Destinations and venue operators put their reputations on the line when they go in search of the conference market. And it seems that in regional NSW they’re back in the winner’s circle.
BY BRAD FOSTER
The press release was entitled “From Fawlty Towers to Faultless: Fairmont goes from most derided to most decorated”.
The subject of the release was that three years after joining Accor’s MGallery collection, the Fairmont Resort in the NSW Blue Mountains has had a major turnaround, winning awards and satisfying guests in all the areas that matter when it comes to staying in a hotel.
In recent times the property has won Best Regional Superior Hotel Accommodation of the Year in the 2012 Tourism Accommodation Association Awards, as well as the Customer Service Award and Employee of the Year Awards in the Blue Mountains Lithgow, Oberon Tourism Awards of Excellence.
The awards come following a multi-million dollar refurbishment of the resort which updated the interior and exterior of the property. Significant investment has also been made in its staff training and development.
Awards aside, the biggest news for the property is how popular the property is now becoming in the all-important business event segment since Accor took control.
In 2010, prior to Accor’s management, there were 15 events held at the Fairmont. In 2012 there will be an estimated 350 events. Occupancy levels have also grown. From a low of 11 per cent in 2010 the expected occupancy level at the end of 2012 will be 68 per cent.
General manager Geoff York is understandably chuffed at the turnaround, believing the Fairmont has been restored to its pre-eminent position.
“When I started at the Fairmont there was so much work to do to restore the hotel, not just in its hardware but in re-energising the staff and bringing the resort back to its former glory,” he said. “The recent recognition that we have received from the industry and the amazing comments we are getting from our guests confirms that we have managed to really turn things around and today the resort is easily as good as, or better than, it’s ever been.
“Importantly, as the largest conference hotel in the Blue Mountains and regional NSW, we have been able to play a real role in bringing more events to the region and in attracting visitors back to the area, which previously was suffering a slump in visitor numbers.”
That fact alone is evidence enough that the business event sector plays such a huge part in the greater tourism sector. What it also demonstrates is that a lick and a polish coupled with good management by a reputable company such as Accor, and the business opportunities in regional destinations really appear limitless.
Where once Fairmont was bringing the entire region down, it is now a champion brand in the Blue Mountains, helping to drive demand and capture more business emanating from the city.
When big dollars are at stake, reputations count considerably for winning conference business. Meeting planners don’t want to spend large amounts of money on a hunch. They want to know that where their people are meeting will exceed their expectations, especially when they are beyond the city limits.
Fairmont, with Accor as partner, appears to have achieved that. Planners can book the venue knowing that what they are being promised will be delivered.
Perhaps this was part of the reason why the Bellachara Boutique Hotel on the NSW South Coast was rebranded to the Mercure Resort Gerringong by the Sea late last year. Mercure is a well-known, reputable brand that Australian meeting planners understand, recognise and trust.
A look at its forward bookings and business booked since Mercure was added to the name could very well show similar growth to that experienced by the Fairmont.
Since opening this property has been proving popular with the boutique meetings market. About 90 minutes’ drive from Sydney and situated on a hill overlooking Werri Beach, the property provides a stylish and relaxed setting, with 52 luxuriously appointed rooms, a rooftop day spa, two pools, a tennis court, an award-winning restaurant and function facilities for up to 180.
GM Michael Eggers says the hotel’s intimate size gives it a genuine boutique feel. One of the South Coast’s best day spas and a restaurant that showcases the finest South Coast local produce should ensure its popularity remains.
There are two types of rooms, all styled in rich chocolate and white, offering a choice of a room with a bath and overhead shower and full galley kitchen, or a room with a walk-in shower and limited kitchen facilities.
Rooms feature contemporary décor including chocolate leather lounges, plasma TVs, Playstation 2 systems, super comfortable beds and stylish bathrooms, some with spa baths.
In terms of conference facilities the property offers meeting spaces ranging in size from 40 square metres to 300 square metres. The boardroom can comfortably seat up to 16 people while the impressive Terrace Room can seat up to 120. This room is also divisible by two.
For conference groups the Mercure property is well-positioned to allow delegates to explore life “beyond the ballroom”. The Minnamurra Rainforest, Kangaroo Valley, Jervis Bay, wineries, the Jamberoo Action Park and championship golf courses, are all a hop, skip and jump away from the Mercure Resort Gerringong by the Sea.
and so does location
Along with the reputation of a hotel or resort, be it through connection with a chain or often the longevity of a stand-alone brand, is the importance of location.
The talk of real estate agents the world over when it comes to buying and selling property, the same can be said for hotels and resorts.
And one of the best positioned properties for the regional conference sector in New South Wales has to be Lake Crackenback Resort which sits on 150 acres of bushland adjacent to the Kosciuszko National Park and Little Thredbo River.
This is The Man From Snowy River country where the mountains are coated in snow in winter and flowers and wildlife in the summer months.
In the heart of it all, just minutes from the Thredbo Alpine Village, Lake Crackeback Resort & Spa, has developed a reputation as no ordinary run-of-the-mill resort and conference centre.
The property offers more than 100 rooms ranging from overwater lake view apartments to mountain view chalets.
During the winter months a free shuttle bus takes guests to the adjacent ski tube each day which travels up to the Perisher Valley ski fields.
And when your delegates aren’t conferencing, skiing or snowboarding, they can enjoy the extensive facilities at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa including an impressive day spa which draws on natural nurturing therapies of the Snowy Mountains, two restaurants and an array of free activities including golf, trampolines, canoeing, tennis, archery and 14 kms of mountain bike and walking trails.
Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa general manager, Scott O’Neile, says you don’t have to have a high level of fitness to enjoy the beauty of the bush.
“The bushwalks around the resort are as short as 20 minutes, along flat marked trails, and extend to more moderate walks of around three hours when guests leave the resort on to the unmarked trails in the Kosciuszko National Park,” he said.