Chinese developer Fu Wah International says its investment in the proposed length-of-New Zealand luxury train service is a strategic move to push into the regions and invest in the country’s booming tourism sector.
The company is a cornerstone shareholder in the proposed train service, The Antipodean Explorer, and is understood to have invested tens of millions of dollars in the venture.
It is currently building the luxury five-star $200m Park Hyatt hotel on Auckland’s waterfront and a 425-apartment complex at the city’s Wynyard Quarter, which will cost more than $300m.
Backing the new luxury train service, which is planned to start operating in late-2019 and will take visitors on a six-night tour of the country, is part of its strategic investment in New Zealand tourism, said Fu Wah general manager for the South Pacific region, Richard Aitken.
“The Park Hyatt hotel was the first part of the strategy and the train service is a great way to connect up to other tourism opportunities in New Zealand,” said Aitken.
“The next stage will be to invest in another hotel at the end of the line – in Queenstown or maybe Dunedin – and then ‘backsolve’ our way through the country, investing in tourism businesses and other accommodation opportunities.”
The company is currently looking for a hotel opportunity in Queenstown and is also considering Dunedin.
“Nothing has come across our desk just yet but we take a long-term view and something will come along sooner or later,” said Aitken.
The new train service, although a complex project, would not be a significant financial commitment for Fu Wah.
“The Park Hyatt hotel will be between $200m-300m, the Wynyard Quarter development will be over $300m – this [train service] is nowhere near any of that but the significance is in its strategic nature rather than its dollar value.”
Aitken said when Amanda Johnston, who is leading the luxury train service project, approached the company in Beijing for investment, it was not a difficult decision to make to back the venture.
“They came to see us in Beijing and I think right off the bat we were very impressed with the preparation that Amanda and her team had put into the plan,” said Aitken.
“They had been working on it for several years and every question we asked they had a sensible answer so it was easy for us to be confident in it. We believe in the tourism market here in New Zealand and when we put the two together it really wasn’t a difficult decision for us.”
Aitken said Fu Wah was essentially a family business and an intergenerational investor: “They are in New Zealand for the longterm and this is a longterm project, along with the other two in Auckland, that we are investing in.”