07/06/2017 - 13:23

Marriott and BGC a winning combination

07/06/2017 - 13:23

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It may have only taken about 18 months to build, but Perth’s newest hotel – the recently opened Aloft Perth in Rivervale – was a six-year journey for the world’s largest hotel operator, and one of Western Australia’s biggest home-grown builders.

Sean Hunt says elements like the sweeping rooftop terrace at Aloft Perth will help it shake up the Perth hotel market’s four-star sector. Photo: Attila Csaszar

It may have only taken about 18 months to build, but Perth’s newest hotel – the recently opened Aloft Perth in Rivervale – was a six-year journey for the world’s largest hotel operator, and one of Western Australia’s biggest home-grown builders.

And while Aloft Perth had a long gestation period, Marriott International area vice-president Sean Hunt said the project provided a keen insight into the unique approach of one of the true characters of WA business, the late Len Buckeridge.

It was back in 2014 that Mr Buckeridge’s BGC announced it would build the four-star, 224-room hotel, which is the first property to open in Australia under Marriott’s Aloft brand.

However, Mr Hunt first met Mr Buckeridge three years earlier, as part of the customary negotiations between the hotel operator and a potential developer.

“As usual, we were meeting with the owners and I wanted to take Len out for lunch, but he said ‘no, I’m going to take you out for lunch’,” Mr Hunt told Business News.

“I wasn’t sure where I was going, and he took me to his favourite pie shop and we had a milkshake and a pie, and we sat out there and talked.

“I found him to be a real splash of colour in an otherwise vanilla world.

“He was a great man but he was also a very tenacious individual, so I was always sure that if he announced a hotel, then it would get built.”

The Aloft hotel is the second partnership between Marriott and BGC, which are also building the $500 million Westin Perth at 480 Hay Street in East Perth.

And Mr Hunt didn’t rule out adding further projects to that portfolio.

“We work with many different owners and many different structures, from high net worth individuals through to superannuation funds, joint ventures, special purpose vehicles, but my preference, personally speaking, is to work with existing hotel owners if we can, because it’s just easier,” Mr Hunt said.

“We know each other and BGC is (a business) we’d love to grow with.

“This is a great hotel and the Westin is going to be a superb hotel in East Perth.

“We’d love to do more with BGC and I think they have the balance sheet to do that, and through Len being such a pragmatic guy, he owned his own cement companies and mines and quarries.

“They have the raw product, so I think this could be a great marriage going forward for BGC and for Marriott.”

Mr Hunt said work would begin soon on another new Marriott property for Perth, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Wellington Street – part of an expansion plan that will make the global operator the biggest player in Perth, according to data from the BNiQ Search Engine.

Along with the under construction Ritz-Carlton at Elizabeth Quay, and the existing Four Points by Sheraton, Marriott-operated hotels will eventually provide a total of 1,400 rooms to the Perth market, taking over from Crown Resorts, which has 1,186 rooms in Perth, as the dominant operator.

Across Australia, Marriott has 22 new properties in its pipeline, with its Asia-Pacific expansion program totalling 86 hotels.

That’s a lot of competition for WA’s tourism sector, but Mr Hunt said he was unconcerned with the current headwinds in Perth’s hotel market.

“People ask me whether we are nervous about opening so many hotels,” he said.

“My answer is no, because while I have a fancy title, deep down I’m just a general manager and a hotel operator.

“I take the approach that the glass is half full because I’d rather have this hotel, which is brand new and fresh, in the Perth market, than some of the other old tired stock that Perth currently has on offer.

“That’s going to force owners to spend some capital on their properties, and I think that’s long overdue.”

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