Reviving La Costa Motel – John and Diane Cartmill

Posted on Friday, June 27, 2014

Spotting a ‘For Sale’ sign on a run-down Bilinga property 12 years ago, John and Diane Cartmill saw a prime opportunity for redevelopment of the old La Costa Motel built in the mid-1950s. It didn’t go according to plan, but the story of their transformation of the property – and the successful business they have created – has now captured international attention.

Spotting a ‘For Sale’ sign on the run-down Bilinga property 12 years ago, former glazier John Cartmill and wife Diane bought the old La Costa Motel, and earmarked it for a plush redevelopment close to the airport in the heart of the Southern Gold Coast’s beachside haven. Mid-way through the Development Application with council, the GFC hit, and they were forced to rethink their plans. Now, as Diane describes it, it was their blessing in disguise.

This month, La Costa Motel was awarded the number one budget hotel in Queensland by leading global review site, TripAdvisor – also making them the third best bargain hotel in the South Pacific. The tasteful retro renovations started by John and Diane three years ago have paid off in more ways than one.

Initially deciding to renovate the front two units, John and Diane approached Southern Cross University at Bilinga, offering the front units for student rental accommodation. They renovated 4 more units, and seeing an increasing demand for overnight accommodation, continued to renovate all 12 units and launched La Costa Motel as an overnight hotel just over two years ago.

La Costa was featured in this year’s Bleach* Festival, run by CSGC, as part of the Fibro Coast exhibition, and the alluring retro façade has made La Costa Motel a hub for vintage-lovers all over the Coast – tying in with Cooly Rocks On in the first time for 2014. They hosted a retro market on the front “lawn” during the first weekend of Cooly Rocks On, and have been running extremely popular Vintage Makeover and photography packages.

And while the hotel might have a budget price tag, there is nothing short of 5-star service offered by Diane and John for their guests, day-in, day-out. Nothing is too much trouble – from free airport transfers, to free wi-fi, and recommendations to local restaurants. “We really push the service”, says Diane.

Their model is certainly paying off – with all 12 units achieving near-full occupancy year round. They’ve attracted an increase in Chinese Free Independent Travellers (FITs) in recent months – making up around 30% of their bookings, which is a great result for the Southern Gold Coast. And they’re not stopping there, with plans to continue to raise the service level to attract more Mainland Chinese and Japanese FIT ( free independent travellers) ,to their quirky accommodation.

Well done Diane and John on their fantastic support of the region and contributing to our positive reputation for friendly service and quality accommodation on the Southern Gold Coast.

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