25/02/2009 - 22:00

Pillow menu takes taste to new level

25/02/2009 - 22:00


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Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference.

Pillow menu takes taste to new level

FOR a hotel that has only been open two years, The Richardson Hotel and Spa has built up a reputation that must be the envy of its five-star competitors.

The Richardson has never had to advertise its accommodation, yet has managed to win a number of awards and build a solid reputation that has brought a host of corporate travellers, senior government officials and international celebrities through its doors.

Last month, The Richardson was named the best luxury hotel under 100 rooms in Australia in The Australian newspaper's travel and tourism awards.

But before it had a chance to toast that win, the hotel was recognised by Conde Nast Traveller magazine, with its day spa voted the best hotel spa for Australasia and South Pacific.

The hotel has been a labour of love for managing director and co-owner Joe Oxley, who has stamped his personal touch on the design and stylishly intimate interior fit-out, influenced by almost a lifetime in the business across 10 countries.

Mr Oxley came to Perth via Hong Kong, originally with the intention of semi-retirement and to raise his young family.

Having travelled regularly to Perth on business, Mr Oxley saw an opportunity for a boutique hotel product, and the idea for The Richardson was born.

"There wasn't anything that could be loosely described as a boutique hotel, in the international sense, that had full service. A five-star boutique full-service hotel didn't exist in Perth," Mr Oxley told Business Class.

"I recognised over many years of visiting Perth that there was an opportunity for hotel product like The Richardson and then when my business partner [Ted Powell] also decided he would relocate from Hong Kong to Perth, we then put our heads together and our money together and decided we'd build The Richardson."

From its inception, The Richardson sought to separate itself from the ruck, shunning the traditional CBD terrace location for the leafy surrounds of West Perth. "We didn't want to be on the main thoroughfare because I envisaged our type of guests would not want to be particularly high profile and would want a quiet yet convenient property," Mr Oxley said.

Mr Oxley engaged the Hong Kong branch office of renowned British architects Sir Terry Farrell and Partners, with local architect Cameron Chisholm Nicol providing the local content.

Construction brought with it some challenges, and the project finished eight months behind schedule.

"It was a very difficult period for us," Mr Oxley said.

"It had taken eight months longer than we had anticipated and therefore the uncertainty of opening really was a stigma for us. We didn't reach full operation until February, four months after opening, because we couldn't do forward bookings and all of those usual things."

The timing of the hotel development was just right, however, managing to avoid the prohibitive cost increases that have hampered the viability of new hotel developments ever since.

"From a cost perspective we were lucky to get our timing right, because quite frankly to do what we have done here in today's environment, vis a vis costs, it would be prohibitive, we would not be able to get the numbers to stack up," Mr Oxley said.

"If we were looking at the same type of project today in Perth it would not be viable."

The space and the quality of fit-out are stand-out points of difference for the eight-storey hotel.

Of the hotel's 74 rooms, 58 are suites, with 40 of those one-bedroom suites with an area between 50 and 60 square metres, compared to a standard 28sqm hotel room. The biggest suite, a three-bedroom penthouse on the top floor, comes in at 169sqm.

The quality of the fit-out is top class, from the original artwork to the high-end furniture and 400-threadcount sheets; not to mention the famous pillow menu that features six different types of pillows.

Initially well supported by the business travel market, the hotel is now starting to see a stronger response from leisure travellers, a market that usually takes some time to build.

"A hotel like ours starting from scratch we would normally say in industry would take 18-24 months to build up that business," Mr Oxley said.

"Since October we have seen the start of that business coming through to us."

As the tourism industry prepares for a slowdown, Mr Oxley said the hotel would inevitably feel the pinch. But, he's confident it will pull through.

"Unfortunately the downturn is a bit of a stumbling block, but I believe we'll come through quite well, because we're independent, we don't have any debt, which is a huge plus," he said.


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