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A few years ago, Brisbane was almost full. The city was turning away hundreds of thousands of visitors – simply because there was no room at the inn.
The first five-star hotel to open in Brisbane City in 20 years, the W Brisbane opening in 2018 was a landmark moment for the city’s hotel industry.
A hotel shortage, in particular luxury hotels of four or five stars, was costing the city dearly not just in overnight visitors but in potential revenue to the wider tourism industry.
In a sign that what had been a small country town was becoming an increasingly metropolitan destination, by 2011 the city’s hotels were running short on rooms.
According to STC Global statistics, in July 2015 the average occupancy rate was 79.1 per cent. By July 2018 it was up to 79.4 per cent – after more than 4600 new rooms had been added.
But the luxury hotel boom driving that increase was not organic – rather, it was helped along by incentives from Brisbane City Council.
In 2014 the council offered an infrastructure charge reduction for any four- or five-star hotels that committed to the city.
While the council would not earn as much as it could have from the hotels lodging development applications, deputy mayor Krista Adams was quick to point out those high-end hotels might never have come to Brisbane in the first place without the reduction.
She said 14 hotels took up the incentive; many are now open for business, and several are under construction.
“That was probably 14 hotels that may not have got out of the ground without a little bit of a push,” she said. “But we introduced [the reduction] for exactly that reason. We needed more four-and-five star hotels because we were losing out to conventions because we had nowhere for people to stay.
“Conventions [are] big business in tourism because [people] may come for a convention, but as soon as they’ve seen the place for work for a couple of days, they go ‘oh, I’ll bring the family back here’.
“There’s a lot of future investment that comes in once we get those conventions and those types of events as well.”
Across the city, sleek new buildings have appeared, their offerings full of the perks of luxury – from infinity pools to rooftop bars, architecturally designed rooms and, of course, the price tag to match.
Cr Adams said Brisbane had already seen some major conventions arrive in the city, when previously they might have gone to Sydney or Melbourne.
Medical conventions, a geologists convention in 2018, and other industry associations are now considering Brisbane as the place to go to for major events.
With the high-quality hotels now open for business, the focus is on pitching for and winning more of these large-scale conventions – which can have hundreds or thousands of attendees.
“We know that those friends and relatives are a very big part of visitation to Brisbane,” Cr Adams said. “We’ve definitely got opportunities in the next few years in particular for the frequent visitor who’s got a lot of disposable cash.
“Particularly from the Asian market – they love our clear, blue skies, but as soon as they see they can stay in luxury, they are willing to spend the money to do it.”
Many of the 4600-odd new hotel rooms are in the luxury hotels such as the W Hotel on George Street, or The Calile in Fortitude Valley, or Novotel in South Brisbane.
Queen’s Wharf, the major new development on the edge of the Brisbane River, will add more than 1000 new premium hotel rooms alone.
The result has been a significant turn-around for Brisbane’s hotel industry, benefiting not just the hotels but the wider tourism industry.
More rooms means more occupancy, which means more people staying in the city, spending money, telling their friends to come to Brisbane.
The additional 4635 rooms are equivalent to 1.7 million room nights, which is exactly the result Brisbane City Council was hoping for.
Cr Adams said attracting those high-end hotels was key to bringing in more visitors flush with cash – the people who stay at a brand, not just a hotel.
“Having the hotels – that’s the easy part. The next step is convincing people why they’re coming here,” Cr Adams said. “We just need to change one more bed night, one more night in Brisbane before they head to the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast.
“We’ve got the lowest, absolute lowest rate, of overnight stays in any capital city in Australia. They’ll fly into Brisbane, but they just don’t stay here.”
With the hotels on board, the challenge is on for Brisbane to showcase why people should stay.
Source: Brisbane Times