Sydney Airport is threatening legal action against hotels using its name in their titles, in a move condemned by leading industry figures.
The Sydney Airport Corporation is attempting to stop hotels within the area employing the “Sydney Airport’’ label by claiming a trademark infringement that prohibits the use of the words.
In a move which could have serious implications for numerous accommodation providers, the corporation has issued a legal demand to at least one hotel demanding it stop using the airport name.
According to The Australian, the corporation argues ‘Sydney Airport’ is a brand name and product and has written to the hotel demanding it stop using the description on its website, adverts, social pages and other marketing material.
Hotels within the airport precinct argue the Sydney Airport moniker helps potential guests find them, whereas Mascot and Wolli Creek are locations unrecognised by international and most domestic visitors.
Carol Giuseppi, CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia, said she was “very concerned” by the development.
“It is common protocol worldwide for hotels to use a geographic locator with their core hotel brand. This serves to both differentiate the brand from those with the same brand name but different locations, and to provide consumers with a well-known point of reference,” she said.
“Most of the hotels in the immediate precinct have for many years provided facilities and services that have been vital to the performance of the airport and its customers.
“We support Sydney Airport concerns with hotels positioned several kilometres from the airport using the brand, but this is not the majority of cases.
“It is not helpful either from a global business perspective or from a customer point of view to not have a recognised location identified in the hotel name.
“This happens in both Sydney City and Darling Harbour to name a couple of locators and in cities and airports around Australia.
“TAA believes that this move by Sydney Airport is not in the spirit of working together to promote Sydney as a destination.”
Sydney Airport Corporation owns the Mantra and Ibis Budget hotels near the domestic terminal and announced in 2015 it planned to develop up to five hotels within the precinct, amounting to an estimated $350 million of hotel infrastructure around the airport terminals.
But the organisation says its actions are about addressing the concerns of travellers rather than protecting its own interests.
A spokesperson told the Australian: “This is about addressing what is a genuine concern for both domestic and overseas visitors to Sydney, who are led to believe they will be staying closer to the airport, factor this into their travel plans and are quite surprised to find their accommodation is not located on the airport precinct”.
In its legal demand to the hotel, the corporation said: “We understand there may be other hotels being developed in Sydney, and request that you do not use ‘Sydney Airport’ in a manner that infringes on our trademark rights or misleads customers in respect of any new hotels.
“Sydney Airport reserves the right to take legal action against you if the issues outlined above are not addressed within a reasonable time frame.”
The crackdown could affect numerous hotels close to the airport, including the Pullman Sydney Airport, the Adina Apartment Hotel Sydney Airport, The Holiday Inn Sydney Airport, The Travelodge Sydney Airport, the Hotel Ibis Sydney Airport and The Mercure Sydney International Airport.
One prominent industry insider told Accomnews: “The issue is that hotels have been using the Sydney Airport name for over 30 years. Never before has Sydney Airport had any problem with hotels using the locator name – because this is why the hotels were developed, to service the airport. The only difference now is that Sydney Airport has become a public company and a significant hotel owner.
“The value of these assets is based largely on their location, and to market the hotel without mentioning the location (i.e Sydney Airport precinct) would be absurd.
“These hotels are just about to go into big marketing arrangements with distribution channels in the lead up to the largest tourism trade show in the world, ITB, and Australia’s largest, ATE, and these hotels will be included in programs based on their locator – Sydney Airport.
“If we look around the world and take London for example, there are numerous Heathrow hotels located within a 10km radius at towns like Cranford, Drayton, Slough and Hounslow. They are all named ‘Heathrow’ and the airport actively promotes them because they need the accommodation to support their operations. Most airport precincts operate in this manner.
“I’ve never heard of this happening before, and I find it hard to believe that a stock-exchange company can suddenly claim ownership of a precinct that is based on a location, rather than a product.
“Sydney Airport has become an ‘aerocity’ and that means it has to accept a vast range of businesses that are based there and operate using the Sydney Airport name because they have set up there to service the airport.”
A number of key industry figures have taken aim at the corporation’s actions on social media.
Fabian Bartnick, vice president of Asia Pacific and international business at LodgIQ, commented on LinkedIn: “You must be joking? So what’s next? Will Sydney say that it wants royalties from hotels being in Sydney?”
Pullman Hotels and Resorts GM Bernie Boller described the move as “protectionist without a valid reason” and asked: “What would happen if someone decided to trademark Sydney CBD?”
And group director of operations at Aryaduta Hotel Group, Sebastian Goldmann, ridiculed the move saying: “Maybe I should buy a small airport, copyright the name ‘airport’ and get royalties from all other airports in the world. A billion dollar idea.”