Flower Hotels was named 2022 Hotel Group Operator of the Year at the AHA NSW and National awards, thanks to attentiveness to both the local community and tourists to the Mid North Coast. In Australian Hotelier’s 2023 Annual Industry Leaders Forum, managing director Alistair Flower outlined the group’s long-term vision as operators in NSW’s Mid-North Coast.

At five years old and with seven pubs, a café bar and an accommodation hotel, Flower Hotels is a young pub group compared to some of the bigger pub behemoths that have been around for generations. But thanks to its dynamism, its complete entrenchment in the Mid North Coast region of NSW and a genuine focus on transparency, the group has been acknowledged on a national level.

“We are not yet the most polished pub group, but we own our mistakes and we are as genuine as you can get,” states managing director Alistair Flower.

“And we can be as dynamic as we need to because we live and breathe our pubs. We are concentrating on being good, traditional publicans, and making sure we do the basics as well as we can, while owning the changes we need and the challenges we face.”

That dynamism has caught the attention of industry stalwarts Laundy Hotels, who partnered with Flower Hotels last year to acquire both the Tacking Point Tavern and Mercure Centro in Port Macquarie.

“The Laundy family are industry legends and fantastic to work with in this partnership. There’s  a vast amount of experience among the family, which has been a great support and soundboard for us in our group’s development, as we evolve and grow.”

Banking on the Mid North Coast

Hospitality isn’t the sole focus for Flower Hotels, with the long-term strategy to leverage the business for both tourism and hospitality – hence the acquisition of the Mercure Centro.

“We have a real vision and confidence in our local Mid North Coast area. There are clear synergies between hospitality and tourism, and we want to explore more business opportunities where the two meet, creating experiences for tourists and locals alike,” says Flower.

Already, the group has introduced kayaking and camping at the Long Flat Pub, situated on the banks of the Hastings River. There are also horse-riding pub crawls between venues, as well as collaborations with local helicopter services to fly tourists between the pubs and local wineries. The group is looking for other ways it can collaborate with local businesses to put on more of these experiences.

“We see ourselves as a real, competitive tourism operator. We know we’re good with community and hospitality, but we’re really now exploring how we can make our venues across the board tourism destinations as well. And a lot of that is through collaboration,” states the MD.

While the tourism market is a new focus, the local community has always been the heart of the group’s success, something Flower sees as a real obligation of regional pub groups.

“We understand that we are custodians of these hotels and they make up the social fabric of regional communities, and we’re not shying away from any of those responsibilities. These pubs are bigger than us – a lot of them have been in the community since the 1800s – so that obligation is felt keenly.”

A big capex year

Within the venues themselves, 2023 will see a robust capex program get underway. The beer garden at Tacking Point Tavern will be overhauled to be used in all weather, plus the an extensive renovation at Lake Cathie Tavern will be completed. Both Hastings Hotel and
Settlers Inn will also get an upgrade. Across the group, there will be a consolidation of systems focused on digital loyalty technology.

“It’s certainly going to be a very busy year,” says Flower. “I’m excited.”

This article was first published in Australian Hotelier’s 2023 Annual

Read the plans from more respected pub operators across Australia in the current issue of Australian Hotelier below.

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