It has been another record year for the world of hotels. From hotels being built, bought and sold and operators merging, there continues to be record levels of activity underwritten by unprecedented levels of profits and values with plenty of investment opportunities.
A recent article in the Australian Financial Review stated Australia’s hotel construction boom will run for at least another two years as surging tourism spending, forecast to reach $167 billion by 2025 becomes an even bigger driver of the economy.
More than 8,000 hotel rooms are now under construction, however the pipeline is expected to be much bigger with over 30,000 rooms predicted to be built for overseas and domestic travelers.
These are heady times for a dynamic industry that’s now heading into exciting and unchartered waters.
However, it’s also a hotels world operating within a global environment of economic challenges and heightened security risks. It’s an environment where nothing can be taken for granted, so how will the hotel industry cope with the uncertainties ahead? Are these the best of times, or are our best days still ahead of us?
To address future industry directions and prospects, industry leaders gathered in late July in Sydney for the suite of Hotels MegaMeet events headlined by HotelsWorld Australia/New Zealand, the main event on the industry calendar for chief executives and other senior industry executives. Delegates included hotel operators and management companies, developers, investors, owners, lenders, government representatives, advisors, architects and other professional advisers.
Addressed by over 100 speakers, comprising global, regional and local leaders and industry experts, all sharing three days of insight, ideas and networking, the event was also well attended by Woods Bagot representatives with many flying in from the east and west to attend the conference including Senior Associate and Interior Designer Eva Sue, Principal and Regional Hotel Sector Leader Bronwyn McColl and Principal and Interior Designer Rosina Di Maria. They were joined by Senior Associate and Interior Designer Alan McMahon, Interior Designer Ebony Proud, Senior Associate and Interior Designer Jenny Saul and Business Development Coordinator Bridget Crameri.
Di Maria (pictured) chaired a panel on the World of Viable Hotel Development which included representatives from Toga Group, Visionary Investment Group (VIG), AccorHotels and Quest Apartment Hotels.
There were a number of key themes that emerged from the panel discussions including: hotel development cycles; what makes a hotel viable vs non-viable, is the single standalone hotel dead and if so how will mixed-use hotels be sustainable in the future and the impact of Airbnb and the dilution effect this is having on the hotel market.
“There was also some strong debate surrounding how Australia should market itself to the rest of the world and the high competition for land in such a competitive market,” Di Maria explained. “There were definitely lots of hot topics to keep our panel and audience entertained."
Another area of discussion raised during the panel was around hotel operators having a better grasp and understanding of big data.
“There is a huge amount of information available to hotel operators on their customers, however there’s a real gap when it comes to not understanding how to use this data to enhance user-experience and hotel authenticity,” she said.
A select group of clients were also given an exclusive tour of the Primus Hotel the night before the conference kicked off. McColl said the conference reinforced the hotel sector’s buoyancy which is expected to grow over the next decade.
“As the conference is aimed at operators and developers, HotelsWorld provides our team with a unique insight into the market drivers affecting our clients. These in turn assist us with understanding our business models and further developing our knowledge of hotel feasibilities,” she said.
McColl said this results in Woods Bagot being able to hone its design methodology to assist with an outcome that responds to the market and positions the property to best respond from a business feasibility and user-experience perspective.
“It’s really about understanding that customers are seeking authentic experiences, centred around sense of place and engaging in local culture,” she said.