Colourful history inspires Melbourne’s new dynamic duo

Melbourne’s newest dual-branded hotel accommodation, Novotel Melbourne Central and ibis Melbourne Central, opened its doors just before Christmas.

Described by AccorHotels Pacific chief operating officer Simon McGrath as a “win for Melbourne”, the integrated new-builds together add 483 mid-scale and premium economy rooms to the city’s booming hotel industry, employing more than 150 local staff.

Accor has long been a major player in Victoria, employing some 1400 people across a network of brands state-wide. Its latest addition is an imposing tall all-glass building set amongst Little Lonsdale Street’s up-and-coming strip. 

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Pre-opening general manager Michelle Bradshaw describes how both the Novotel Melbourne Central and ibis Melbourne Central focus on in-room detail and boast carefully-selected luxury touches not often seen in the economy and midscale product – such as brass/gold trimmed marble and “softening fabrics through textured wallpaper in the Novotel”.

The public areas boast minimalistic natural materials and the outlets celebrate the unique concepts through layering and a soft colour palate.    

According to Michelle, the site did not always present such a genteel facade. “The hotel’s location has a colourful past,” she reveals. “Formally known as Little Lon, home to the Melbourne Mafia and some famous underworld characters, this area is now the legal and university district of Melbourne.

“We pay homage to Little Lon’s colourful past with our in-house outlets, Pretty Boy Italian Steakhouse and Floyd’s bar, bringing to life the stories through great food and exciting beverage”.

We asked Michelle about the story behind the two very different brands – and how they are linked.

She says: “Novotel is the heritage brand of AccorHotels, opening its first hotel in Lille Lesquin, France in 1967. Novotel was the first hotel brand in Europe to bring a high quality, standardised, modern hotel offering with a guest-centric focus.

It was ahead of its time, offering a multi-service proposition including breakfast, private bathroom, in-room TV and telephone, air conditioning, leisure facilities, meeting rooms and varied food and beverage offerings.

“The Novotel network rapidly expanded around the world and the first flagship in Australia opened with Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour in July 1991.

“Since then, Novotel in Australia has achieved extraordinary growth with a portfolio of 28 hotels – that’s 5,639 rooms – in operation as of November 2015.”

And ibis? Michelle tells us: “In 1974, the first ibis hotel opened its doors in Bordeaux France. With travel no longer a pursuit exclusively for the affluent, the ibis brand recognised its place in this landscape. ibis’ intention was to offer pleasant hotels that were within the reach of everyone.

“The concept was initially based on ‘the Novotel brand, made 30 percent more affordable’. ibis stood for ‘hospitality for all’.

Today, ibis remains anchored to these principles, with the brand elevated to meet the changing expectations of the modern value conscious traveller. Offering the highest level of service and ultimate comfort, ibis offers the best value-for-money in the economy segment.”

Having two brands in one location gives Accor a unique advantage in the market, according to Michelle, with the two well-known brands and three food and drink outlets in one location creating a complex that provides guests with everything they could need in one place.

The dual brand prides itself on points of difference which include enhanced technology options through interactive tablets and Chromecast-enabled televisions, and restaurant and bar outlets on Little Lonsdale Street which are decidedly different to the usual bland hotel fare.

Exceptional service from a core of dedicated staff is key to the new development, with Accor determined to do things a little differently when creating its team.

“The leadership team for this property were hand selected based on their ability to redefine the modern hospitality era and their ability to work collaboratively,” says Michelle.

“An example of this is our executive chef Michael Smith, who came to the role with an impressive list of Melbourne’s premier hatted restaurants on his resume.

We can’t think of another economy or midscale hotel which is taking food this seriously and has talent like this. The majority of our frontline team are new to the industry, we chose this approach to ensure we had engaging and caring personalities looking after our guests – we knew we could teach them the skill to compliment. It was a great decision and our guests are telling us how special they feel.” 

Asked what she enjoys most as manager, Michelle replies: “I have really enjoyed watching our team work and grow together to realise the vision, this is a big hotel with lots of moving parts. Seeing it come to life has been a real thrill.

“It is such an exciting industry to be a part of, I am really enjoying working with the new generation of hoteliers (millennials) in our industry; their demand that tradition be done with, and their challenging of the status quo.

“I am also excited by the new trends and direction of the industry, the new product is celebrating storytelling, is experiential focused and enriching – from all budget points.”

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