Mar 4, 2020 – 5.38pm
The head of Marriott’s Asia-Pacific luxury hotel division says Australia’s far heavier reliance on domestic tourism is “a very good thing” as the global accommodation giant prepares to open new luxury hotels in Melbourne and Hobart this year.
Asked if Marriott’s growing suite of luxury hotels in Australia was outperforming other Asia-Pacific markets in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, Bruce Ryde said that was the case “most definitely”.
“Categorically, Australia is more insulated because of its luxury domestic market,” said Mr Ryde, who as vice-president of luxury brands and brand marketing at Marriott International Asia-Pacific overseas nine brands including Ritz-Carlton, W, St. Regis, The Luxury Collection and Bulgari.
Bruce Ryde, in front of Marriott’s new W Melbourne site, which will open in August. Elke Meitzel
Based in Hong Kong, where hotel occupancies have plummeted, Mr Ryde said Asian countries reliant on the intra-Asian visitor market were the most impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
“With W Melbourne, which will open in August, we expect only about 10 per cent [of revenues] will come from international visitors.”
Recent figures from research firm STR showed Australia was operating at much higher occupancy levels then its counterparts in Hong Kong, Singapore and China.
However, these occupancies are expected to decline in the coming months, with the head of Tourism Australia telling a conference in Melbourne this week that international bookings had decreased 35 per cent since December.
Despite these challenges, Mr Ryde said there was still a need for more luxury hotels in Australia.
He said he was excited about the opening of the 294-room W Melbourne within Cbus Property’s Collins Arch development (and owned by Japan’s Daisho), followed by the 152-room Tasman Hotel in Hobart in December, the first under Marriott’s Luxury Collection brand in Australia.
Marriott has embarked on a massive expansion in Australia and New Zealand in recent years and dominates in the luxury hotel development category.
Also in the pipeline is the massive 593-room W Sydney, which will open in the first quarter of 2021 as the biggest W hotel in the world. There’s also a Ritz-Carlton Hotel to open in Melbourne towards the end of 2021.
A Ritz-Carlton in Perth opened last year, marking the return of the brand to Australia.
“We’re excited about the new and cutting-edge luxury hotels we are bringing to the Australian market. This new product is really needed,” Mr Ryde said.
He said there had been signs of “some potential easing” of the virus impact in Greater China, which could potentially be positive for hotel operators.
“We’ve reopened some of our hotels in Greater China, so that’s a good sign,” he said.
“Things will pass over time,” he said.
In a separate statement, a Marriott spokeswoman said it was closely monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization’s statements regarding COVID-19 cases and following the guidelines from these agencies and the local health departments.
“The wellbeing of our guests and associates is of paramount importance.”
The group has extended the date that it will waive cancellation fees for hotel stays through to March 15 for guests with reservations at its hotels in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as well as for guests from these countries travelling outbound to other Marriott destinations globally.