‘No cookie-cutting’: Bespoke hotels arrive in regionsChef Matt Moran plans to put the historic Rockley Pub on the map.

‘No cookie-cutting’: Bespoke hotels arrive in regions

A pandemic-inspired travel boom in Australia’s regions is opening up opportunities for bespoke hotel operators setting up shop in east coast holiday and tourism destinations.

After launching his winemaking and events space at Levantine Hill winery this year, businessman Elias Jreissati is making his next move in Victoria’s Yarra Valley: complementing his fine wines with luxury accommodation.

Permits are in council to get approval for stage one of a four-stage hotel project at the winery. A two-storey building with 33 spacious suites should be ready by Christmas 2022.

“It’s really about a touch of escapism and luxury an hour’s drive from the city,” Mr Jreissati says. “We think the accommodation component is sorely needed in the region, and we’ve got a master plan with a hotel complex for about 150 rooms in total.”

Karl Fender, co-founder of Fender Katsalidis Architects and the project’s director, said the new hotel offers a unique, rural Australian experience, with all rooms and their private balconies having panoramic views over the picturesque valley to distant ranges.

“The visit unfolds as a series of subtle, gently surprising experiences, which will soon be further enriched by the accommodation building. This will be a place to be at peace while drinking in the views, the peacefulness and some very fine wine,” he says.

The pandemic has created a captive market for intrastate and interstate escapes, said Knight Frank’s joint head of hotels and hospitality Samantha Freeman.

Demand is accelerating for high-end boutique regional offerings with a point of difference, she said.

Nick Travers, director at Techne Architecture + Interior Design, said distinctive hotels are being requested by clients in all sorts of geographical locations, not just inner-city areas.

“[There is] absolutely no cookie-cutting,” he said.

Two examples include the Metung Hot Springs Resort and the 12 Apostles Hot Springs Resort in Victoria. Both focus on high-end pampering and wellness and feature environmental sustainability and design as key attributes.

“The developers of these assets are typically not seeking a speculative development return, but to create an asset that fits a broader portfolio strategy, or, at the smaller end of the market are owners seeking to combine lifestyle with business,” Ms Freeman said.

In Rockley, a town of 200 people three hours from Sydney, celebrity restaurateur Matt Moran is doing exactly that.

Gone are the days of a hotel room with buffet breakfast. A great hotel experience needs to be tied to an incredible hospitality experience.

Camilla Burke, architect and associate at Breathe Architecture
The chef recently bought the historic Rockley Pub and an adjoining block of land, with big plans to put the tiny NSW town on the map.

“A lot of people think I’m mad, because Rockley is a very quiet little village,” he laughs. “But with COVID, people want to get out of Sydney a bit more, and they’re looking for experiences.”

He’s planning a new restaurant, sandstone cellar, bar in the old adjoining courthouse with pub food, large beer garden and outside area, plus nine renovated rooms upstairs with ensuites.

Beyond that, he wants to build 14 upmarket villas on his new block next door, open a bakery, or general store, and provide a genuine lifeline to the town in which his ancestors married in and lived nearby.

“I like the idea of maybe looking back in 20 years and thinking, ‘what a thriving town’ and maybe I had something to do with it,” he says.

For Camilla Burke, architect and associate at Breathe Architecture, hotel and hospitality offerings are cracking open hidden gem destinations to a whole new market.

“Gone are the days of a hotel room with buffet breakfast. A great hotel experience needs to be tied to an incredible hospitality experience,” she says.

Breathe is working on a new world-class distillation facility and hospitality experience for Four Pillars Gin, in Healesville, Victoria.

“At Four Pillars, sustainability has been embedded at the heart of the design from the copper veil, the solar rooftop, the recycled masonry throughout to a restrained and crafted natural material palette,” she said.

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