Scenic Hotel Group founder, the late Earl Hagaman has been recognised posthumously with the prestigious Crowe Horwath International Sir Jack Newman ‘Outstanding Industry Leader’ Award at the 2017 New Zealand Tourism Awards. This award recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to New Zealand tourism over many years.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) is recognised as the voice of New Zealand’s $35bn tourism industry and celebrates the achievements of individuals and organisations at its annual awards ceremony.

The 2017 awards were held in Christchurch last night with Earl Hagaman’s wife and Chairwoman of Scenic Hotel Group, Lani Hagaman picking up the award on her husband’s behalf. On receiving the award, Lani spoke of the passion Earl had for New Zealand, the great outdoors, unspoilt beauty and the warmth and friendliness of New Zealanders. She also paid homage to Earl’s great friend and world adventurer,  the late Ralph Brown who he started the Scenic Circle hotel company with. Earl was a keen aviator and loved nothing more than to fly his own plane to the West Coast where he could marvel at the uninhabited West Coast Alps from the Sounds in the south to the Spit in the north. He never tired of seeing those scenes.

Lani paid tribute to other’s perception of Earl as a man who was known for being respectful, committed and generous. An industry leader, a successful entrepreneur, inspirational and visionary. To this end, both Earl and Ralph were true pioneers and opened up regions to inbound operators that did not exist in the early 80’s.

The significance  and irony of the award would not be lost on Earl as Newman’s were an important, first partner of Earl and Ralph’s and together made Franz Josef a destination. The relationship endured with Newman’s being one of Scenic Hotel Group’s biggest suppliers.

In closing, Lani thanked the industry for recognizing Earl’s contribution to the country he so adored, commenting, “I am only sorry he cannot be here to accept it himself, but I do know he was very proud to call himself a New Zealander.”

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

Foresight and fortitude have been an integral part of the Hagaman business philosophy, which has seen the group prosper through global financial crises, tourism downturns and a highly dynamic operating environment both domestically and internationally. This foresight has also included identifying and developing winning partnerships through property management rights with owners and investors.

Following the untimely and tragic death of Ralph Brown in 1995, Earl, together with wife Lani carried on the business whilst sorely missing Ralph’s knowledge and friendship. By 2009, they had grown the group to a total of 18 hotels throughout New Zealand and later in that year changed the name to the Scenic Hotel Group, which would offer two distinct brands to the market in the form of Heartland Hotels and Scenic Hotels.

A hallmark of both Scenic and Heartland Hotels was to offer international level service across their properties together with the homeliness associated with genuine kiwi hospitality. Today, Scenic Hotel Group properties are a favourite with both business and leisure travellers from around New Zealand and the world.

The Scenic Hotel Group has retained 18 properties across some of New Zealand’s most pristine and scenic areas of New Zealand’s heartland as well as being in major cities and two Pacific Island locations.

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 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.

Brendan Taylor, Managing Director of Scenic Hotel Group has been with the group for the past 26 years and says that the family values of the Scenic Hotel Group are a “lasting legacy to its founder, Earl Hagaman”.  Today, these values extend to social, environmental and staff initiatives that have become a hallmark of the group’s brand and a major contributor to its ongoing success both at home and abroad.

Recent recipients of the award include Sir Peter Jackson for being an “unashamed advocate” of New Zealand tourism and former Tourism New Zealand boss George Hickton for his work with Hawkes Bay Tourism.

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Kelly Watson
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