Swiss-Belhotel International CEO Gavin Faull leads by example in his hugely successful global hotel group, with his belief in old-fashioned loyalty, professional standards, having true passion for his work & giving back to the community.
You can take the boy out of Taranaki, but you can’t take the ’Naki out of the man – even when he has become a successful international businessman and NBR Rich Lister.
Gavin Faull has a strong bond with Taranaki and his home town of Tikorangi. As a deeply passionate advocate for New Zealand business, he sponsors his home province’s business excellence awards, a major conservation project, as well as other organisations in the small farming village where he and his four brothers grew up.
An accountant by profession, Faull held numerous financial leadership roles within hotel management companies before becoming the chairman and president of Swiss-Belhotel International in 1995. The global hotel group operates four properties in New Zealand – Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park and ZestOkay in Auckland, and Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak and Swiss-Belsuites Pounamu in Queenstown
Faull purchased Swiss-Belhotel International in 1999 with his Hong Kong partner, and is now chairman and president. He transformed the small hotel consulting company into a major accommodation provider – beginning with just three properties and now operating 145 hotels and projects in 20 countries.
“I strongly believe in making sure the Group is guided by strong company culture and values,” says Faull – who is always on hand to engage with customers and staff, as is evident by his impressive schedule, country-hopping from one hotel to the next.
“As I remind our people regularly, the most powerful element in our business is attitude. And the Swiss-Belhotel attitude is powered by passion and professionalism.”
Recognised as one of the world’s fastest-growing international hospitality and hotel management companies, with hotels from New Zealand to Switzerland, the company employs over 10,000 staff and has 68 hotels under construction, with an average of one new location opening every month. The company operates 14 categories of hotel, from five-star to economy, with an emphasis on “affordable luxury”. Faull says it is this passion and professionalism for satisfying individual guests – the customer experience – that continues to inspire him and the success of the company.
Faull’s three sons have joined him in his business, and are now executive directors. Matthew is Senior Vice-President – Information Technology, E-Commerce and Distribution; Oliver is Vice-President – Australia and New Zealand and Assistant Chief Financial Officer; and Edward is Vice-President Operations and Development Vietnam.
“A good deal of my life successes come back to my nurturing and mentoring from my parents. I don’t know any different way – family has always been a part of my life. I recall at the age of 10 working in my parents’ Four Square grocery store at Tikorangi. My sons have been involved for a number of years after gaining experience in their individual industries. Oliver in accounting, Edward in construction and Matthew within the IT field. They also gained international experience: Matthew in Japan, Russia and the Philippines; Oliver in USA, UK and Hong Kong; and Edward in Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong. I brought them back in once they had experienced life lessons,” Faull says.
Committed to education within the industry, Faull is also responsible for developing hotel schools in New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and China, with two long-term partners in Sydney. “I find the hotel industry very exciting and dynamic. It has many layers – one of the most satisfying is the education side. I became involved in the establishment of the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School in Sydney through an association with lifelong friends, and this association endures today.
“I am extremely satisfied with bringing a world-class school to Taranaki and although I am now not directly associated, it still brings me joy to see its ongoing success,” he says.
Faull married a local woman, Carol Managh, in 1971 – and after eight years working for Hong Kong and Shanghai hotels, the couple (who by then had “two and a half” children) decided it was time to come home.
Faull is also a Taranaki dairy farmer, starting life on Trewithen – the Tikorangi farm that has been in the family for generations. He and his four brothers – now fifth-generation dairy farmers – have opened a state-of-the-art operation and tourist attraction, running a Super-Shed milking parlour with viewing gallery. It is North Taranaki’s largest individual supplier to Fonterra.
“The farm in Taranaki is in my heart, and hotels are my passion, and it seemed natural to combine the two and have the ability to show farm culture in a very professional way. The investment has allowed us to showcase Taranaki farming to a series of important visitors, including Prince Charles,” says Faull.
Although no longer living in Tikorangi, the Faull family all take an active part in the community, supporting St Luke’s Church, education development and other activities. Gavin also visits Taranaki most months to check on the farm and meet with Venture Taranaki – the regional business and tourism development agency, as a member of its trust.
A chick with royal connections
She’s only a chick, but Tihei the Western Brown Kiwi has seen quite a lot of New Zealand – and she even met royalty before returning to live in her home, Pūrangi forest in eastern Taranaki.
Starting life as an egg in Pūrangi, this special little kiwi was transported to the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa in Rotorua to hatch. At three days old, she was named Tihei by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
The name is from the Māori saying “tihei mauri ora”, meaning ‘the sneeze of life’. It’s difficult to determine a kiwi’s gender at time of hatching, but DNA testing of feathers confirmed her sex.
A team gathered for Tihei’s February release including local volunteers and local iwi Ngati Maru, representatives from sponsor Swiss-Belhotel International Oliver Faull and his daughter Scarlett, and Experience Pūrangi project members. Experience Pūrangi conservation project chief executive Brent Woodhead says: “We’re delighted to see the return of this special Western Brown Kiwi. While all kiwi are special, this one has certainly had the royal treatment.”
As a not-for-profit trust, Experience Pūrangi relies on community support; Woodhead says it is fortunate to have developed a partnership with Swiss-Belhotel International.
“Found deep within the forest of East Taranaki, Experience Pūrangi is a large-scale project. It doesn’t have a fence; endangered native species are protected through a network of traps designed to remove predators like rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets and possums. “We believe we are New Zealand’s largest, longest running, and most successful community-driven project of its kind,” says Woodhead.
The project has been running for 15 years and spans 13,000ha across 38 landowners. There are over 4,000 kiwi, and the population is growing by nine per cent each year. Nationally, kiwi populations are declining by two per cent.
“This kiwi has been released just off one of our public walks,” Woodhead says. “The Otunahe Walk is a two-and-a-half-hour tramp open to the public. It traverses farmland and native bush. This area is home to kiwi, an 800 to 1,000-year-old rimu tree, and we’ve also confirmed the presence of the critically endangered long-tailed bat.”
The walk is open with a donation of $10 per person. In March, April and May, night guided walks will be available on the shorter Hidden Valley trail, which incorporates glow-worms and can include hearing kiwi call and spotting giant whitebait, eel and koura.
Swiss-Belhotel International president Gavin Faull commented: “While we’re a global company with over 150 hotel projects around the world, we have a strong connection to Taranaki. As New Zealanders, I believe we all have a strong affinity toward kiwi. It’s a national icon and we’re proud to be supporting Experience Pūrangi with the work they do.” experiencepurangi.co.nz