Business: Armatree Hotel, Armatree
The ‘family friendly’ Armatree Hotel at Armatree is an iconic country pub located in the heart of the Orana region. Described as ‘one of the best country pubs in Australia and an oasis in the middle of the Central West’, the Armatree caters to clientele from all walks of life. Hospitality is their primary vocation and the business ranges from somewhere to have a quiet beer and a quality meal through to hosting functions for up to 650 people. Also available is accommodation, camping, mobile cool room hire, a jumping castle and off-site bar supply service. The venue is used for a variety of functions, ranging from corporate meetings to wedding receptions.
Operational since 1929, the Armatree Hotel has a long history of serving people in the area in what is a great local community. The pub is a well-built classic design that has received extensive remodelling since owners Ash and Lib Walker purchased the hotel in February 2007. This has included renovations to the main bar area, accommodation, public bathroom facilities, kitchen and undercover beer garden. This has allowed the business to transform from a quiet country hotel primarily reliant on local patronage to a destination for travellers, a live music venue hosting international performers, wedding reception venue and corporate host while maintaining its authentic country feel. Clients include local farmers and farming groups, banks, corporate agricultural companies, community groups such as preschools, the CWA, Lions Club and Rural Fire Service along with event organisers and couples planning their wedding.
The Armatree Hotel provides a warm and inviting environment and a guaranteed good time for all. There is a large outdoor area for children and a comfortable lounge area to catch up with friends. Friday nights are traditionally when everyone prefers to catch up, unwind and enjoy a meal and drink together. The staff are friendly and welcoming and amazing advocates for the hotel. They take as much pride in the business as the owners, who relish the ongoing support they receive in their country community.
One aspect of the business in the past five years has been a growing tourist trade, with grey nomads increasingly using the area for inland travel opportunities. The winter months are by far the busiest for these travellers and has helped to grow the business in a way that was never anticipated. This has been embraced by the Walkers and there is now a large lawn area separate to the hotel backyard for vans to park, along with shower facilities for camping tourists. Word of mouth amongst this travelling fraternity has been amazing and has massively increased business distribution. Inland travellers are great at spreading the word and pushing the business far and wide. The use of social media and apps like WikiCamps has also been a strong contributor.
Being named Named as the Best Bush Pub at the 2018 NSW Australian Hotel Awards was not only a huge accolade but also provided great media coverage for the hotel through regional and metropolitan print, radio and television outlets. Channel 7’s Sunrise program also visited the tiny town in winter 2018 to film positive drought-related stories, providing a huge opportunity to showcase both the hotel and community. Talented local videographer Joe Merino 36 has also been creating amazing YouTube videos of the district. Several of these have gone viral over the years and have really helped to put Armatree on the map, including Armatree Baywatch, Armatree MV and promotional clips for events at the hotel such as the Armatree Comedy Festival. The Armatree Hotel’s strength lies in offering fabulous, family-friendly hospitality. Ash and Lib have been able to build up and modify the hotel into a quality venue that can support a vast range of events for people from far and wide.
At the moment, the ongoing drought is crippling the area and they are trying to host events that are cost-effective to the local community. This includes live music and free events hosted by government agencies as well as bringing in people from outside the district. As business owners, the couple believes in successfully achieving their aims by utilising what they have to offer. It’s about thinking outside the square, using facilities to their maximum potential and pushing your business in a positive direction. If they’re not focusing on their own business, they’re missing out on business.
The Armatree Hotel owners strategise how to push the business in quieter times or how to bring business in from outside the area so they are not solely reliant on the local community, especially during drought. In the future, they aim to continue the success of the last 12 years and continue to increase the profitability of the business. They will continue to host unique events and cater to all aspects of the community as well as increasing the number of events each year. “Obviously more awards on the mantelpiece would be lovely, but we have achieved so much here that anything more would be a lovely bonus.”