TOURISM icon the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle has undergone a massive $16 million expansion in response to the city’s growing profile as a leisure and business function destination.
The hotel has added 41 new rooms to its accommodation capacity, the kitchen has been expanded, and a 1,000-seat convention venue with three other meeting rooms and a pre-function area has been created.
The additional 1,300 square metres of convention space makes the Esplanade Hotel convention centre the third largest such facility in Perth.
According to owner and managing director Marylyn New, the catalyst for the significant investment into the hotel was a growing national and international awareness of Fremantle as a destination.
Ms New said that, before the expansion, she was receiving increasing numbers of requests to host conventions and conferences but had been unable to accommodate the larger conferences.
The hotel owner for the past 13 years, Ms New said that when she first took over the operation the West Australian Tourism Commission did not even have Fremantle on its tourism map and that the city had little profile interstate or overseas.
“In those days nobody came to Fremantle for conferences,” she said. “People just didn’t know where it was.”
Ms New said significant marketing investment by The Esplanade and the City of Fremantle had been key to raising the city’s profile.
“I’ve got a 300-room hotel,” she said. “That takes a lot of marketing to fill.”
Since it opened for business in October last year, the Esplanade Hotel convention centre has made its mark on the large convention centre circuit and is now viewed as an alternative to City of Perth venue offerings.
Ms New said Fremantle offered convention delegates a wide array of leisure and hospitality options.
“All the feedback I get is that people want a change from the city,” she said.
However, Ms New said that for all Fremantle’s tourism potential, there was little benefit in too great a reliance on the tourism industry.
“We get a lot of people into the Fremantle now,” she said. “It is important to keep in mind that Fremantle shouldn’t become all about tourism.”
It was vital that the port and other traditional Fremantle industry remained and that the city did not become all about tourist attractions, she told WA Business News.
Quick to recognise the growing demand for residential property in inner-city Fremantle, Ms New has also embarked on a staged redevelopment of the Fremantle Woolstores.
The first stage, of 32 apartments and seven commercial offices, has all sold bar one apartment and Ms New is currently planning the second stage of the development, which is likely to be for 62 apartments.
In the longer term she plans to develop another hotel in the soon-to-be-redeveloped Victoria Quay precinct. The Goldsbourough Hotel will be a four star, 120-room hotel located at the Fremantle city end of the quay.
And in a show of her faith in the port city’s bright future, and her hotel, Ms New said she planned to add a further 60 rooms onto the Esplanade Hotel.
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