Hotels are often sympathetic to their surrounds, offering amenities and experiences that are appropriate to their location – but how important is a hotel’s connection to place and history, particularly given Australia’s rich and complex past?
Accomnews spoke exclusively with Jake Smith, general manager of the newly opened MACq 01 Hotel, about how the hotel’s unique connection to place has shaped the way guests experience both the accommodation and its historic Hobart location.
“MACq 01 forms part of the Federal Group of Tourism portfolio of hotels. For our group hotels, having a strong connection to place is really important. It’s about looking at the site and the property’s development and creating that connection to place,” Mr Smith explained.
“For MACq 01, we looked at storytelling and celebrating the characters of Tasmania.”
Having opened its doors on June 1 this year, the hotel offers 114 rooms, each of which is based on a historic or current Tasmanian person of interest.
“Based off some research on Tasmania that was conducted a few years ago, visitors come to explore Tassie, but also to enjoy Tasmanian people and their great traits.
“Every one of our 114 rooms has a character and celebrates a trait. We have indigenous characters, who occupied the land some 60,000 years before European arrival. We have Europeans, early settlers, pioneers, all the way through to living characters. We’re all about sharing their stories. Tasmania’s got a rich history, and we want to share that with our guests,” Mr Smith said.
While the rooms are heavily based on characters and traits, Mr Smith said he doesn’t think of the hotel as being ‘themed’, explaining that the term could steer towards a feeling of being inauthentic.
“We carefully consider the guest’s journey, and overlay the storytelling element, or what we consider to be the connection to place,” he said.
Though most travellers visit a city for business or an event, rather than to experience accommodation itself, hotels that offer insight into a destination as well as an experience of their own may help to drive tourism to historic Australian localities. Realising the potential for an experience that surpasses the hotel itself, Mr Smith explained that MACq 01 has employed a full-time staff of professional storytellers who share the history of the area both in and outside of the hotel.
“We’re right on the waterfront of what used to be Hunter Island in early settlement,” Mr Smith said. “The hotel itself is a destination within the greater destination of Tasmania.”
Having already hosted interstate and local guests, Mr Smith said that the reaction to the hotel has been “really positive”, with encouraging responses received both directly and via social media channels.
“Hobart has just come out of the Dark Mofo festival, which is a big winter festival that drew big crowds locally and from interstate, particularly Melbourne and Sydney. The response there has been great,” he said.
While the hotel wishes to provide a positive and enriching experience for guests, Mr Smith also said that being genuine is of utmost importance.
“We don’t shy away from the ugly or less positive stories. There are elements of our history that are there, and we want to make sure we’re true to history. There’s a responsibility to share that correctly, and I think that’s what makes MACq 01 stand out. We’re really genuine about the stories and the people of the place we live in.”
While this is a unique concept, Mr Smith said that there are several exciting and unique hotels “popping up” across Australia, providing a range of experiences for guests who are looking for more than just a place to sleep.
“Being a hotel person, I’m always interested in understanding how unique and different experiences can be. I think it’s quirky and it’s cool, and it’s fun,” he said.