Marriott Australia and New Zealand boss Sean Hunt has dismissed concerns about a slowdown in Chinese visitor numbers to Australia, saying future growth is only limited by “flights and airlines”.
“We get about a million out of the 100 million Chinese who travel out of the country every year, so I see only blue sky in that regard,” Mr Hunt told The Australian Financial Review as the global hotel giant opened its first Element by Westin Hotel in Melbourne’s Richmond.
The new 168-room eco and pet-friendly hotel was developed by Malaysia’s TRC Synergy and sits within the Botanicca Corporate Park, a five-hectare estate nestled next to the Yarra River.
It’s part of a pipeline of 20 hotels Marriott will open in Australia and New Zealand over the next three years, with Melbourne the epicentre of this growth, including a W Hotel on Collins Street that will open next year and a Ritz-Carlton under construction opposite Southern Cross Station.
Mr Hunt said new hotels at “different price points” were needed to attract international travellers to Australia alongside the combined efforts of government, industry and business to throw out the welcome mat to Chinese and other visitors.
“There’s more work to be done,” Mr Hunt said.
Chinese visitors have been the driving force behind the recent tourism boom, with the country overtaking New Zealand as the countrys’ biggest inbound traveller market (more than 1.3 million visitors annually) and spending more $11.3 billion of the $42.5 billion spend by overseas visitors in Australia in the year to June last year.
However, the boom peaked last year according to official figures, with the latest monthly Overseas Visitors & Arrivals data compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing Chinese visitor numbers fell 6.1 per cent to 114,000 in April year-on-year.
By comparison, the number of short-stay New Zealand visitors rose 3.9 per cent to 119,000 over the same period, with American visitors numbers up 6.8 per cent and Japanese visitors up 11 per cent.
Nonetheless, Mr Hunt said he was bullish about the outlook saying Chinese visitors would continue to come to Melbourne provided there was the sufficient choice of product and price points.
“Our four Melbourne hotels are all operating at occupancy rates above 90 per cent,” Mr Hunt said.
Marriott is expanding its presence beyond the Melbourne CBD with new hotels in the pipeline in Docklands and South Yarra.
It’s newest Element hotel, a “little sister” to Marriott’s flagship Westin is just a few trams stops from the Melbourne CBD and close to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Victoria Arts Centre.
As with many new hotels, Element Richmond has a strong focus on sustainability with energy-saving LED lighting, CO2 sensors monitoring air quality and water-saving taps just some of its features.
It’s also aiming to appeal to millennial travellers with a 24-hour gym, free bike hire and the offering of pet beds, toys and even a dog-friendly minibar for those wanting to bring their pooch.
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