Wednesday , September 19 2018

Award-winning Martinborough holiday park reaches for the stars

This award-winning, classic TOP 10 holiday park in the quaint little town of Martinborough has been created, nurtured and improved by its owners: now presenting an unbeatable range of accommodation in this superb wine region.

…Rewind to 2004 when Martinborough TOP 10 Holiday Park was an old council domain camp with seven power points, a few permanent residents and very little tourism. And, Frank and Lisa Cornelissen were travelling around NZ, looking for a business in their yellow Bedford campervan, after just moving back from the UK.

Lisa told us: “We found and loved Martinborough town but didn’t want to stay at the old campground and so ended up staying in Greytown.

We realised there was an opportunity to develop a desirable holiday park in Martinborough, given its proximity to Wellington and being a world class Pinot Noir region. This was a great tourism opportunity.

“When South Wairarapa District Council put the camp out for tender in July 2005, we eagerly leased the park.

After the British Lions tour we closed the camp and redeveloped. We put in power, driveways, kitchen and a bathroom block and re-opened on November 11 as Martinborough Village Camping.

“Our first basic cabin opened in September 2007 and our first self-contained accommodation, a studio, opened in February 2011. We introduced the TOP 10 brand in October 2011 and opened a new reception in April 2017, followed by a new two-bedroom apartment in December 2017. We now have 13 rooms, ten cabins of various sizes, two studios, one apartment and are building seven new cabins this year.”

AMGNZ41-Profile-Martinborough-Apartment-Bed-2-e1535503368796-300x225 Award-winning Martinborough holiday park reaches for the starsAMGNZ41-Profile-Martinborough-Reception-e1535503257771-300x225 Award-winning Martinborough holiday park reaches for the stars

Frank was born in Tirau, and Lisa in England. They met in London in 1999 while working for Unilever and travelled extensively. They married in 2004, the same year that they moved back to NZ. Both are prominent and respected in this region’s tourism industry. Lisa has been on the board of Destination Wairarapa, including two years as chair. She also spent seven years on the board of HAPNZ, including three years as chair, and is currently chair of the Martinborough Community Board. As a trustee of the Waihinga Charitable Trust in Martinborough, Lisa is working with council to develop a new community centre, park and playground. Frank also chaired the Martinborough Business Association and remains on the board. He has been a member of the Martinborough Community Patrol for many years.

AMG asked Lisa: What is your accommodation’s point of difference?

“Location is key,” she said: “With vineyards on two sides and council reserve on the others, we have privacy, tranquillity, and incredible nature.

It’s also the perfect spot to explore the vineyards, with 17 cellar doors within 5kms of the park!

“We offer a wide range of accommodation options, from campsites to our new two-bed apartment which opened in December 2017. Our park is the perfect choice for multiple generations of a family to stay.”

Frank and Lisa spent the last 12 years designing, building and improving this park, and they have created an incredible business from scratch. It’s a remarkable achievement.

Lisa proudly elaborated: “We’ve added all the buildings and for the first four years we were the only two people working in the business. We did everything: building, cleaning, accounting, marketing, strategy, groundsman… the lot!

“It had been a council camp for decades and our first year was disheartening because the place had a reputation to overcome.

We also had a legal challenge; we were served with legal papers on the day we opened, and it took two years to resolve. However, since then our business has grown every year. Stats for the 12 months before we leased the park showed around 3,000 guest nights, and now the stats show over 13,000 guest nights per annum.”

AMGNZ41-Profile-Martinborough-Image-2-e1535503600397-300x225 Award-winning Martinborough holiday park reaches for the starsAMGNZ41-Profile-Martinborough-Image-5-e1535503671753-2-300x200 Award-winning Martinborough holiday park reaches for the stars

Frank was a builder before going to university, so they compile their own plans and do their own building, and Lisa admits to being the “interior finisher”. Their welcoming new reception area opened in May 2017 with two counter spaces, comfortable seating and a back room with storage and space for the team to take their breaks.

“Our old reception in the house was too small for more than one person to work in, causing stress at busy times. I remember a check-in for 140 people for Toast Martinborough that was a massive challenge” Lisa admitted.

The reception build took six months during the summer period and they faced challenges of time and safety. “We are really happy with the outcome, it’s light, airy and great to work in,” she said. “The high ceilings give it a bit of a wow factor and we have plenty of space for our Toast Martinborough poster collection.

“From a landscaping point of view, we have kept it simple: using native planting, limited concrete and asphalt, gravel driveways. We keep it natural and informal and are lucky to have many established trees.”

Lisa and Frank work hard to improve and maintain their excellent park: it was a runner up for TOP 10’s Customer Service Award in 2015 and 2016 and won the TOP 10 Review Pro Customer Service Award in 2017. However, they are also very invested in the industry and the local community and they focus on marketing the Martinborough Wine Village to visitors.

“We believe in getting involved and giving back; that’s why we’ve spent so much time on tourism boards and working in boards and trusts” Lisa acknowledged.

Another exciting recent development, and a first for NZ, is that the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has awarded Martinborough ‘3K City’ status. Lisa added: “This is the first step towards a Dark Sky Reserve, which will be a major boost for tourism in the region. Local astronomers and astrophotographers are thoroughly delighted!”

About Mandy Clarke, Industry Reporter

Mandy Clarke, is an industry reporter for

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