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The Scenic Story

The Scenic Hotel Group story is one of friends and family, a spirit that is very much at the heart of the group today.

The Scenic story starts back in 1980 when American Earl Hagaman fell in love with New Zealand while visiting close friend, Ralph Brown. The two decided that year to go into partnership and bought their first hotel on the West Coast of the South Island – the 48-room Graham Motor Inn.

The purchase was soon followed by acquisition of the historic Southern Cross hotel in Dunedin and Glacier Country in Fox Glacier in 1984, the iconic Whaler’s Inn in Picton in 1985 and the Lakeland Hotel in Queenstown in 1986.

With the five hotels forming a semi-circle around the scenic South Island, the name Scenic Circle Hotels was deemed the perfect name for the company.

Briefly listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange in 1986, the fallout from the 1987 stock market crash meant the company returned to private ownership.

A downturn in domestic and international tourism followed the ’87 crash, but with foresight and fortitude, Scenic Circle Hotels continued to prosper. Refurbishment and expansion were, and continue to be, key to the continuing success of the company.

Tragedy struck in 1995 when Ralph Brown suffered a fatal heart attack just two days after winning the World International Jet Boat Championships in Canada.

Earl, together with wife Lani carried on with the business, even though Ralph’s knowledge and friendship were greatly missed. By 2009, Earl and Lani had grown the Scenic Circle group to 18 hotels throughout New Zealand and later this year changed the company name to the Scenic Hotel Group, which would offer two distinct brands to the market in the form of Heartland Hotels and Scenic Hotels.

2009 also saw the construction of a life-long dream for Earl and Lani Hagaman – a boutique five-star property designed to reflect the grandeur and beauty of its natural surroundings while sitting respectfully and sustainably within a pristine landscape. Te Waonui Forest Retreat opened to widespread acclaim and went on to become an award winning pioneer in luxurious, sustainable tourism that has since gained it an Enviro Gold Award rating.

In 2012, Scenic Hotel Group took their expansion plans offshore and Scenic Hotel Tonga was introduced to the Group’s portfolio. The vision for strategic expansion continued with the group taking over the management in 2013 of an Auckland Airport hotel and branding it Heartland Auckland Airport Hotel.

The following year, in 2014, Scenic Hotel Group won the management contract for Scenic Matavai Resort on the Pacific Island of Niue, bringing their international portfolio in the Pacific to two.

Today, Scenic Hotel Group Hotels, Suites & Resorts are a favourite with the discerning leisure, business and corporate travellers from around New Zealand and the world.

Scenic Hotels, Suites & Resorts comprise the group’s four star and four star plus properties in major cities across New Zealand as well as Tonga and Niue, with their hallmark being an international level of service with the homeliness associated with genuine kiwi hospitality.

Heartland Hotels represent the group’s three star and three star plus range of properties in the South Island. Spacious and affordable, these hotels are located in some of the most pristine and scenic areas of New Zealand’s ‘heartland’, with each reflecting the unique flavour and personality of their region.

A programme of continual development of personnel and property remains at the forefront of the Scenic Hotel Group’s business operations whilst the spirit of family, friendship and genuine hospitality remains firmly at the heart of the Scenic Hotel Group which is expressed in a number of ways, least of all the numerous and significant philanthropic actions of owners Earl and Lani Hagaman as well as the many community and environmental initiatives that each hotel is involved in.


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