We have seen, in recent years, a barrage of impressive stats on tourism in Australia. The government continue to release forecasts for things like international arrivals (+75% from 2017-2027) and overnight spend (+50% from 2017-2027). Private research firms tell us the same thing. More people are interested in visiting our shores, and those who make the journey are willing to spend more.
This positive outlook, coupled with warnings that existing hotel stock in Australia would be inadequate, has led to a frenzy of new hotel projects. The numbers here are equally impressive, but graphs and growth charts get old after a while. The Australian tourism boom is becoming a reality, and many of the hotels built to meet projected needs are beginning to open their doors. The array of new properties and service models is staggering, and it’s time to see some examples of what the future looks like.
1. Melbourne – United Places
This brand-new boutique seems to have landed on every “best of” list there is, including editorials in Elle and Conde Nast Traveler. So what makes it special? We can talk about the location – the property sits across from the Royal Botanic Gardens in South Yarra, a desirable neighbourhood 10 minutes from the CBD. Aside from the greenery, there are a lot of high-end boutique shops, lounges and night clubs within walking distance.
United Places consists of 12 luxury suites, sparse and modernist in their design, complete with kitchens, living areas, and terraces with views of the city and greenery. There is no front desk; arrivals are met by a butler via a discreet entrance (shades of AirBnb) and taken directly to their suites. The on-site restaurant (Matilda, run by chef Scott Pickett) is an attraction in its own right, operating exclusively with hot coals and open flames, and available to deliver a full meal to your room. It seems fitting that a refreshing and talked-about property would originate from first-time hotel developer Darren Rubenstein, who found himself at a loss when friends asked where to stay in Melbourne. Double rooms go for about A$460.
2. Sydney – The Collectionist
It may sound like the name of a psychological thriller, but The Collectionist has garnered attention in a market crowded with newcomers. Located on the edge of the city in Camperdown, seven different designers and thirteen artists were consulted for the property’s 39 rooms. All of this creative effort is apparent when you see the textures, tones, spacious living areas, and posh furnishings. Each room is different, an entity unto itself. The contrast between rooms can be dizzying, from classic and muted to contemporary and rebellious.
Guests get to witness that contrast in person. New arrivals are granted access to any and all vacant rooms. The guest then chooses the room they like, and an access code is sent by SMS. A number of hotels across the world now don’t provide in-room telephones but interestingly, The Collectionist has taken this one step further as there are no TVs in any rooms and there is no restaurant. They do have a social hour though (four hours, actually) which takes place in the lobby every evening. Rooms typically start at A$200.
3. Brisbane – The Calile
Where Australian travel destinations are concerned, a lot has been written about Brisbane’s transformation to a higher standard. The number of hotels in development here is testament to this, but new openings like The Calile make it clear. Designed by the same architects (Richards and Spece) who designed many of the surrounding attractions, the Calile has a vibrant, tropical and international feel, from the shape of the building down to the guestrooms. Even the meeting rooms are cozy and personable, with neutral and white tones offset by natural wood.
Part of TFE Hotels’ Collection portfolio, The Calile has a special focus on wellness with a fitness centre, day spa, and a vibrant pool area. It’s doesn’t sound like a humble spread, but the feeling is not ostentatious. The hotel comes equipped with large spaces for special events and for in-house guests there are also private rooms for dining (outside of the guestrooms, which is novel) and a library. Also worth mentioning is the hotel’s location on the James Street strip, which is full of desirable shopping and dining outfits. Rooms often start around A$250.
It’s going to get interesting…
With so many Australian hotel openings scheduled in 2019-2020, and with so many different service models and design concepts, we’re bound to see a broad spectrum of modern hospitality innovation. Big groups are introducing new brands and individuals such as Darren Rubenstein are dipping their feet in the water with their own take on luxury. Whilst some may see the plethora of openings as a threat, in fact they will allow us to see not only more of our own evolving character as an international travel hub and trend-setter, but also the evolving nature of hospitality itself. How exciting!
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