Is a lit­tle more lo­cal lux­ury re­ally too much to ask?

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

WHYis it that cos­mopoli­tan cities such as Sydney and Perth don’t have more lux­ury ho­tels with chic restau­rants, ul­tra-luxe foy­ers and re­sort ar­eas staffed by bright, at­trac­tive peo­ple?

Sure, there are the Four Sea­sons and the Park Hy­att in Sydney, and Perth is get­ting an Aman. Also, Hong Kong’s Lang­ham chain has just taken over The Ob­ser­va­tory in Sydney and has a land­mark ho­tel in Mel­bourne.

But they shouldn’t be the only game in town, par­tic­u­larly when cashed-up Chi­nese hol­i­day-mak­ers are flock­ing here in ever larger num­bers. Where are the Man­darins, the Penin­su­las and the Jumeirahs? I asked a cou­ple of tourism ex­perts why we don’t have more pre­mium brands.

‘‘It’s a mat­ter of when, not if,’’ for­mer Queens­land Tourism and Aus­tralian Tourist Com­mis­sion chair­man Don Mor­ris says. And he should know — he is con­sult­ing to Chi­nese in­vestors and de­vel­op­ers plan­ning to build ho­tels here.

‘‘There’s a huge need at the mo­ment to ab­so­lutely click with the new de­mo­graphic of tourist, the wealthy Asians, Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans,’’ he says. ‘‘There are plenty of peo­ple look­ing around. The (ho­tel de­vel­op­ment) mar­ket is cer­tainly on the move.’’

But tourism lob­by­ist John Lee, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Tourism & Trans­port Forum, de­fends lo­cal op­er­a­tors, say­ing we al­ready have a highly de­vel­oped ho­tel net­work with Rydges, Ac­cor and Mantra. ‘‘The ho­tel in­dus­try has very strong Aus­tralian-based op­er­a­tors who give value for money,’’ he says.

Lee says the rel­a­tive scarcity of elite brands in Aus­tralia is ex­plained by the ease of de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in other parts of the world when com­pared with the dif­fi­culty of get­ting a five-star ho­tel project un­der way here. ‘‘When you look at their de­vel­op­ment pipe­lines, the op­por­tu­ni­ties in China are so easy. From de­vel­op­ment to con­struc­tion, they don’t have the reg­u­la­tory bur­dens and mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment de­part­ments needed to get ap­proval.’’

Fed­eral Tourism Min­is­ter Martin Fer­gu­son says that while there has been lim­ited in­vest­ment in large lux­ury ho­tels in re­cent times, ‘‘we are start­ing to see a turn­around with developments at Baranga­roo in Sydney, Crown at Bur­swood (in Perth) and the Hil­ton ho­tel in Kar­ratha’’.

Fer­gu­son says fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments are work­ing closely to en­cour­age in­vest­ment through plan­ning re­forms, the de­vel­op­ment of Tourism Aus­tralia’s Tourism In­vest­ment Guide and a new part­ner­ship be­tween Tourism Aus­tralia and Austrade.

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