June 9, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

The new airport under construction at Badgerys Creek has been a long time in the making. It took decades for the site to be agreed, but now the Western Sydney International Nancy-Bird Walton Airport is taking shape and is just a few years from opening.

It will sit in the middle of a so-called “aerotropolis”, a whole new urban sub region whose infrastructure, land use and economy are centred on an airport.

The forecasts are for the Western Sydney aerotropolis to contribute 200,000 new jobs and for it to become a high-skill jobs hub for the aerospace and defence, manufacturing, healthcare, freight and logistics, agribusiness, education and research industries. That’s a whole lot of industry sectors that are underpinning the boom in the corridors between Parramatta, Liverpool and Badgerys Creek.

And for the business events sector, herein lie the opportunities: an international airport a fifth the size of Sydney’s current airport, expected to welcome 10 million passengers a year, and a wide range of industries relocating or expanding in the aerotropolis.

One company that sees the potential is Marriott International. In recent weeks, the major international hotel brand announced it had signed an agreement with 1990 Developments Pty Ltd to open the Courtyard by Marriott Western Sydney Airport, the first hotel expected to open at the new airport.

Executive director of Business Western Sydney David Borger welcomed the move from Marriott International.

“What’s an airport without a hotel?” he told micenet.

“It is exciting news that Marriott has committed to investing in this hotel at the aerotropolis. It is a vote of confidence for visitors to Sydney and business in Western Sydney that accommodation will be there – right from when the first plane lands at the new airport.”

Construction on the $70 million 200-key hotel is to be completed in 2026, in time for the airport’s opening the same year.

Richard Crawford, Marriott’s vice president of hotel development for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific, also spoke with micenet about the major milestone for the company and for the multiple precincts around Western Sydney Airport.

The aerotropolis is expected to become a hub for industry and innovation, attracting local and global companies drawn to the significant potential of the Western Parkland City and the airport that serves it.

“Western Sydney International Airport is one of Australia’s most important infrastructure projects,” Crawford said.

He talked to micenet about Marriott International’s plans.

Richard Crawford, Marriott’s vice president of hotel development for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific

Q: What were the considerations in making this call to pitch for the right to operate this hotel?
A: This particular project followed the familiar route of hotel deals in Australia. Independent consultancy, CBRE, was appointed by the developer to seek a hotel operator. They ran a competitive operator selection process. It was hotly contested, as we expected, because it was the first RFP process to be conducted for the new airport. And when CBRE presented the RFP to us, the process we then go through is to look at the proposed scale of the hotel – obviously, the demand drivers for the hotel, and also therefore what brand in our stable would fit best.

And the sorts of things that we considered when looking at this opportunity was to look at Mascot hotels and their success. Before COVID, Mascot [where Sydney Airport is located] was the highest performing hotel market in Australia. And it kind of flies below the radar, pardon the pun, because Mascot hotels are just considered “airport hotels”. They operate differently, they behave differently. They’re not as perhaps high profile as CBD hotels or as iconic as leisure resorts.

So, we looked at the data for Mascot – what are the demand drivers? And therefore, what’s the best product? We kept coming back to this idea of “being all things to all people” and that was the brand we had to choose.

We considered solid brands such as Courtyard by Marriott, or perhaps Four Points by Sheraton were [the] strongest players. And those brands are aspirational enough to attract discerning travellers and the meetings business, and leisure business, even. We felt Courtyard by Marriott fit that mould of being “all things to all people”: affordable, yet still aspirational.

Q: How many hotel sites are earmarked for the precincts around Western Sydney Airport?
We don’t know the exact number of hotel sites at this stage. What we do know is that it looks like Courtyard by Marriott will be the first – but certainly won’t be the last.

What we’ll see is private landholders in the area, putting their hand up and saying that they’d like to see a hotel built on at least a portion of their site. And I think we’ll see a lot of mixed-use developments. So, there’ll be logistics, there’ll be industrial, there’ll be commercial and there’ll be hotels that are “off airport”.

What we don’t know is at this stage is whether there’ll be other hotels right on terminal. I think that information will become available in the coming months.

We’ve still got four years until the airport opens, which isn’t a long time in the hotel development landscape. We will need those four years to get our hotel built.

Right now, we’re yet to see any “material” opportunity on the table for other hotels. But we do know, of course, that there will be more.

And to give some context – this airport will service about 10 million passenger movements a year, which is 20 per cent the size of [Sydney’s existing international airport at] Mascot. Being a fifth the size of Mascot still makes it a big airport when you consider that a regional airport might only have a million passengers a year. To have 10 million passenger movements a year is significant and definitely will create greater demand for more hotels.

Q: After years of talking about the second Sydney Airport, it’s all beginning to feel a bit real now.
A: Certainly – it is becoming very real. You know, we’ve been talking about and listening to the conversation about the second airport for a number of years, knowing that a hotel opportunity would come up at some point. We’ve been somewhat surprised that it took this long.

We’re glad it has finally happened because it will take three years to build this hotel. It will be opening just in time. So, the construction will happen in a hurry.

There is development occurring now, but I think you’ll see a massive amount of activity not just in the hotel space, but in industrial logistics and commercial development in the coming couple of years.

Q: What will the business events capacity be at the Courtyard by Marriott Western Sydney Airport?
Meetings and events will be a critical to the success of this hotel. At present the design sees it having 580m2 of space including a 400m2 ballroom, which is divisible by two and [a] 180m2 separate meeting room and then a further 160m2 of pre-function space.

That’s circa 750m2 of space which we think will service the Greater Sydney area. When you consider that the population of this new city will be around 1.5 million people in the next 10 years, 15 years, meeting space will be a really, really important piece of infrastructure for that community.

And it would be remiss of us not to have included these facilities, this meeting space that I’ve outlined and potentially even more.

Crawford is excited about this hotel and what it means for the community in Western Sydney. He closed the conversation with the following remarks.

“With this hotel, the community can meet in its own patch. They should be able to do that with this hotel and others that will come. The entire community of Western Sydney will have high quality places they can call home, to meet at, to stay out and in which they can come to enjoy themselves.”

Marriott’s Courtyard brand is the group’s biggest, with more than 1,200 properties around the world, including three operating in Australia and five more local properties in the pipeline.

The new hotel for Western Sydney is a milestone for the aerotropolis – and a milestone for business events.