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base backpackers first property opens in Wellington

Travel News Asia 3 December 2003

As a host of stars made their way up the red carpet to the Embassy Theatre in Wellington on Monday night for the premiere of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, another star was being born just across the road.

The first ultra-stylish base backpackers hostel was launched with a massive party based on the theme 'The Return of the King' complete with a posse of Elvis ('the other king') impersonators and a host of royal characters.

base backpackers Wellington is the first purpose-built hostel in the base group, and will be followed by Christchurch on Wednesday and Auckland on Friday. They will join a re-branded hostel in Rotorua, with further expansion planned in Queenstown, Nelson, Taupo and Dunedin over the next 18 months. base will also be launched in Australia in early 2004 with hostels in Melbourne and on Magnetic Island in northern Queensland.

The first purpose built base backpacker hostel boasts one of Wellington's most prestigious locations on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Courtney Place, the city's entertainment and restaurant district. Developed out of a heritage building the 350-bed hostel boasts funky New York loft-style accommodation including double rooms with ensuites and multi-share rooms. A feature of the hostel (and all base hostels) is The Sanctuary - an upmarket girls-only floor with high-quality facilities, safety and home comforts (such as proper hairdryers in large, modern bathrooms).

Following Wellington's launch, base Christchurch will open on Wednesday in the heart of the city's Cathedral Square. Converted out of a historical building, the hostel features internet and PC facilities, a travel shop, the Saints and Sinners Bar and an outdoor barbecue area.

On Friday a 450 bed base hostel will open in the centre of Auckland. Built out of a heritage building on Fort Street, in the heart of Auckland's backpacker and entertainment strip, the hostel will offer the combination of historic exterior and ultra modern interior, with polished terrazo floors and the latest fittings and fixtures. The backlit reception area by day features scenic shots of New Zealand and at night becomes a flood of neon colour, creating a very hip ambience for its youthful clientele. A groovy cocktail bar for travellers will be located on ground floor, while the rooftop features a modern, stainless steel communal kitchen and dining area, extending onto a covered verandah with barbecues, outdoor seating and a jacuzzi.

Other facilities will include an internet caf with state-of-the-art wireless communications, a travel centre and restaurant.

Until recently, hotel developers tended to focus more on the top end of town, not recognising the enormous contribution backpackers make to the economy," said Accor Asia Pacific Managing Director, Michael Issenberg. "We are the first hotel group to enter this segment, and I believe New Zealand is the perfect market to test the concept for the rest of the world.

"The New Zealand backpacking market is arguably the most sophisticated in the world and the base brand will bring a new level of sophistication and a higher standard of service and facilities to help develop the sector even further.

"Today's backpackers are better educated and better travelled. They are more discerning and expect the latest in communications, entertainment and facilities, so while we do not intend to change the essential backpacker 'experience' we will bring it into the 21st century." 

More than 212,000 backpackers travelled to New Zealand in 2002, representing 13% of the annual NZ$6 billion tourism industry. Backpackers stay on average 39-40 nights, and spend more than $3,300 each, so it is a very lucrative segment. Political and economic factors have also shown the backpacker market is far more resilient than other sectors.

In addition to the traditional youth backpacker market, base's higher standards will also attract more families, groups and seasoned travellers.

Base hotels will set new standards in safety, cleanliness, food and beverage and facilities. Typical services will include themed bars with chill-out areas, games lounges regular entertainment, state-of-the-art security, modern shared cooking facilities, travel advice, and assistance with visas, banking, employment and more. 

Rates at the New Zealand hostels start from NZ$20-23 for dormitory accommodation.

base backpackers was conceived and developed by Accor, who retain a major shareholding in the group. A separate specialist backpacking division has been established to manage and operate the base backpacker network in New Zealand and Australia.

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