Asian investors interested in five-star Gold Coast Ruffles resort

Asian investors interested in five-star Gold Coast Ruffles resort
Asian investors interested in five-star Gold Coast Ruffles resort

Asian investors, hotel operators and high-net-worth individuals looking for a luxury retreat are lining up as potential buyers of the Ruffles Lodge & Spa in Willow Vale in the Gold Coast hinterland.

The property is being marketed by Paul Fraser and Dean Humphries from Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, with Fraser expecting it to sell for between $6 million and $8 million.

It is about 25 minutes north-west of Surfers Paradise and 45 minutes south of Brisbane.

According to the information memorandum, the lodge made a net operating profit of around $215,000 in the 2010-11 financial year.

Annual gross revenue has ranged between $1.1 million and $1.45 million since the lodge was expanded in late 2008.

The average daily room rate across the 12 villas has also ranged from $449 to $482 per night over the last three trading years despite occupancy ranging between 30% and 50%.

“This level of occupancy is largely representative of the lodging industry, which places more emphasis on achieving a high room yield as opposed to the number of room nights occupied,” reads the information memorandum.

“As a result room yield (RevPAR) has ranged between $181 and $240, akin to other five-star hotel operations in Brisbane and the Gold Coast.”

Fraser says the asset would appeal to someone like mining magnate Clive Palmer, who has already snapped up a number of bigger resorts in the struggling regional Queensland tourism market.

“It is tough market, but there is a lot of stock-standard hotel stock out there.

“Ruffles is a premium offering targeted at niche, high-end clientele. It gets a lot of repeat business. It’s a step up. No expense has been spared,” Fraser tells Property Observer.

Alternatively, he says it could be turned into a private residence.

“This asset is very versatile,” he says.

The resort, which operates under the Peppers brand, is owned and operated by John and Jan Nicholls, who acquired the 18 hectares of elevated land in 2003.

The Nicholls spent 16 years running a charter boat business taking guests around the Western Pacific islands and the Great Barrier Reef before moving to Sydney in 1987 and building a much larger charter boat business, which they sold in 1996.

Following construction of the 12 luxury villas, including a two-bedroom private residence and conference and restaurant facilities, the lodge opened its doors in 2008.

The day spa, owners’ cottage and three of the villas were designed by Sydney architectural firm Allen Jack + Cottier, which also designed Elysia, the award-winning spa and health retreat in the Hunter Valley.

The main building is an extension of the Queenslander style with large veranda, stone walls, high ceilings and aged timbers re-milled from 100-year-old wharves along the Brisbane River.

The restaurant has two separate dining rooms, both with views of the coast.

According to the Ruffles website, the “‘garden gazebo”, situated on a raised knoll with views in all directions and the sun all day, is an “ideal place to relax with a book”.

“It was a massive passion of the Nicholls to build the lodge,” says Fraser. “They are selling as they are retiring and moving to Sanctuary Cove.”

Aside from the 12 luxury villas, the property includes a health spa, infinity pool, restaurant and conference facilities.

While Fraser does not yet have revenue figures, he says it has attracted a substantial number of bookings due to its location in the hinterland (as opposed to being on the coast), with little competition in the area.

Prices range from $379 for a two-night stay in the garden villa to $959 for one night in the two-bedroom executive spa.

A "5 Senses Food Fantasy Weekend" starts from $775 per night, and a degustation lunch prepared by executive chef Steve Houghton costs $100.

“The immaculate, architect-designed luxury lodge is five kilometres from Dreamworld, but its tranquil location makes it seem worlds away. Set high on a hill in manicured gardens, five private villas, three tree houses, and an executive lodge suite with an expansive separate living room have views to the Gold Coast beaches and high-rises as well as the surrounding bushland,” is how accommodation review website Fodors describes the lodge.

Ruffles Lodge is being sold via an international expressions-of-interest campaign closing July 12.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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