well placed to increase not only the base guest-night numbers, but also the average length of stay, which was identified as a key opportunity for Raglan in the report.”

Mr Frost said: “The themes which came out of the council report mirror the long-established operating ethos and strategies of Solscape – putting the venue at the very bow-wave of council-endorsed future tourism activity in the town.

“The current supply of commercial visitor accommodation is estimated to consist of eight separate facilities. Overnight guest rates in Raglan are estimated to total 68,800 in the 2016/17 financial year.”

The Raglan Visitor Infrastructure Study concluded that; “While the village is already popular with visitors, there are opportunities to strengthen the precinct positioning as a sustainable destinat8ion with additional activities available and encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more through new experiences from the hub.”

Raglan was last month named the ‘Most Beautiful Small Town’ in the Keep New Zealand Beautiful awards. Raglan also took out the ‘Supreme Award’ in the competition – coming in ahead of Dunedin, Taupo, Richmond and Coromandel.

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