Mark Rose, Chief Executive of The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments, Queenstown
Mark Rose brings a wealth of talents and experience to the Rees Hotel after spending many years in the hospitality industry in the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. He is a trained chef and a specialist in food and beverage services who has managed vineyard and winery operations in addition to his hotel management duties. He came to The Rees Hotel and Luxury Apartments Queenstown directly from his role as General Manager of the prestigious Cameron House on Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s finest luxury hotels. Mark is a real character and is always positive – how could he not be living in such a beautiful place?
New Zealand will be welcoming Australian travellers again. What has been the biggest challenge facing the hotel to welcome Australians back?
It has been a tough 12 months for everybody in tourism but we have been lucky n that we have been able to keep most of our amazing team together to enable us to get on top of all of the small jobs that we have put off due to being too busy. All of the hotel has pretty much been fully open for the 12 months and we haven’t driven down our price points to enable us to keep staff and to ensure our offering is kept in the best possible condition.
What have you done to meet those challenges?
We have pretty much kept the hotel running as it was pre covid albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Our team are our point of difference and our Directors made it clear early on that keeping our team together was a major priority.
What can Aussie visitors expect when they come back to Queenstown?
Reopening Queenstown to our Australian mates comes with its difficulties (but they are a welcome set of difficulties when compared to the last 12 months!). With the closure of New Zealand’s borders in March 2020 we saw much of our workforce either relocate to their home countries or to move out of Queenstown to a region that does not rely on tourism as much as we do. We were lucky to keep the majority of ours but I do worry about many of our attractions, hospitality and ski businesses. I am sure that all businesses that have made it through this year will do everything in their power to offer the same great experiences that Queenstown has been known for.
Winter is obviously a big drawcard with skiers and snowboarders itching to cross the ditch to get their fill of Coronet, Remarks, Cardrona and Treble Cone. Does The Rees do anything special for skiers and snowboarders?
With a range of options from self-catering to hotel rooms, transfers, Concierge services, ski lockers etc The Rees Hotel Queenstown is geared up for skiers and boarders alike. We regularly set up in room fittings for skis/boards for our guests, using SnoPro, who are amazing – send us your specs and we will have your gear waiting.
How are your bookings tracking for winter?
From the moment that the “bubble” was announced our bookings have increased exponentially – it has been a great relief after a difficult year. The Australian school holidays especially has gone “crazy” – not surprising given that Northern Hemisphere skiing has been off the cards for so long. We also have incredible heli-skiing terrain and great companies such as Harris Mountain Heli-Skiing who know where the powder is and have awesome guides to give a bucket list experience.
How long have you been in the travel industry?
Too long! I started cleaning pubs while I was still at school before graduating to kitchen hand duties followed by waitering before getting my chef’s papers at the ripe old age of 28. I moved to management in my early 30s and have worked in hotels ever since – a vocation rather than a job. I have been very lucky to work with some incredible people in my career and I am most grateful!
When did you get the travel bug?
Most New Zealanders of my age travelled to Australia and/or the UK in our late teens – work visas were easy to get and we all had friends who had “paved the way”. New Zealanders (and Australians) have always been looked at as hard workers with “personality” and the hospitality/travel industry suited us.
What inspired you to go into the hotel business?
Natural progression through Food and Beverage; I started in kitchens, moved into front of house and then on to the upscale part of the hotel industry where food and wine really matter. Loving people and not wanting to sit behind a desk all day made it an easy choice.
The Rees is popular with Australians; what do you think sets it apart from other luxury properties?
We have a great bunch of people on our team who are really motivated to ensure everyone who comes to stay has a great time – we are very relaxed and friendly with a huge focus on service. The views and food and wine offerings don’t hurt either!
What are the top five activities that you recommend people do in Queenstown?
Shotover Jet – exhilaration, NZ terrain at its best, ingenuity (Jetboat was invented in NZ by Bill Hamilton).
A bottle of Taittinger on The Ledge at Cecil Peak with The Helicopter Line.
The Sawpit Gully climb in Arrowtown – gets the heart pumping and the view at the top takes your breath away.
A round of golf at Jacks Point – the scenery is definitely a distraction (and Jacks is challenging enough as it is!)
Cardrona ski resort in the winter – long runs, lots of different terrain and friendly people. Followed by a day’s heli-skiing.
What are your favourite restaurants in Queenstown?
Aosta, Arrowtown – inspired by the cooking techniques of Northern Italy, paired with ingredients carefully selected from growers, breeders, suppliers and wine grown on the land around Central Otago and Arrowtown
Tatsumi, Queenstown – a cosy and private Japanese restaurant that serves up an incomparable fusion of traditional flavours and contemporary cuisine
La Rumbla, Arrowtown – inspiration from the streets and culture of Catalonia, providing dining until late with a lively and relaxed atmosphere. Awesome cocktails
True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel, Queenstown – The genuine taste of the True South, pride in the region is expressed with a menu of dishes based strongly on local produce. Sourcing high-quality suppliers south of Christchurch, buying local not only assures freshness and quality control, it reduces food miles and encourages sustainable practices.
Best coffee in Queenstown?
Joes Garage! Free trade and always beautifully made.
What are your favourite destinations outside of Queenstown?
Fleurs at Moeraki (a three-hour drive to the coast from Queenstown) – fresh seafood with great charm.
Milan – food is sensational and there is “a way” about the Italians.
NYC – food, culture, people, history.
Shanghai – the NYC of the East. Bustling and captivating.
Is there anywhere in New Zealand you haven’t been, but would love to?
The only “district” I have not visited in New Zealand is the East Cape above Gisborne. I hear it is wild and untouched and on the way to my favourite brewery, Sunshine Brewery in Gisborne.
What is one unusual fact that people don’t know about Queenstown?
Queenstown was named by William Rees in 1860 – he came here as a pastoralist but gold was found in the surrounding valleys and in 1865 a gold rush began. We are proud our hotel is named after him.
What do you think is the ‘finest thing’ about The Rees?
Hutia te rito o te harakeke. Kei hea te komako, e ko? Ki mai ki ahau, he aha te mea nui o te ao?
Maku e ki atu He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
Pluck the heart from the flax bush – where will the bellbird be? Ask me, what is the most important thing in the world? I will reply, it is people, it is people, it is people.
*This story was updated on 10 May 2021