Australia, 24 January 2018: One of Australia’s oldest family businesses, Pinetrees Lodge, has just been named TripAdvisor’s Number 1 Hotel in Australia in the 2018 Travellers’ Choice Awards. Pinetrees was also TripAdvisor’s No.1 Hotel in 2017, making it consecutive wins from a pool of over 4500 hotels throughout Australia.
Sixth generation owner Dani Rourke and her husband Luke Hanson, run the largest of the lodges on Lord Howe Island, which has provided families, couples, and adventurers with a unique “sand between your toes” holiday since the 1890s. Luke says “you can’t beat genuine family hospitality direct from the owners of a hotel that’s been hosting guests for over 130 years”.
Following Pinetrees in TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Hotel list are some of Australia’s most luxurious 5-star hotels, including Como The Treasury, Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley, and Lizard Island Resort. Luke says “it’s reassuring that a small family business with a modest marketing budget can take out the major hotel chains and expensive luxury lodges. It’s also reassuring that TripAdvisor’s ranking system can allow an independent hotel to reach the top – it suggests that money and size don’t override genuine guest feedback.”
Dani’s ancestors arrived on Lord Howe in 1842 and acquired the Pinetrees land in 1848 for two tons of potatoes. They began taking guests in the 1890s and every generation since has transformed the lodge to match their own style and interests, without changing the relaxed and friendly culture. Dani says “we see ourselves as custodians of a very special place and sleep well knowing that the only option we have is to pass it on to our children in 25 years’ time”.
Since taking over the family business in 2011, Dani and Luke have completed major renovations, introduced a long list of successful event weeks (such as the Ocean Swim Weeks with Trevor Hendy and the Seven Peaks Walk), changed the style of food by hiring chefs from One Hat restaurants, built a large organic market garden, published a cookbook, and attracted some very talented staff.
Dani says “our renovations were substantial, and our architect was spot on. The longer he sat and watched our guests and staff go about their day, the more he removed from his original plans. The result was the sympathetic restoration of the main lodge and an elegant upgrade of our accommodation, social spaces and gardens. It’s the best thing we’ve done.”
Trends in hotels and restaurants come and go, but Pinetrees has been constant in its offering for many decades. Luke says “we provide guests with comfortable accommodation, excellent food and wine, authentic family service and a good selection of world-class activities for all age groups – within minutes of the lodge. We have many social spaces where guests can make friends, such as our boatshed deck on the Lord Howe Island Lagoon, and we don’t distract guests with Wifi or mobile phones”.
Pinetrees offers guests the perfect subtropical beach holiday with world-class swimming, snorkelling, surfing, diving, fishing, and kayaking. In the milder months, they offer one of the best walking destinations in Australia with a diverse range of World Heritage listed landscapes in a compact area, including the 875 vertical metre climb of Mt Gower, which is one of the most stunning and daunting day walks in the world.
Luke says “over the last 6 years we’ve introduced wellness, photography, food & wine, ocean swim and dive weeks for small groups of 15 guests, and each day we guide our guests to the best places on the island. In 2016 and 2017, we hosted the Australian Geographic Expedition to Lord Howe with scientists from CSIRO, and discovered a number of new insect species. Also, in 2017, we hosted the inaugural Seven Peaks Walk – our new luxury guided walking adventure to all of Lord Howe’s volcanic peaks over 6 days, with plenty of time for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.” The Seven Peaks Walk has been included in the Great Walks of Australia collective and has received excellent reviews in the Australian media over the last 6 months.
Lord Howe Island is completely crime free, and Pinetrees doesn’t use locks on doors or room keys. In such a relaxed and trusting environment, guests can put their kids to bed without baby sitters and return to the verandah for dinner and dessert. Dani says “some of the little things we do go a long way – early kids’ dinners let parents have some adult time, with an extra bottle of wine over dinner with other parents. Often those guests return together the following year.”
Dani and Luke were shocked by the news of their Number 1 ranking in 2017, and even more so in 2018. Luke says “we felt some pressure to do well in the rankings in 2018 because if we disappeared off TripAdvisor’s Top 25 list, then guests might think our win in 2017 was a glitch in TripAdvisor’s ranking method. Success is about consistency, and I think we’ve now demonstrated that we’re doing genuine hospitality and service at the highest level.”
Since being listed in TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Hotels in Australia in January 2016, the impact TripAdvisor has had on Pinetrees is significant. Since 2016, the lodge’s occupancy has increased from 83% to 93%, accommodation revenue has increased by 35%, employee retention has increased by 60%, and the quality of Pinetrees’s employees is exponentially higher. The latter is the most important. Luke says “in our experience, guests don’t write TripAdvisor reviews on Pinetrees unless they’re absolutely compelled, and I think their experience with our staff – through genuine friendliness and sharp, yet relaxed, service – is above and beyond their expectations. Where we once struggled to find good staff, we now have CVs arriving every week from some of the best in the business, and that flows on to our guest experience.”
Dani says “our problem now is that guests will have much higher expectations from Pinetrees, and we can only go down in the TripAdvisor rankings. It’s hard to imagine that we could win over three consecutive years. Still, it’s not a bad problem to have.”
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For more information please visit www.pinetrees.com.au. Please call Amy Miller at ADM Communications on 0415 913 273 or email email@example.com for interviews with Dani Rourke and Luke Hanson from Pinetrees Lodge.