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Saltwater Properties

FiveKnotsSaltwater Properties builds success on a solid East Gippsland foundation

Saltwater Properties is one of East Gippsland’s quiet achievers – a rapidly growing property management company with accommodation and tourism-based businesses scattered across Australia.

Established in 2005 with 15 employees and one resort – The Esplanade Resort & Spa in Lakes Entrance – Saltwater Properties now employs 500 people, including up to 100 in East Gippsland during peak times. It has properties in Victoria, Western Australia, NSW, Northern Territory and Queensland – around 1700 rooms nationally.

And it continues to grow, with the focus currently on the fit-out and furnishing a new 115-apartment property soon to open in the leafy inner Melbourne suburb of South Yarra.

Chris Banson, who runs the company with his wife Esther, was born into the accommodation and tourism industry, spending much of his childhood at the Bairnsdale Tourist Caravan Park, which his parents owned and ran for many years. He attended St Mary’s Primary School and Nagle College in Bairnsdale with his sisters, Rachel, Jacqui and Tori.

The whole family has remained in the industry – Rachel runs Bairnsdale’s iconic The Riversleigh hotel, Jacqui has New Leaf café and catering business, and Tori works with her brother, managing a property in Geelong.

Their father, Michael Banson, retains an active interest in the family business.

“We started with The Esplanade in Lakes Entrance and ran that for a few years,” Chris said. “We took over the Bellevue on the Lakes in Lakes Entrance in 2009, 5Knots at Metung in 2011 and McMillans of Metung in 2013.”

All up, Saltwater Properties now manages around 250 rooms in East Gippsland.

It also runs a rentals business, Holiday Makers, which offers holiday rental and short-term house accommodation in Lakes Entrance, Metung, Nungurner and Lake Tyers Beach.

In Victoria’s High Country, it manages around 100 apartments and chalets at Mount Hotham and 120 at Dinner Plain.

“In 2008 we started to expand out of Gippsland with other properties in different localities,” Chris said.

But the company remains headquartered in Lakes Entrance, and is by far the biggest accommodation provider in the region.

While Chris currently lives in Melbourne where proximity to the airport enables the frequent interstate travel required as his business expands, he, Esther and their two young daughters regularly return to their home in Metung.

“As well as spending time in Metung, our headquarters are in Lakes Entrance and I work there as much as I can,” he said.

“Saltwater Properties is very much an East Gippsland company and will remain so. It is very important to us to contribute to our community.”

To this end, Saltwater Properties is a major sponsor of the annual Groundswell rock concert held at Lake Tyers Beach and the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Lakes Entrance.

“It is far more important to me that we market the areas and the towns themselves, rather than focusing on promoting the properties,” he said. “My focus is on supporting and contributing to major local events.”