The Star: July 21, 2016

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22 Thursday July 21 2016

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Making sure Fido is

Last week, Dilan De Silva opened Fino Hotel, Christchurch’s first

‘pet-friendly’ hotel. He spoke to Gabrielle Stuart about the

challenges of hosting animal guests, the perks of working in some

of the world’s top hotels and resorts, and how to bring tourists back

to the city

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OPPORTUNITY: General manager Dilan De Silva

opened Fino Hotel last week. PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN

So where did the petfriendly

hotel idea come

from?

We wanted to do something

different in Christchurch,

so we wanted it to

be a bit quirkier, and more

than just another hotel. I

have a pet myself, so one

of things which was stopping

me from just going

on quick holiday or taking

many holidays was all the

planning you need to do.

Sometimes the neighbour

could look after him, but

sometimes it was too hard

or didn’t work out, so I

thought if you can travel

with a pet when you stay in

a luxury hotel that’s going

to be great. We also provide

them with welcome

packs, so for the dogs we’ve

got a walking map, snacks,

dog bags and tissues, a list

of places you can find dog

food or a vet, and things

like that.

I’ve heard of a petfriendly

hotel in New York

which has hosted a snake

and a penguin. How far

would you take it?

At the moment it’s dogs

and cats, but I suppose you

could bring a fish tank, and

we are open to options. I

think the question is are

they domestic pets and are

they trained, or else someone

will bring a cheetah.

So we’ll ask the questions

and make the judgement

then. But probably not a

penguin, I’m guessing it

will be too hot here for one,

although after the weather

last week perhaps it is possible!

And it’s been a pretty

tough time for the tourism

industry in Christchurch.

What was it that

made you say now’s the

time to open a hotel here?

There were a couple of

years when it was a big

challenge. We took over

the building two and a half

years ago and we’ve done

a $15 million renovation

and seismic upgrade. But I

think we’re opening at the

right time, when there is a

shortage of accommodation

and with the tourism

market picking up to

greater levels. The problem

in Christchurch is we have

plenty of accommodation

in the winter months and

not enough in the peak

summer months, so we

need a centre of attraction

to the city. I think the convention

centre is the biggest

push we can have and

we need to get it sorted,

and the second will be the

Heat Pump Specials

stadium where we can have

events. I think there are

some great activities and

great attractions around

Christchurch, so we’ve got

a great product to offer, but

those two key elements are

missing, and I think it’s

taken too long.

You must have moved to

Christchurch right before

the earthquakes – did you

ever think about leaving

after they hit?

No, I never wanted to

move. I came here and

I loved the place, and I

got stuck here. I thought,

look, if I can get through

this earthquake I can get

through the rest of it. I

think it’s a matter of having

the courage to get stuck

into it, and then when

things come back to life

you are an integral part

of it.

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