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Long-serving park owners moving on

Martinborough Holiday Park owners Frank and Lisa Cornelissen. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

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The popular Martinborough Holiday Park is on the market but stalwart owners Lisa and Frank Cornelissen will not be going far.

Having met working in London, English-born Lisa and Frank, originally from Waikato, decided to head to New Zealand.

Eventually the couple made Martinborough their home and have made a significant personal and financial investment in the town, especially in the popular campground.

They have enjoyed their time but the boom in the South Wairarapa village means the business has grown substantially.

They are now looking to move on from the park after 14 years of hard work and success, having built a new property nearby to end 11 years living on site.

Both have made personal commitments to their adopted home. Lisa has served on the town’s community board, and with other Wairarapa and national tourist organisations. Frank has been a long-standing member of the town’s community patrol.

The Cornelissens have expanded the picturesque park, located near the famous vineyards on the town’s northern fringe.

It now features more chalets and cottages, as well as traditional camp sites for tents and vehicles, and a new reception area. In 2011, it became part of the Top 10 group.

The growth in business reflected the town’s boom, the husband and wife team said.

“In our first year, we had 68 empty nights and we were taking people slightly longer term,” he said.

“And now, we’ve had one this year. And two last year. Now you just get tourists every single day of the year, whereas when we first got here it was quiet.

“There were a number of empty nights. There’s no way you’d even get empty nights in June now.”

Lisa said it was now an all year-round business.

“You talk to a lot of businesses in Martinborough, and winter is not as much of an off-season as it used to be,” she said.

“And part of that is because weekends in summer, Martinborough is full, so it does push it out to the shoulders [of the season]. Which means there’s more to do.”

This weekend’s Toast Martinborough wine festival is a good example of the park and the town enjoying growing success.

“We’ll get people from further afield,” she said. “We’ve got [people from] Malta, the UK. We’re seeing internationals coming in. When we started, it was a hundred 26-year-old Wellingtonians, now the age is older, and where people are coming from is a much wider base.”

Frank agreed. “People are hearing about these events from overseas and Tourism New Zealand does a good job of letting people know that these events are coming on. They can then go around them all. But you have to book in early for Toast!”

The family still has a strong connection to their adopted home. But the time felt right to make a move.

Lisa said she anticipated further growth due to initiatives such as the Dark Sky reserve.

“Give it two or three years when the Dark Sky reserve kicks off, it will grow that off-season occupancy, which is another reason to position it now as well, because there’s so much opportunity around here.”

The Cornelissens are expecting to see strong interest in the business.

“The business is changing all around us,” Frank said.

“It’s changing from an owner-operator to an investor manager. It could be either, but up until now it’s been an owner-operator. There’s just other stuff we want to do.”

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