Preno Zoom Diaries – Episode 2: Cristina Holopainen from Maruia River Retreat

Providing a place of peace and recovery during the pandemic, within reach for New Zealanders

Since the first wave of Covid-19, many hoteliers have changed their business models, completely re-worked their approach, or gone back to an original ethos – one that they might have wanted to try, but hadn’t had that little push they’d needed.

For our New Zealand customer Maruia River Retreat, the drastic shift of an international market, to a completely closed market, to a then domestic market, brought them back to their original plans for their business. They reflected on their original ethos. 

Hear from Cristina Holopainen how she and her husband Lasse, looked back at their original wellness-focused ethos, and sold out their hotel rooms, during the middle of a pandemic…

“We reopened with a retreat called ‘Eat, Yoga, Love’, which was an introduction to wellness and into yoga – and we sold out both retreats.

– Cristina Holopainen, Owner of Maruia River Retreat

During times of chaos, Maruia River Retreat offered a place of calm for Kiwis

When the first big wave of Covid-19 hit New Zealand, Cristina and Lasse did some soul-searching, and they found an ethos that worked for them – one they had in mind for their business since the beginning. 

“We did a lot of soul-searching, and we thought to ourselves, why don’t we just go back to what we’ve always intended to be?  Which was a place for well-being.”

Adapting to a new market & business model with grace & efficiency 

Just like other hotel operators, Maruia River Retreat needed to shift their focus from international travellers to domestic. 

They thought to themselves, we have this tranquil retreat, located amidst New Zealand’s untouched natural landscape, and what is everyone looking for right now? Rest and relaxation – an escape from the concerns of Covid-19. 

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So Cristina and Lasse pulled together to introduce luxury wellness retreats – offering Kiwis a place of calm to escape to amidst the height of the pandemic. 

“So, we introduced relaxed luxury wellness to the local markets – there’s now a place in New Zealand – that you don’t have to go to Bali, and you don’t have to fly elsewhere – you can actually find your peace and your rest and recovery right in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand.”

“We have a fighting chance”

“This sense of gratitude, the sense of okay we have a fighting chance, we just have to stick to what we fundamentally believe we can contribute as our value to the guests – to the travellers.”

– Cristina Holopainen, Owner of Maruia River Retreat

Stories like Cristina & Lasse’s provide inspiring hope for hoteliers – while Covid-19 has caused stress and uncertainty, it has also provided hoteliers with the space to think, okay here’s a chance to try something new. And we couldn’t be more proud of this resilience and innovation that hoteliers (and other business owners) continue to exhibit during this time. 

Full video transcript 

“The reality is that we are coming from the pandemic which has shocked our system.”

“My name is Cristina Holopainen, I am the yoga teacher and director, as well as general manager of Maruia River Retreat.” 

“In November 2018 my husband and I bought the property Maruia River Retreat. It’s a 500 acre nature forest with New Zealand native beech. So, literally a private, private beech forest.”

“We were focused primarily on internationals, and so in October 2019, which was our first

season we were starting to pick up. So we were at the level of operating in a five-star luxury lodge – so the investment in the infrastructure, and in the training – the standard operating procedures were ready, and then Covid-19 hit.”

“We did a lot of soul-searching, and we thought to ourselves, why don’t we just go back to what we’ve always intended to be? Which was a place for well-being.” 

“So, we introduced relaxed luxury wellness to the local markets – there’s now a place in New Zealand – that you don’t have to go to Bali, and you don’t have to fly elsewhere – you can actually find your peace and your rest and recovery right in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand.”

“We reopened with a retreat called ‘Eat, Yoga, Love’, which was an introduction to wellness and into yoga – and we sold out both retreats.

“What we’re trying to see is that we’re trying to move where we believe is our strength – and that’s an experience.” 

“And we’re having a writer’s workshop / writer’s retreat coming up, and there’s a photography one coming up also.”

“This sense of gratitude, the sense of okay we have a fighting chance, we just have to stick to what we fundamentally believe we can contribute as our value to the guests – to the travellers.”

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Learn more about this property here: Maruia River Retreat case study. 

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About the author

Preno's Head of Growth, Menilik, is highly knowledgeable around all things marketing & sales. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and sales, and seeks to guide hoteliers with their goals.

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