Career Hotelier Karl Luxon Appointed Chief Operating Officer
The appointment of Karl Luxon to the executive leadership position of Chief Operating Officer for Scenic Hotel Group marks an important step for both the hotel and Karl. The return to Christchurch after a spell of 30 years is something of a homecoming for the Luxon family as well as being the start of an exciting new chapter in Karl’s tourism and hospitality career.
With a career forged over 20 years at Millennium Hotels and Resorts New Zealand (MCK), culminating in VP Operations for MCK New Zealand, Karl left the Group at the end of 2020. His vision is to develop New Zealand’s tourism infrastructure further and help navigate it through what is agreed to be the most challenging of times for tourism globally.
Scenic Hotel Group Executive Chairwoman of the Board, Lani Hagaman, says, “Karl’s experience, core values and motivation to drive our industry into a new era were key to inviting him to join the Scenic Hotel Group executive.”
For Karl, the opportunity to work in a leadership role with an iconic Kiwi company that displays strength and loyalty both to the industry and its people were key drivers. Alongside this is an “exceptional portfolio of properties representing diversity amongst brands, locations and guests, collectively the hotels are a resilient network of properties to reshape and build momentum post-Covid.”
With the Group celebrating its 40th anniversary of delivering a uniquely New Zealand style of hospitality, this family business is perfectly poised to enter the next and possibly most challenging phase of its evolution. In evaluating the Group’s response and subsequent emergence from a year that decimated tourism globally, Karl considers Scenic Hotel Group to have adapted remarkably well. Shying away from the quarantine business, the Group used its network of hotels to re-engineer its operations, placing some hotels into hibernation. At the same time, the world grappled with the impact of COVID-19. Others continued throughout the various levels of lockdown, and the Group has emerged intact and with a very clear way forward.
Karl says, “While we have adapted to a new way of operating our businesses, there can be no illusions about the continuing fragility of the international markets that New Zealand relies so heavily upon. The recent pause on the Australian travel bubble has delivered a stark reminder of New Zealand’s ongoing vulnerability and uncertainty around international travel and tourism.” Added to this uncertainty is an unprecedented level of competition within an industry that relies on a small population to share in an equally small domestic travel business. This level of domestic competition has also taken on an additional angle as the tourism sector grapples with labour shortages and the lack of international labour, which it relies so heavily upon. “Resolving this is going to require a cultural shift not just in our thinking but also in our workplace practices,” says Karl.
The mission is clear with Karl identifying resilience and looking to our ‘new normal’ as key to moving forward whilst early days. New business models are the only way forward with hospitality and tourism business models turned on their heads and seasonality out the door. “We simply cannot continue to do business the way it has always been done.”
We have identified other sectors and begun “knowledge sharing” from the likes of Agriculture and Education businesses to learn from and forge a new way of working and measuring the hotels. For now, our strategy and plans have a very short shelf life, sales and marketing plans are short and sharp, they flex and seize the opportunity that exists in the next seven days. Karl and the team will dive deep into the business to seek out non-hotel revenue streams. These will include alternate investments, product modifications and reformatting business processes.
Karl says we don’t have a specific mission statement; for now, at Scenic, we are allowing ourselves to be “our natural very best self ”. This seems appropriate given all the changes we have all been through with the impact of COVID in our lives. Add to that to being the best country in the world, and there is a very Scenic way forward for this Kiwi group whose success has been built around its people for forty years.
With his feet already under the Christchurch-based desk, Karl has wasted no time getting around the regions to meet with local teams to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities ahead.
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