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Relais & Chateaux creates new Route de Bonheur to meet NZ golf and tourism demand in Asia

September 14, 2013 Golf Tourism No Comments Email Email

Leveraging increased activity among Asian travelers (and a pair of high-profile plaudits from international golf and travel press),

Relais & Chateaux the international association of luxury boutiquehotels, restaurants and resorts 45has tapped hedge fund legend, golf course developer and hotelier Julian Robertson as the narrative force behind its newest Route de Bonheur, the personalized itinerary for which Relais & Chateaux is famous.

Route du Bonheur is French shorthand for the art of crafting one’s own personal “Road to Happiness”. In the travel context, Relais & Chateaux (R&C) has been charting these courses — matching adventurous, discerning travellers with extraordinary places to dine, stay and play — since its founding in the 1950s.

Central to Robertson’s new Route de Bonheur are the three lodges and two golf courses he and his family own and operate in New Zealand, where Relais & Chateaux has seen a huge jump in reservations over the last 12 months. They include:

* The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs and Kauri Cliffs Golf Course here in Bay of Islands;

* The Farm at Cape Kidnappers and Cape Kidnappers GC in Hawkes Bay, also located on NZ’s North Island; and

* Matakauri Lodge in the South Island, alpine resort haven of Queenstown.

These golf and hotel properties are among the world’s most feted. In August, two new press laurels lent still more credibility and panache to Robertson’s new Route:

* In its September 2013 issue, GOLF Magazine ranked Cape Kidnappers GC #38 among its of Top 100 courses in the world, while Kauri Cliffs GC moved up six places to #74.

* Meanwhile, in August, The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs was named the #1 hotel in the worldaccording to Business Insider, which reached this decision by aggregating current world hotel rankings from the industry’s most respected sources: Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast Traveller, TripAdvisor and Fodor’s.

Robertson’s Route du Bonheur shows off these extraordinary properties but also includes a bevy of off-site, one-of-a-kind activities including helicopter tours, winery visits, the fjords and glaciers of 46Milford Sound, kiwi tracking and extraordinary nature hikes at Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs, two of the largest privately held environmental preserves in New Zealand.

However, for Asians, golf is perhaps the biggest draw.

“We are certainly responding to an increasing demand for New Zealand travel among the Asian travellers, who indeed present strong demand for superior golfing destinations such as Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers,” said Natasha Granath, director of Relais & Chateaux member services for Australia & Pacific Islands.

“Julian Robertson is an ideal ‘ambassador’ for one of our Routes du Bonheur not only because he is a passionate and highly respected hotelier with a love for his adopted land of New Zealand, but also because he has a prominent profile among our key audience of experienced travellers and lovers of fine cuisine, who seek authentic experiences in extraordinary destinations.”

According to Relais & Chateaux Chairman Jaume Tapies, R&C recognizes the growing power of the Asian and Australian affluent traveller and has thus earmarked the region as a key source of revenue for 2014 and beyond. Tapies notes that, of R&C’s 58.1 million euros in global reservations confirmed from July 2012 to June 2013, 7 per cent came from Asia Pacific — an increase of 36 per cent on the previous year.

Relais & Châteaux was first created from a single Route du Bonheur: A group of French hoteliers in the 1950s created an itinerary for travellers to follow between Paris and the Riviera, allowing travellers to discover the region and its terroir according to locals who knew the region best. These hoteliers later became what is today known as Relais & Châteaux, which grew to include 520 fine hotels and restaurants in 61 countries around the world. (See here a complete list of the 53 Routes du Bonheur itineraries worldwide.)

Relais & Chateaux extends that local knowledge to the golfing realm, suggesting nearby course options for nearly all its member hotels. But few member properties boast golf options on a par with Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs, as the new GOLF Magazine rankings attest. What’s more, both Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs are located on site, directly beside their two award-winning lodges.

Opened in 2004, Cape Kidnappers GC was designed by golf’s most sought-after architect, Tom Doak. The David Harmon-designed Kauri Cliffs opened in 2000 and is regarded among the most scenic courses on Earth. Indeed, in 2012, Golf Digest — GOLF Magazine’s primary competitor in the world golf-ranking realm — ranked Cape #6 among all golf courses located outside the United States, with Kauri Cliffs #19.

“GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest produce the two most respected, authoritative rankings in world golf,” said Ryan Brandeburg, director of golf at both properties. “Accordingly, they are effective, credible testimonials for golfers across Asia and around the world. If you inspect the lists a bit more closely, you’ll notice that primarily private clubs in this region rank higher than Cape and Kauri. Essentially, these new rankings confirm Cape and Kauri the top two resort courses in all of Asia-Pacific.

“That their first tees are positioned mere yards from the two Lodges — each so highly ranked in their own right — makes for a stay & play formula that few golf resort venues can match, in terms of quality and convenience, which is what the Route de Bonheur is all about.”

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