Synergies in boutique travel

THE new owners of Bells Estate, recently renamed Mulberry on Swan, expect to more than double its earning capacity by positioning the venue as a quality entertainment, restaurant and function destination.

Amanda and John Battley officially took over the site’s operations in December last year after purchasing Bells Estate following the Boat Torque break up.

The pair secured the venue, which has five different function rooms and is on 14 hectares of prime Swan Valley land, for approximately $2 million. And they have big plans.

“We are going to introduce new acts and more outdoor concerts and make it a venue that you can go to for a function, a night out for dinner, or to watch a good show,” Ms Battley said.

“There hasn’t been good entertainment here; the focus was Boat Torque.”

The Battleys said that, while Bells Estate was a part of the Boat Torque operation that was cash flow positive, the business was expected to become even stronger in the next few years.

“It was profitable but we estimate it was running at about 20 to 30 per cent of its possible capacity. It was turning over $2 to $2.5 million a year. It should be between $5 to $10 million,” Ms Battley said.

Mr Battley, who also operates Globe-trotter Corporate Travel, said the tourism venue had natural synergies with the travel agency.

“The two businesses will operate separately but there are a lot of synergies because we do corporate travel with 300 companies in Perth,” he said.

“They have conference needs, staff parties and so on, and we will obviously push the venue and value add for our clients using the events.”

The Battleys are not planning to compete in the large-scale entertainment market provided by major wine operators Leeuwin and Sandalford, preferring to make a niche of the boutique market.

“We are not in competition with Sandalford or Leeuwin, our lawn area is not as big,” Ms Battley said.

“There is the restaurant here and the balcony is perfect for  VIPs.”

The Battleys have embarked on a major advertising and promotion campaign to raise awareness of the new programs scheduled for Mulberry on Swan.

There have been initial works on the site including new paint, new cutlery and glassware and well as some redesigning of the garden.

Bigger plans are afoot, according to Mr Battley.

“We are planning to put in a more substantial tourism attraction for the site but I don’t want to say what that is just at the moment,” he said.

Mr Battley was confident that the business would grow due to an anticipated expansion in Swan Valley tourism.

“I honesty believe that the Swan Valley is at the start of a rediscovery, being so close to Perth yet still in the country,” he said.

“In the next five years it will emerge as a significant part of Perth tourism. We aim to be a part of that.”

Making the venue more of an attraction for tourists would suit the convention market, which was expected to pick up with the opening of the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, Mr Battley said.

“One big event will be the convention centre. What will people do for that day or half a day they have spare? The may go to Rottnest or really they’d like to walk to Barrack Square, jump on a boat and got to more of a destination venue,” he said.

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