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Proud . . . Dave and Liz Clare outside their bed and breakfast Oasis on orwell, which was recently named in the top 10 in New Zealand for Booking.com traveller reviews. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

Oasis on Orwell owners Dave and Liz Clare are more interested in keeping their guests happy than online ratings.

The couple, who have owned the bed and breakfast in Orwell St since 2011, have recently been named in the top 10 in New Zealand for Booking.com traveller reviews, with a rating of 9.9 out of 10, but said ratings were not their motivation.

Nor were several Tripadvisor excellence awards, again based on positive reviews.

“We believe the important thing is people enjoy their stay, not rankings or anything,” Mr Clare said.

“We don’t use it in any of our marketing or anything .. we feel that’s kind of skiting. ”

Keeping people happy has always been what the pair strived to do, even before they took on their thriving business.

Before Mr and Mrs Clare arrived in Oamaru, they spent more than 20 years in Auckland working as commercial tomato growers, which kept them busy “seven days a week, 365 days a year, basically”.

That was the reason they decided to head south, Mr Clare said.

“Reaching mature age, we thought 20 years is enough. Liz always wanted a bed and breakfast so we looked around for about a year or so and found nothing. We googled bed and breakfast South Island and one in Herbert came up. Oamaru was the closest town, it was on the weather map – that’s all we knew about Oamaru.”

That was in 2010 and, while the couple missed out on the Herbert business, it was not long before an opportunity came up in Oamaru, Mrs Clare said.

“We couldn’t get into that one, so we continued looking until we found this one. There was a few we were looking at, but I had already fallen in love with this one .. it was just amazing. We really haven’t looked back.

“When you’ve had children, you’re used to looking after people, if you know what I mean.”

They relocated to Oamaru in August 2011, and started taking bookings for the two-guest-room, 1934 property on September 1 of that year.

Mrs Clare said ever since, life had been all about their guests.

“It’s a long way to come for people. It doesn’t matter where they come from. If we were to go on holiday, we’d like to be treated the same way we treat people.

“We like to make it pretty special for them. It pays off. It’s hard work for Dave and I, but that what it’s all about – making people feel special.”

They achieve that through touches such as home baking and cooking, taking the time to get to know their guests and making sure people are armed with everything they need to know about Waitaki before they explore the district.

Mr Clare said that gave him and his wife great satisfaction.

“We do spoil them, because we get enjoyment out of doing that. A few people do tear up when they’re leaving. That’s when you know you’ve done the job well.

“We had a guy from Vatican City here and he said he never gives a10, but he said he was proved wrong.”

Dozens of people stay at Oasis on Orwell each year, from countries all over the world.

While bookings were strong, the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak had made its presence felt.

Mr Clare said bookings from China for March had been cancelled, as well as some for April.

However, many had been booked in for September, which he said indicated a belief in China the risk may have passed.

Countering that was growth in the American and European markets.

“I think the hotel, motels and penguin colony will feel it more than the smaller people because they’ve got big bookings for tours.”

The important thing in Mr and Mrs Clare’s eyes was that people continued to visit Oamaru and the wider district.

Mr Clare said Waitaki offered an insight not found anywhere else.

“Oamaru is unique in New Zealand .. you never know what you’ll see in town.”