One of the few beach-front resorts in New Zealand, The Ramada Resort Reia Taipa Beach offers guests a relaxing getaway in either beachfront or poolside rooms. Located in the exquisite Doubtless Bay Northland, the resort enjoys a climate that “is about as tropical as New Zealand can get”.
General manager Jackie Thompson told AMG that the location is ideal for exploring the Far North. “We’re just an hour from the Bay of Islands, making us a fantastic point to stop, stay and explore”. The area is steeped in Maori history, and guests can travel an easy 1.5 hours to Cape Reinga New Zealand’s northern tip.
Characterised by beautiful beaches, Northland destinations are all close by. The resort is a mere half an hour from Ahipara on the west coast and 20 minutes from the KariKari peninsula. Golfing enthusiasts will enjoy being centrally located between the Carrington Golf course and Kauri Cliffs, which is considered one of the top golf courses in the world.
“Dolphins have been out on the bay lately” added Mrs Thompson, who has been with the resort since August 2014, and is enjoying her third season, with no waning of her enthusiasm for the resort or Northland. With 25 years of experience in hotels and motels under her belt, she is relishing a new encounter with food and beverage that has allowed her to transform the restaurant into a local hang-out, as well as an ideal place for a mid-stay bite.
“It’s been my first experience with food and beverage” Mrs Thompson admitted, and she’s loving the challenge. Employing local staff has been a rewarding experience, with benefits for the hotel, and the surrounding community.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying the role, because we’re a small operation; it’s all hands on. With a small team like this, we’re all expected to lend a helping hand in any department whether it’s washing dishes, checking people in and out, or even cleaning a spa if required”. The resort can be busy, with tour buses over summer making the resort a “fun place between 9 and 10 am”. Living onsite with husband and maintenance manager Evan Thompson, she and her team members “have no idea what each day will bring”. Supported by 20 to 25 regular support staff, the team responds to a Northland cadence that ebbs and flows with “no apparent rhyme nor reason”.
The resort rooms are on one level, and poolside and beachside rooms are separated by a mysteriously massive 100-metre by four-metre hallway. Jackie Thompson has spent her tenure to date trying to discover exactly how this unique feature came to be.
“My theory was that the hallway was once a grassy area between two rows of units. There used to be a step up to the rooms, though that has all been levelled out now”, but with no evidence available to substantiate her suspicion, she’s open to other explanations.
With 32 rooms in total, including studios and their family room, a swimming, pool and tennis courts for the energetic guests, the resort is replete with features to meet the needs of a diverse clientele. “It’s a fantastic wedding venue actually” Mrs Thompson informed AMG. “We set up ceremonies for our wedding parties right on the sand, so they can have a beach wedding”.
Refurbishment with updated furnishings, bright and light bed coverings and repainting has transformed this 30-year old building into a slick, well-serviced oasis. “Of our 32 rooms, 29 have been renovated over the last three years” Mrs Thompson reported.
The resort has also enjoyed a transformation from a television quagmire of poor quality picture and unreliable signal to “flawless reception”, and a system whereby guests can select from more than 50 channel options in each room.
Management and staff had long been frustrated by the television options in place. They had over 40 channels, but many were overseas channels, and with very few sports channels, guests just weren’t satisfied. “This is New Zealand; people come to the front desk and the first thing they want to know is, have you got the sports channels? Can I watch the rugby?” Mrs Thompson chuckled.
The switch to Sky TV has meant that staff can have good news for guests when they eagerly enquire about sports channels, and with two decoders in each room, it means kids can watch cartoons in the bedroom, while parents watch a movie, the news or sport.
With so much going well, one might wonder where the challenges lie. “Attracting qualified staff has been a challenge due to the relatively remote location”, but their solution has benefitted both the business and the local community.
“We rely heavily on locals for staffing”. Jackie Thompson has responded to this conundrum of gaining experienced staff by establishing the resort as a registered trainer and assessor, and conducting in-house on the job training. “With registration, we can put people through apprenticeships”. Considering this level of engagement with the local community, it follows that the locals have embraced the resort’s restaurant as ‘the place to be’.
I left Jackie to prepare for a string of beach weddings and asked her what she was excited about as we parted ways. “I love watching this place grow” she smiled. “This resort wasn’t a viable business three years ago, and I’ve loved pulling it into the black, seeing the staff develop. Locals love the place; it has a good vibe. It’s buzzy”.
Her focus for the future is to make sure this treasured gem tucked away in the Northland locality of Taipa Beach doesn’t remain the area’s “best kept secret”. Having updated rooms, transformed the dining experience and engaged the locals, her next adventure is projecting to the wider world.