May 13, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image: Accor Pacific CEO Sarah Derry

Occupancy is growing across Accor’s Victorian 10,200 hotel rooms but, while some regional properties are exceeding pre-pandemic levels, Melbourne’s city and suburban hotels are being held back by the delayed recovery of meetings and business travel.

Occupancy in Accor’s 66 Victorian properties averaged 60 per cent between January and April, with occupancy in Melbourne hotels reaching 89 per cent for the Formula One Grand Prix weekend, but otherwise continuing to be constrained by the slow return of people to Melbourne’s CBD.

Analysis from the Property Council of Australia shows that despite Melbourne’s office occupancy doubling in the March quarter to 32 per cent, it was still well behind the recovery of office occupancy in other major Australian cities, with Sydney’s office occupancy sitting at 41 per cent, Brisbane’s at 48 per cent and Adelaide at 61 per cent.

Occupancy at Novotel Geelong is exceeding pre-COVID levels.

With 14 Accor hotels opening in Victoria between 2021 and 2025, Accor Pacific CEO, Sarah Derry, said occupancy performance around major events was encouraging.

“When cities host major events such as the Grand Prix, we experience a significant surge in bookings. The Grand Prix is one of the world’s premier sports entertainment events, presenting Melbourne, Australia, and the Pacific in general, as highly inspiring and desirable destinations to the rest of the world,” she said.

“The return of full crowds at AFL has also been encouraging, and festivals and events are attracting leisure travellers to city hotels. The Victorian Government deserves congratulations for signing the Commonwealth Games in 2026, and the 114th International Rotary Convention next year is expected to attract over 20,000 visitors.

“The Victorian State Government stimulus packages such as the Victorian voucher travel scheme have been successful at driving demand, and we believe the travel scheme made a material positive impact over the Easter period.

“Another successful measure is the Midweek Melbourne Money initiative that supports bars and restaurants. More than 300,000 claims have been made since the program began on 7 March 2022. This helps to build a vibrancy in the city that attracts hotel guests.

“Corporate and business meetings are slowly resuming, but there is a long way to go.

“It is critical that investment in sports, arts and cultural events continues, as it creates jobs and supports local businesses,” said Derry.

Following a trend across hospitality and the events industry, Accor is also experiencing issues with staffing, with 160 positions still vacant in properties around Victoria.

“From an immediate point of view, we need a return of skilled and unskilled workers, along with a rapid boost in international students,” said Derry.

“The tourism and hospitality industry is a dynamic and rewarding industry, and to attract talent back we need people to be confident that it is a sustainable career path, which provides the opportunity for incredible career development which opens doors all over the world.”

With $700 million invested in new Accor-managed properties in Victoria over the five years to 2025 – including flagship hotels like Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne Spencer Street, which opened in 2021, and SO/Melbourne, scheduled to open in 2023 – Derry says continued government support is needed for the long COVID recovery period.

“The investment of local and international businesses into upgrading existing and building new hotels has been unprecedented over the past five years. Melbourne now has international quality hotels in both the city centre and, increasingly, in major suburban are regional areas, which have been vital for the sustainability of local communities.

“These investments require active and positive government support at all levels, our industry continues to face major challenges and is a long way from returning to pre-COVID levels.”

Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne Spencer Street opened in 2021.