HILTON Worldwide has made a move into the tight accommodation market in Karratha, indicating it has more to offer than simply providing beds for the resources sector.
The company has teamed up with Ramtron Australia to build an eight-storey, 144-room Doubletree by Hilton hotel on Karratha’s main street – Balmoral Road – set to be completed and open for reservations by mid-2014.
The $65 million project will be the Hilton’s first hotel in Australasia under the Doubletree brand, which is its four-star offering.
Construction will start in the final quarter of 2012. The hotel will include 20 apartments to cater to longer-term guests, in addition to 144 standard rooms.
There’s been a surge in apartment-style accommodation projects in Karratha with two hotels sold for resource-focussed developments earlier this year, a new 82-unit complex under development, and Finbar beginning construction on the second stage of its Pelago apartment project this week.
In announcing the Doubletree plans, Hilton Worldwide vice-president of Australasian development, Robert Scullin, said high demand for accommodation from the resources sector was only part of the incentive for building in Karratha.
“The whole Pilbara region is a big player in WA’s future, I think that’s undeniable with the amount of infrastructure and capital expenditure that’s going on there at the moment,”
“The Hilton has a long legacy of getting early into markets and we see this as a continuation of this legacy.”
Mr Scullin said Hilton Worldwide would look to continue relationships with resources companies formed through its Perth Parmelia Hotel, but he did not expect the Karratha hotel to be filled with fly-in, fly-out workers.
The Ramtron Australia consortium is led by local property developer Rothchester Hotel and Resorts, which previously had plans to develop accommodation pitched at the tourism market in both Perth and Margaret River.
Managing director Ron Tundut echoed Mr Scullin’s intimation that Karratha would become a key destination in the future.
“The north-west of Western Australia is the last frontier, and I’ve been talking to groups at offshore conferences for years now saying ‘you should get down there’,” Mr Tundut said.
“The opportunities in ecotourism and business hotels are immense.”
He believed Hilton Worldwide’s decision to build in Karratha would open doors and entice offshore travellers to the region.
Also part of the Ramtron consortium is Karratha local Kim Loxton, director of privately owned property developer Sulcon Group, which bought the Tambrey Tavern earlier this year for $20.1 million.
The Trambrey purchase included development approval for a further 298 rooms, including 113 serviced apartments and 36 residential apartments.
Construction of the Doubletree hotel would bring the number of high-rises in Karratha to three, once Finbar’s $150 million Pelago East apartment complex is completed.
Finbar this week announced the release of the second stage Pelago development. Construction on the 174-apartment complex is tipped to be complete by the end of 2014, and follows the 114-apartment Pelago West project completion.
Builder Jaxon has also begun constructing its 82-apartment complex costing $60 million.
The state government is aiming to support Karratha’s growth through its Pilbara Cities program and new land releases.
Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls applauded the private sector’s foresight for Karratha, which needed investment if it was to keep up with the booming industry.
“Who would have thought we would have been talking about the Karratha skyline…up until now they were pretty low roofs and they didn’t have much pitch on them,” Mr Grylls said.
“As someone who’s spent some of my better nights in Karratha in the Balmoral Caravan Park, (the Doubletree hotel) is certainly going to be a step-change.”