As the Southern Hemisphere inches toward spring and summer, Australia’s re-opened borders are triggering a huge boom in visitors to the country. Two years of pandemic lockdown shut out much of the world, but tides are changing. Airlines are boosting the number of flights (although prices remain high due to limited capacity outpaced by demand), and hotels are growing their portfolios.
According to Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia, this is “the beginning of a renaissance” for travel with many visitors planning longer visits and often splurging on more upscale experiences after having saved up over the past two years. Australia ranks seventh in the world for the strength of its tourism income, she says.
Tourism is paramount to the nation. Before Covid-19 struck, the destination saw nearly 10 million visitors annually, which were responsible for $45 billion in travel spend. Nearly one out of every 13 jobs in the country was related to travel.
Harrison noted that the recent travel boom was initially from visiting friends and relatives, but leisure traffic and conference business quickly followed.
The hospitality industry is ready to welcome travelers to the “land down under,” and over the past year, many new hotels have been preparing to open in time for this resurgence in demand. More than 100 properties have recently opened for the first time or underwent significant renovations.
The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart
On Parliament Square in Hobart, Tasmania, this Marriott Bonvoy luxury hotel opened in late 2021 to rave reviews. Within walking distance to St. David’s Park and the famous Salamanca Markets, guests at The Tasman are in the center of the action. Once a former government building, the hotel was fully restored showcasing three different design styles: Georgian, Art Deco, and contemporary. In addition to an outdoor lounge and Italian restaurants, many of the original windows, floorboards and fireplaces were restored in the remodel. The property has 152 rooms and suites and has sparked a boom for the luxury travel market traveling south to Tasmania.
The recent opening of Marriott’s popular fashion and music-focused W brand in Melbourne has created quite the splash. With its hip and urban design, W Melbourne brings something entirely new to town. In addition to contemporary guest rooms and a lively bar scene, the property also hosts “Wet Sunday Sessions,” giving visitors the chance to enjoy the pool, a cocktail with snacks and music from the resident DJ.
Marriott has been busy in Melbourne also opening the new Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands and the AC Hotel Melbourne Southbank, the first AC Hotel by Marriott in Australia. Also in the works for Melbourne is a new Ritz-Carlton, which will become the second in the country following the Perth opening a few years ago.
Hyatt Centric Melbourne
The first Hyatt Centric property in Australia opened this year in Melbourne’s downtown area. The design features subtle nods to the region’s wool production industry as well as the Gold Rush. Guest rooms show custom-designed rugs, and public areas have Victorian era-inspired brickwork. Local food producers, artists and designers are involved, too. The staff uniforms are the handiwork of an area designer while guest rooms sport locally produced toiletries from Mr. Smith. Street art in public areas and locally roasted coffee offer even more Melbourne flair.
Hyatt also opened Hyatt Place Melbourne Caribbean Park earlier this year surrounded by 275 acres of natural parkland and featuring a farm-to-table restaurant.
Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street
Another Melbourne hotel to open recently is Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street close to Bourke Street Shopping Mall. It is now one of two Hilton Honors properties in the city. The restaurant serves a blend of Australian and Italian cuisine along with a bar menu featuring regional wines and craft beer. Hilton’s portfolio in the country includes 17 hotels that are currently open.
InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula, near Melbourne
Opened this past summer, IHG One Rewards members have a new option to explore with the InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula, which is not far from Melbourne in Victoria. Many of the rooms in this 145-year-old heritage-listed limestone building have views of the water. Locals who have known about it for nearly a century adore it and call it “The Conti,” but they have some new amenities to explore soon. The Grand Ballroom was fully restored, and a new spa and bathhouse will open later this year. At the property, there are more than one dozen “hospitality spaces” with food and beverage options.
In the city and on Lonsdale Street, voco Melbourne Central, another IHG One Rewards property, opened in April as part of the 380 Melbourne skyscraper development. Numerous price points in Melbourne are on IHG’s radar including the new Holiday Inn Express Melbourne Little Collins, which opened in February.
Kimpton Margot Sydney
As the first Kimpton in Australia, Kimpton Margot Sydney made a splash when it opened earlier this year in the heart of the central business district in New South Wales’ largest city. The Art Deco building dates back to the 1930s and features more than 600 pieces of art as well as a rooftop pool. Australian chef Luke Mangan leads the restaurant and bar drawing after-work crowds from around the city. Kimpton is part of the recently overhauled IHG One Rewards loyalty program.
Less than two miles from Bondi Beach is the newly opened Holiday Inn & Suites Sydney Bondi Junction providing guests with another IHG option close to the famous shoreline.
Hotel Indigo Brisbane City Centre
IHG also set its sights farther north in Queensland with the new Hotel Indigo Brisbane City Centre, which is part of the design-focused Hotel Indigo brand. This is the first hotel in Queensland for Hotel Indigo. Local artists painted various murals and art pieces within the hotel showcasing the region’s history and laneways. The speakeasy-inspired bar serves local beer, wine and cocktails.
Overlooking the Brisbane River is another of many new hotels from IHG One Rewards, the voco Brisbane City Centre, the second for the brand in Queensland. The hotel is a short walk from Queen Street Mall.
The Langham, Gold Coast
This long-awaited hotel opening infuses a bit of luxury into this tourism hot spot. In addition to 169 rooms and suites, The Langham Gold Coast has an almost equal number of serviced apartments. Dubbed Surfer’s Paradise, the region draws tourists from around the world for its epic waves and crystalline coastline. The hotel is in the center of three landmark towers on the growing skyline, and the facade was designed to mimic quartz crystals that can be seen from miles away. The onsite Chuan Spa offers traditional Chinese medicine philosophies for wellness, and guests can also dine in the Michelin-recognized T’ang Court, which serves Cantonese cuisine.
The House, Great Barrier Reef
It’s not just the major cities that saw new hospitality investment. The prized Great Barrier Reef welcomed the summer opening of The House on Lizard Island. Designed like a reef house using local materials and furnishings, the luxury accommodation is sure to be a popular spot for small groups or multi-generational accommodations looking to blend a bit of upscale city travel with the country’s famous natural wonders.
The Crocodile Hunter Lodge, Sunshine Coast
This summer, a new luxury lodge that was inspired by Steve Irwin’s life and love for wildlife and wild places opened on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. The Crocodile Hunter Lodge has only eight family-friendly cottages, and all guests enjoy unlimited access to the Australia Zoo. The hotel is also home to a habitat with red kangaroos, emus and koalas, which guests can admire while enjoying the hotel’s infinity pool, known as The Billabong. Guests can also see some of the koala that the property has adopted following the 2020 bush fires.
Said to be the first five-star hotel in Adelaide, French brand Sofitel opened Sofitel Adelaide late last year along Currie Street. The hotel towers over the city’s skyline and features a French restaurant, Champagne bar, indoor swimming pool and executive club. The hotel is part of the Accor All Live Limitless loyalty program where guests can earn or redeem points during their stay.
Finniss River Lodge, near Darwin, Northern Territory
In the country’s northwestern region is the newly opened Finniss River Lodge close to Darwin within the Northern Territory. Designed for the perfect outdoor experience, guests can fish, hike and explore the grounds with professional guides. With only six suites, the stay is entirely customized to what travelers want for the experience. It’s a wilderness-meets-luxury venue that is the quintessential Northern Territory experience.