Thursday, 30 April 2009

Peppers Bluewater Resort - Tekapo

John’s back yard is not blessed with an abundance of accommodation options, but the recent arrival on the scene of Peppers, an Australian resort operator, did provide an attractive option. Having stayed at one of their domestic properties some years ago, experience suggested that it would be a solid choice.

The resort has been developed in the popular Antipodean manner of individually-owned investment properties, managed by a hospitality company. The Bluewater Resort could almost still be in its wrapper, it’s so new, and the specifications of both fixtures and fittings cannot be faulted in any way.

The studios, apartments and townhouses all feature full kitchen facilities, sleek bathrooms and spacious, comfortable living areas.

Bedrooms are just as tastefully appointed.

The gently sloping aspect means that, whilst some of the units enjoy glimpses of Lake Tekapo from their balconies and terraces, it’s best to accept that the aesthetic strengths of the property are actually mostly within.

Indeed, it has to be said that the look of the whole place from the outside is somewhat unusual. Someone, somewhere, has obviously done a bit of mood-boarding and Googling for local flora, but possibly never actually set foot in Tekapo itself. For the effect of the hues selected to stain the buildings, and the rather stark landscaping and planting, has the effect of rendering the place less of the feel of a luxury resort, and more of Ice Station Zebra or a prototypical Moon base.

A beacon of building beauty it is not, and it’s also worth pointing out that, quite apart from the subjective reaction to the look of the place, this is another example of a marketing department not really having any idea what it’s being tasked to sell. Or perhaps, once again, some enthusiastic but inexperienced copywriter, overseen by a less-than-conscientious manager, has been allowed to liberally use this word ‘Resort’ without actually having a clue what the word means.

In this particular case however, it seems startling that no-one in authority in the Peppers organisation hasn’t stopped and thought, actually, you know what, this Peppers Resort we’re developing over at Tekapo: well, actually, it’s not a resort at all. It’s some villas and apartments with a restaurant. We’re not digging a pool. We haven’t got a gym. There’s no spa. We haven’t got room for a shop. There’s no grass in the budget for a golf course. In fact, basically, it’s a top-notch motel with cooking facilities.

But no, no-one said that and heaven help holidaymakers who don’t delve too deeply into the listed amenities and make the mistake of assuming that this ‘resort’ might follow any kind of internationally-accepted level of facility provision. Not even John would keep folks interested for more than a few hours; I do hope that no-one’s booked in for a week.

Back to the good points however, and the fact that these luxurious accommodations not only came at a good rate, but that rate included a dining credit for the on-site restaurant.

And, just for a moment, another not-so-good one when, having checked in and been given our not-terribly-professional ink-jet printed dining credit slips of scissor-cut A4, I get a call from the office to say that we haven’t paid. It transpires that Stella Resorts, the company somewhere behind the sales and marketing of Peppers, have conspired to mess up their own darkly-prehistoric payment system, which demands oddly-calculated deposits and residual balances, which cannot be combined into a full pre-pay or merely guaranteed with a credit card to settle on departure as, oh, most of the rest of the World manages.

Having seen the relevant confirmatory credit card statements already, and being comfortably ensconced in our comfortable villas, the embarrassed sounding lady on the phone was politely advised that we had indeed paid, were here, were going nowhere and that she could fight her employer’s luddite administrative policies without further recourse to me. And then I had a lovely bath.

Dinner in the main building’s restaurant is a pleasant though brightly-lit affair, with equally bright and friendly service from the mostly sub-continental staff. The menu is far from extravagant but nicely judged in its coverage of meat and fish, fowl and vegetarian and the quality of ingredients and preparation well above what might be expected from the location and volume of business.

Perhaps the only thing that stuck out rather obviously was that this was clearly a cost-driven menu, with the result that different dishes, depending on the cost of the ingredients, were vastly variable in size – with the menu description itself giving no particular indication of this. Thus the meat dishes were positively gargantuan; the fish little more than dainty. If the order-take staff don’t proactively point this out, there’s always the scope for disappointment.

Returning to the villas, the night sky was an incredible sight to behold, for all the reasons that had led John here too. Unfortunately, the view was particularly spectacular because no-one had bothered to turn any of the resort lighting on, so the route home was followed more by touch and feel than glowing filament.

Checkout the following morning was problem-free; the accounts department having presumably totted up their byzantine debits and credits and assured themselves that our loot was indeed in their vaults. A quick chat with the Receptionist about the lack of lighting the night before, and a noted failure of the housekeepers to dust beneath some of the ornaments and Audio Visual equipment in the villas was met with genuine concern, and the information that the cleaning contractors had very recently been changed thanks to a number of similar issues. The new cleaners were making their way around as and when villas were vacated, he said, which seemed entirely plausible.

Final Verdict for the Peppers Bluewater Resort: 7.0/10. Few of the villas have a view of the blue waters and the property is, by no stretch of the imagination, a resort of any kind. That said, the accommodation is supremely comfortable, very well specified and the location halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown is ideal. Service is friendly and genuine. The restaurant food was better than expected, but ultimately Peppers will have to think carefully about their marketing if they are to avoid disappointing customers and, at the same time, encourage repeat custom and recommendation. Finally, Stella Resorts (whoever they may be) need to sort their archaic payments system out too.

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