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The Scenic Story

In 1980 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 the perfect title 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 with wife Lani at his side decided to carry on with the business, even though Ralph’s knowledge and friendship were greatly missed. By 2009, Earl and Lani went on to grow Scenic Circle Hotels to 18 properties across New Zealand. 

The same year, Scenic Circle Hotels became Scenic Hotel Group in 2009 with two distinct brands introduced to the market. 

The Group’s four star and four star plus properties in key metropolitan cities became Scenic Hotels. With a focus on international levels of service combined with traditional Kiwi hospitality, Scenic Hotels and Suites are a favourite for the corporate and discerning leisure traveller.  

Heartland Hotels are the three star and three star plus range of properties around the South Island of New Zealand. These spacious and affordable hotels in some of the most beautiful areas of New Zealand’s heartland reflect the unique flavour and personality of their region.

2009 also saw the construction of a life-long dream for Earl and Lani Hagaman – a bespoke five star property designed to reflect the grandeur and beauty of its surroundings while sitting respectfully and sustainably within the landscape. Te Waonui Forest Retreat attracted widespread praise at its opening and has become an award winning pioneer in luxurious, sustainable tourism.

In 2012, Scenic Hotel Tonga was introduced to the Group’s portfolio – the first international property and the beginning of Scenic Hotel Group’s expansion into the Pacific.

2013 saw Scenic Hotel Group take over management of an Airport Hotel Auckland, Heartland Hotel Auckland Airport and in late 2014 the Group took on Scenic Matavai Resort Niue which would become the second South Pacific addition to Scenic Hotel Group.

Earl and Lani are passionate about the Tourism Industry. Both are heavily involved in supporting the wider community through sponsorships as well as many charities both nationally and internationally. They believe the strength of their Hotel chain comes from the commitment and dedication of their team – something they are very proud of.


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Enquiries 0800 NZ OWNED (69 69 63)

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