Like Mark Twain, who said reports of his death had been exaggerated, so too Perth’s mining boom is still driving demand for hotel accommodation, food and beverage, reports Graeme Kemlo.
The mining boom delivers both good and bad news for Perth: an acute shortage of hotel rooms – rated by Deloitte Access Economics as Australia’s most expensive – and little new accommodation infrastructure over the past decade has created a challenge for Perth’s politicians. The city faces a loss of over $600 million in leisure and business tourism revenue unless another 2000 hotel rooms come on stream by 2020. The good news is that room rates are starting to soften, hotel planning applications are up and so are the cranes above Perth’s skyline.
Only two new hotels have opened in Perth over the past six years, and both offer something different for the meetings and incentive market.
Fraser Suites is a modern light-filled extended stay apartment complex at the bottom of Adelaide Terrace near the WACA ground. It offers sweeping views from its 19 floors across the Swan estuary. Its 236 rooms are some of the largest in Perth. The studio, one bedroom and dual key suites include kitchens for self-catering, in-room meeting options, but there’s also a dedicated meetings floor.
Next to an outdoor sundeck perfect for pre-function cocktails is a 24-hour fully equipped gym, indoor pool and sauna.
Short stays are welcome and Frasers caters for delegates with five meeting spaces from an executive boardroom for 14 to a large room with operable walls for 170 (theatre), 210 (banquet) or 300 (cocktails).
At the western end of the city is the boutique art deco Terrace Hotel, once home to Perth’s Anglican Bishops and now a sophisticated overnighter with only 15 individually designed suites and high-end amenities such as Bang and Olufsen A/V, iPad and eclectic artwork to set it apart.
It is all timber and leather, with club ambience and attentive staff and, unsurprisingly, the “go to” destination for power lunches with its sommelier and 3000 bottle wine vault, traditional afternoon tea and weekend breakfasts – you could run into a rock star tired of a formulaic five-star high-rise room.
The Terrace is aspirational and has already hosted incentives in private dining rooms for up to 16, but offers larger function spaces for up to 400. It gets my vote for its free wireless internet and $3 espresso – downtown I paid, reluctantly, $5.50 for a small cup.
Nearby on St Georges Terrace is an interesting new event space, formerly the old Perth Tech College, now Linton & Kay Gallery. Look for the Theobroma Chocolate Lounge at street level – a hit with Perth chocoholics – then ascend the beautiful timber stair to a number of gallery spaces available for a cocktail event or 50 delegate seminar/training sessions set among an impressive array of sculpture and art installations. It has been lovingly restored.
The gallery has retained some art nouveau glass window panels but added technology to suit event organisers – kitchen facilities, lighting, sound system and three-phase power.
Despite predictions of a slowdown in the mining sector by mid-2014, a number of hotels and the Perth Convention Centre were clearly benefitting from the mining business with high occupancies and meetings facilities in demand for executive retreats, seminars and training programs when we visited.Since it opened last November Perth Arena has hosted the biggest names and the largest meetings and events in town – its main auditorium seats 15,500 in a special air-conditioned bubble with a cocoon of comfort coming from beneath each padded seat to keep patrons cool even in summer when the roof is open.
It boasts world-leading acoustics – just ask Elton John, who chose to open his Australian tour there. But this auditorium can also be transformed into a 2000 seat banquet floor, a trade show, or planners can choose any of the five other spaces for up to 500 people.
With its bold architecture, timber walls and floors and stunning views across the city, the fourth level Revely Room provides a striking backdrop in which to host 270 (banquet) 300 (theatre) or up to 450 (cocktails). A bonus is free wireless internet access.
Directly across Wellington Street from Perth Arena, the 278-room Four Points by Sheraton Perth not only draws the event crowds but is a popular contemporary meetings hotel. Its four meeting spaces include the ballroom which suits 80 (classroom), 130 (banquet), 180 (theatre), or 250 (cocktail). Smaller spaces suit breakouts from 20-80 (classroom) or 35-140 (theatre). An all-day dining room is popular, as is the Best Brew bar at the front of the hotel for coffee and snacks or beer after work.
Formerly the tax office, the riverside Duxton Hotel has 306 accommodation rooms plus two levels of event space with nine meeting rooms and a spacious pre-function area. Its pillarless ballroom has four metre ceilings and can cater for 300 (theatre) or 280 (banquet/cocktail). Other spaces include a boardroom for 12 and meeting rooms for 25 to 160 (theatre).
The top two floors are club rooms enjoying club lounge access. All rooms have views of the city or the river and the hotel’s popular Firewater Grille and retro cocktail bar mean you don’t need to leave the hotel – try a fine night in.
Recently refurbished inside, but set to have an external makeover of new retail and restaurants, is Rendezvous Grand Hotel Perth Scarborough, 15 minutes from the city on the popular beachfront. It has 336 accommodation rooms and 26 event spaces that include two large ballrooms for up to 680 plus 14 meeting rooms.
All told it can handle events for up to 1200. With the upcoming redevelopment of its external frontage, the iconic 24-storey hotel built by Alan Bond in 1986 as Observation City, has access to direct beachfront lawn and an amphitheatre for a unique take on outdoor client entertainment or pre-function events.
$2.6 billion Elizabeth Quay
Part of the plan to revitalise the city, ease the hotel shortage and help reduce room rates – forecast to continue to increase 10.3 per cent a year for the next three years – is the $2.6 billion Elizabeth Quay project on 10 hectares of Swan River waterfront. It will create a 2.7 hectare inlet – think Docklands Melbourne – with shops, cafes, restaurants, inner city residences and 400 hotel rooms. It will be able to cater for major events for up to 20,000 people in the combined public areas of the precinct, which will integrate the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Perth currently has less than 50 star-rated hotels with about 6000 total rooms. But by 2016 there could be another 2000 rooms based on new hotel development applications lodged with Perth City Council, should they all proceed. These include a 250-room Amara hotel on Adelaide Terrace; a 13-storey executive hotel of 132 rooms at Mulligan Square in the western CBD; the 25-storey Crown Towers at Burswood with 400 rooms, 100 suites and a 1250 pax convention facility; a 330-room five-star in Hay Street with Sheraton luxury branding; a 224-room Holiday Inn Express and another un-named 200-room hotel, both on Adelaide Terrace; a 230 room five-star hotel on Barrack Square plus another 226-room Starwood-managed hotel proposed at Rivervale, five kilometres away.