Sydney’s collection of unique hotels is putting it at the epicentre of a national ‘innovation revolution’ and setting the design agenda for some 11,000 new rooms across the city over the next decade.
Not since before the 2000 Olympics has the city seen such a fervour of hotel building and renovation – and this time around, the newbies are all decidedly different.
The Collectionist, Little Albion, Spicers Potts Point and the Paramount House Hotel are leading a new generation of urban lifestyle hotels which borrow from the Airbnb ‘experience’ mantra.
They offer curated experiences aimed at providing guests with a distinctive taste of the local community through art, heritage, tours, food and drink.
Even Sydney’s three major new international hotels; the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, the Curio (West Hotel) and the Four Points by Sheraton at Central Park, tap into the latest appetite for individual.
They may not be quite as ‘out there’ as the smaller boutique offerings, but there is a definite personality to each.
Tourism Accommodation Australia last week released its Innovation Revolution Transforming Australia’s Hotel Industry report identifying the NSW capital as leading the Australian pack when it comes to innovation and sheer volume of projects on the drawing board.
The latest Nation Visitor Survey, released this week, has confirmed Sydney’s ascendancy, showing an 11.87 percent increase in domestic visitor nights in NSW hotels, motels, resorts and serviced apartments to the year ending June 2018, with a 5.5 percent increase in visitor nights in Sydney.
This, together with the year-on-year growth in international visitor nights, is helping to drive the unprecedented investment in hotel innovation.
The city has already seen significant hotel development over the past year, with more than 1000 rooms added to inner city, airport and suburb locations. A further 23 hotels are either under construction or approved.
New hotels are not only bringing diversity to the market, says TAA, but they are also activating urban spaces through their integration.
For example, the Old Clare on Broadway is an essential element of the Kensington Street dining precinct, while the Skittle Place food, retail and entertainment precinct will be created as part of the Skye Hotel Suites project in Skittle Lane in the city.
Outside the city centre, suburban hotels are developing along similar lines, with the Felix Hotel at Sydney Airport a new take on the traditional stopover offering, and the William Inglis Hotel at Warwick Farm raising the accommodation stakes in Sydney’s West.
TAA’s report shows the new wave of hotels is being driven both by global groups introducing new designer brands and local groups responding to millennial-driven travel attitudes.
“Sydney is undergoing the most fundamental change to its accommodation sector since the arrival of international hotels in the 1970s,” said Ms Giuseppi.
“Already we have seen international groups like Hilton bring their cutting-edge Curio brand to Sydney, while Marriott has introduced the Autograph Selection, and Accor their boutique MGallery by Sofitel collection. Ovolo has its unique lifestyle hotels, IHG is planning Voco and Indigo hotels and there have been many other announcements of boutique brands planned for the city.
“They follow considerable innovation by home-grown brands (including QT, Art Series, Spicers, Skye Suites and Veriu), and the massive expansion in new accommodation has prompted a large number of existing properties to undertake significant upgrades, introducing distinctive design influences such as Rydges Sydney Central, which has incorporated a local brewery in its expansion and refurbishment.
“The strength of the development boom is reflected in the diversity of both the locations where the new hotels are being built and the diversity of hotel styles being introduced. There is development across the CBD, Central Park/Broadway/Surry Hills, Darling Harbour/Pyrmont, Sydney Airport, Parramatta and Sydney’s West.
“The hotels cover all price points and feature advanced technologies such as mobile check-in, cutting-edge design and restaurants aimed as much at the local community as guests.
“It is an unprecedented and comprehensive upgrade of Sydney’s accommodation sector which will support major new tourism infrastructure such as the International Convention Centre, the Sydney Airport expansion, the Parramatta urban regeneration project, and the development of the new airport at Badgery’s Creek.
“The regeneration of Sydney’s accommodation sector is vital to the tourism market as international and domestic travel continues to grow strongly.
“Sydney Airport recently reported that international arrivals grew 5.2 percent in the six months to June 30, contributing to an overall 3.3 percent rise in passenger movements to 21.6 million.
“With a full calendar of high-profile events and conferences, the new wave of hotels across the city will ensure Sydney is able to cater for future growth in demand for the foreseeable future.”
Giuseppi did, though, issue a warning about relying too much on high-end hotels to service Sydney’s visitor market.
“More three and four-star hotels will be required to meet future demand, but at the moment, making some of these projects work in the Sydney CBD is constrained because developers believe greater value can be delivered by constructing corporate office towers,” she said.
“It will be important for City of Sydney and the NSW government to encourage the development of mid-market and economy hotels to provide a comprehensive range of accommodation for the future.”
It will be interesting to see the extent to which Airbnb, architect of modern travel habits, will fill that gap – and whether it will take from the city’s affordable housing stock to do it.