|Wayne Kirkpatrick is MD of Delaware North Australia Parks & Resort, which recently acquired a luxurious portfolio of iconic Australian properties including: Lizard Island, Heron Island and Wilson Island, off the coast of Queensland as well as Kings Canyon Resort in the Northern Territory and El Questro Wilderness Park & Homestead, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Kirkpatrick is well known in the Australian tourism industry and has a wealth of business, marketing and resort management experience. At an MD or CEO level he has led some of Australia's most
significant resorts over the past 25 years, among them Thredbo Alpine Resort, two Mirage Resorts in Queensland, Ayers Rock Resort and Hamilton Island, where he worked for 10 years, leaving as MD in 2005.
He is also a very keen skier, The Luxury Travel Bible caught up with him fresh off the slopes of Colorado.
You've been in the travel industry for a long time, what inspired you to get into the hotel business?
By accident really, I was an Account Director for a large international advertising agency in Sydney, managing brands such as Bacardi rum, Penfolds wines, VW, Audi and Subaru cars and a small, not very profitable client to us was Thredbo Alpine Village, but one I liked. In 1979 I decided to take a few months away from advertising and ski in Thredbo for the winter. My wife, Lesley, young son Daniel and I rented a small apartment and I started doing snow reports and other promotional activities part time for Thredbo. In any case, I stayed there for 10 years, I never went back to advertising. I was appointed Marketing Director quite soon after moving there and in 1984 was appointed Managing Director of what was a diverse and challenging business. I enjoyed the business and I certainly liked the naturalness of the mountains and the ability to combine business with a very nice lifestyle. I realized I didn't really enjoy traffic lights, stop signs, congestion, commuting, concrete and bitumen etc
MD of Delaware North Australia Parks & Resorts
What will be the single most defining thing for the resorts that Delaware North Australia Parks and Resorts have recently acquired?
They are each very special places. God isn't building any more of these places. The barriers to the creation of any new resorts in such places are enormous. And the world is increasingly interested in natural, serene, special places that are authentic.
What changes for the resorts are on the drawing boards?
Firstly, we plan to refurbish and refresh the physical assets. Secondly, a refocus on the natural attributes at each place and how we share their values, the ecology, the history and culture of each place with our guests. It's about sharing the stories, the experience of the place and creating unique, wonderful memories.
Our staff at each place, are the custodians, the protectors and story tellers of that place. We simply plan to make sure the stage on which they 'perform' every day is right.
What is the next big luxury travel trend?
Conspicuous consumption will always exist but more people will be seeking simple, natural pleasures. Luxury is not about marble, fountains, expensive artwork, highly manicured gardens and waiters in dinner suits with Reidel glassware. Luxury is the attainment of something unique by the few who seek it out. Yes, quality and style are pre requisites, but it's not pretentious, plastic, 'posy'.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the "luxury" tag?
Again, it's little to do with the bricks and mortar, the marble, the artwork on the walls, flat screen tv, in-room stereos etc. It's more to do with comfort, wonderful service, very good food and wines in a special place. Where the people have great pride of ownership of their establishment, it's immaculately clean and you're really well looked after. I want to feel special and where nothing is impossible, almost, where the answer to any reasonable request is "yes, of course".
Lizard Island Overlooking the Ocean Wilson Island Tent Interior
Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels / resorts? (and why)
We have a number of favourite places here in Australia and overseas. The one common characteristic of each is the attitude of the staff. They are genuinely welcoming, friendly, helpful and happy to please but not in an overly familiar or casual way. They respect us as guests but you feel good there because of their professionalism. Another key element is the pride of ownership. They are spotlessly clean and exceptionally well presented. No short cuts are taken. They're in the business for the long haul and they compete on quality not on price.
Interestingly, we have favourite hotels and resorts in the mountains, by the sea and in cities.
Some of them include small B&B's such as Provenance at Beechworth, VIC, Villa Gusto near Bright, VIC, and Tower Lodge in The Hunter Valley, NSW.
City hotels we like include The Westin Hotel in Melbourne,
The Islington in Hobart, TAS
Henry Jones Hotel, Hobart, TAS, the Romantik Hotel Schwarzer Adler in Innsbruck, Austria, the Hotel Imperial, Vienna and Hotel Bristol, Vienna, Austria.
Resort hotels we enjoy include Hotel Platzer, Gerlos, Austria, Hotel Murmeli in Oberlech, Austria and Hotel Elizabeth in Lech, Austria. There are also some stunning places in Bora Bora, Tahiti.
You love to ski, where is your favourite powder?
Well, you can have that almost anywhere, however, the most reliable and probably the best snow on earth is in Colorado and Utah, USA. We skied Telluride in Colorado for the first time this year and it was great, enhanced by the fact that there were simply no lift queues, at all!
However, you can't beat the Austrians for atmosphere and having a really good time as you ski from village to village, from one mountain hut to another. The scale of the skiing there is enormous, as it is too in The Dolomites, Italy.
What is your favourite city to visit?
That would have to be Vienna, in Austria. We try and visit there every year even if just for a day or two. Great hotels, grand buildings, the history, culture - it's a special place.
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
We skied in Austria again this year and went to the Wedel Hutte situated at 2510m above sea level in Kaltenbach, in the Ziller Valley, Tirol. It only opened in December '09 but was built from old timbers and stone on the edge of a precipice. You either skied to it or came via snow cat. It was stunning and the food and service were outstanding. A truly memorable afternoon.
El Questro Wilderness Park & Homestead, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia
What is your favourite airline for business or first class?
I'm a keen supporter of Qantas. We're always well looked after by them. I also like to buy Australian.
What three things do you never travel without?
My credit cards, my passport and my iPhone. I'd really always like to travel with my wife too, but that would make four things and sometimes business trips are too far in too short a time for it to be pleasurable for her to accompany me.
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
We were flown by private jet from Austria to France, landed and then immediately boarded a helicopter and flew into the Alps where we skied.
Sailing around Sardinia,
Corsica and along the Amalfi Coast to Sicily with good friends was pretty special too. Then again, sailing in Tahiti was very memorable.
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy.
Whatever you want or need at the time. You know, "Oh hang the expense, let's do it".
What is the most important thing it can't?
Respect and courtesy from other people.
mantik Hotel Schwarzer Adler, Innsbruck: