Lovers' lodge ideal set-up for couple

10:40 AM Saturday September 13, 2014 Colin Taylor

Aqua Lodge at 51-55 Nelson Cres, Napier, marked by red border.

A Napier lodge with a reputation for being a launching site for Cupid's arrow and suited to a couple or family looking for a new lifestyle in Hawkes Bay is on the market.

"They could purchase the property and continue to operate the business living onsite or a manager could be employed to run it," says James Haggerty of Bayleys Napier, who is marketing the complex with colleague Sam MacDonald through a tender process closing on October 17.

"Alternatively, the property could be leased to other forms of business like childcare or retirement operators," Haggerty says.

He says Aqua Lodge in central Napier is known as a budget accommodation provider but it also has a lesser-known claim to fame. In the past 19 years nearly 100 couples have met at the lodge, making it arguably the city's best-kept secret location for those looking for love.

The owners of the property, Tony and Lynn Livingston, started the business in 1995 after learning of a shortage of accommodation in the area, particularly in the backpacker sector.

"We bought 53 Nelson Cres after reading an article in a local newspaper stating that up to 30 backpackers a night were being turned away due to lack of space every night," says Tony Livingston.

"We later expanded the business - buying 55 Nelson Cres in 1999 and then 51 Nelson Cres in 2001. "During that time numerous couples have met at the lodge and later married. It's great to get updates on their lives together and sometimes pictures of the kids they now have."

Dating back to the 1920s, the property was formerly a doctor's surgery and maternity ward. The lodge comprises three adjoining freehold titles with a total of 3120sq m of flat land. Three separate buildings have 16 bedrooms, with additional tent and campervan sites. The site features kitchen facilities, manager's accommodation, a storeroom, in-ground swimming pool and plenty of off-street parking. All three dwellings on the property comply with regulations as hostel accommodation.

The business is also part of the BBH world traveller accommodation network, which gives discounts and other benefits to members who stay. Many bookings come through the BBH website but the vast majority of customers still hear of the lodge via word of mouth and referrals.

Haggerty says the business has consistently been fully occupied for up to eight months each year.

"Given the property's large section and the increasing popularity of the Hawkes Bay as a tourism destination, there is significant scope to grow the business to increase bed capacity through minor redevelopment."

Haggerty says the lodge is convenient for tourists, being within walking distance of the Napier CBD and the beach, and has built up a long trading history within the budget sector of the accommodation market.

Haggerty says the current owners, who are moving on to new challenges, will assist a new owner with taking over the business, for an agreed transitional period.