Jucy plans to expand pod-style hotel chain to Australia in 2017

The first of the pod-style Jucy Snooze hotels will open at Christchurch Airport in November.

Tourism business Jucy is considering opening its new pod-style budget hotels in Australia later next year if the New Zealand rollout proves successful.

The first of the pod-style Jucy Snooze hotels will open at Christchurch Airport in November and one in Queenstown next July while another in Auckland is also on the drawing board.

The hotels will contain hundreds of fibreglass and steel bed capsules stacked bunk-style eight to a room, with a communal bathroom and kitchen/lounge areas. Compact en-suite rooms will also be available.

It has operated a budget Jucy Snooze in Auckland since 2010, mainly aimed at its own rental vehicle customers, which has achieved over 85% occupancy. However it doesn't feature the new capsules, which measure 1.9 metres long, 1.1 wide, and 1.2 m high with a roll-down blind for privacy.

The pods cost between $35-45 per night and can also be rented per hour. They're being made by the company's Auckland manufacturing division, Jucy By Design, which also produces its distinctive green and purple campervans.

It's a concept that has been trialled in China and Japan and the $9 million, 271-bed hotel leased for 15 years from Christchurch Airport will be the first in Australasia. Jucy is paying for the $1 million fitout.

Jucy was co-founded in 2001 by brothers Tim and Dan Alpe initially as a campervan company with its brand led by the 1950s pin up girl Lucy. It started out with 35 vehicles and now has 3500 and has grown to a sizeable company by New Zealand standards. with multiple interests.

It has since expanded into rental cars, a cruise boat at Milford Sound, coaches, hotels, and a new tourism app, Skoot, developed with Tourism Radio and Spark's app company Putti.

The app, launched last November, can be downloaded via a tablet on the dashboard or a smartphone and provides Wifi, GPS navigation, and geo-located information and offers as tourists drive around the country. It's now being trialled by a number of other rental companies.

Chief "Jucyfier" Tim Alpe said while he's wary of "biting off more than we can chew," he hopes Jucy Snooze will become a bigger national chain in New Zealand and to spread across the Tasman next year.

The 256-bed Queenstown hotel will be part of an existing building owned by local property developer Ian Hamilton on a long-term lease. Queenstown has had shortages in tourism accommodation over the peak season.

"Not many people build two at a time but an opportunity came up in Queenstown," Mr Alpe said. "We see a real opportunity to create something unique and different."

The Alpe brothers always intended creating an international brand and have just opened an office on the Gold Coast, their seventh in Australia. Rental cars were added to the Australian business 18 months ago and it now has 700 vehicles.

Alpe said the company's other big priority is expanding on the US's west Coast where it has 350 rental vehicles and offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The market opportunity is huge and being based in the northern hemisphere also lessens the impact on the business of the winter tourism slowdown in New Zealand, Mr Alpe said.

The company has so far been funded by its shareholders, with the two Alpe brothers owning 35% each and their father 3%.

Mr Alpe said they no longer plan to list the company on the sharemarket though "you never, say never."

The improved performance of listed Tourism Holding was a good sign though if they did eventually decide to go that route, he said. In an investor update in April, THL advised it was likely to hit an improved net profit after tax of $24 million for the 2016 financial year and moved forward by a year its target of hitting $30 million in NPAT now in 2018.

Chris Alpe founded Maui Campervans in 1980 which later became part of THL, of which he was a director.


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