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