31/03/2014 - 14:41

Two new Hiltons for Perth, possibly three

31/03/2014 - 14:41

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Two new Hiltons for Perth, possibly three
Hilton Worldwide's Ashley Spencer at today's launch. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Hotel group Hilton Worldwide has announced it will open two of its DoubleTree by Hilton branded hotels in Perth and Fremantle, with a third property in Northbridge also on the agenda.

The projects will be funded by Malaysia-based property investment firm SKS Group, which will spend $160 million developing the Perth and Fremantle hotels.

The 241-room DoubleTree by Hilton in Perth is set to be built at 351 Riverside Drive, adjoining Barrack Square and fronting the Swan River, with construction to begin midway through the year and opening anticipated for halfway through 2016.

DoubleTree by Hilton Fremantle will comprise 150 rooms on the corner of Point Street and Adelaide Street, with building to begin later this year for an early-2017 opening.

SKS Group general manager Francis Foong said the company was also looking at a host of other sites in which to invest.

Mr Foong said the group held an option to purchase a development site in Northbridge and plans were being developed for a 15 or 16-storey hotel of about 200 rooms.

“We are looking at another DoubleTree hotel, possibly in Northbridge,” Mr Foong told Business News.

“I have just spoken to Lisa Scaffidi and she’s very excited about the prospects of something happening in the Northbridge area.

“That’s what we are looking at very closely, we have another 30 days to make a decision.”

An artist's impression of the proposed DoubleTree by Hilton hotel at Barrack Square.

There are 370 DoubleTree by Hilton locations globally, with three in Australia in the Northern Territory. A defining aspect of their marketing pitch is the warm choc chip cookie given to each guest upon arrival.

Mr Foong also said the group was looking closely at the remaining lots at Elizabeth Quay, flagging the possibility of constructing a five-star or six-star hotel to complement the Far East Consortium’s plans to build a Ritz-Carlton branded hotel on the waterfront.

He said the hotel investment boom in Perth could not have been possible without the support of the City of Perth and the state government.

“We know there are a lot of incentives out there, but there is a lot of red tape involved in getting projects to fruition,” Mr Foong said.

“We know we can get some concession on rates and taxes, but to actually get them is quite a fair bit of work involved.

“But we appreciate it and we appreciate the fact that it is being supported through all of the plot ratio bonuses that are available.

“That’s the advantage but land in Perth is expensive, investment in hotels is hard to do.”

SKS Group is the Perth-based overseas investment arm of Malaysia's MB Group, which has a 30-year track record in property development and hospitality management.

Hilton Worldwide vice-president operations Australasia, Ashley Spencer, said the group had been looking to expand its portfolio in Western Australia for quite some time.

“It just takes time to find the right partner and it takes time to find the right sites,” he said.

“Economically, WA is still a powerhouse, we’ve been operating here for 30 years so we know the market really, really well, and it just presents great opportunity.’’

Mr Spencer said the Barrack Square location would be key to promoting the DoubleTree by Hilton brand in Australia.

“It was Conrad Hilton who coined the phrase 'location, location, location',” he said.

“We’re still all about that. That’s what’s taken us quite a long time to actually finish up with a development here, because you just need to be in the right place.”

Tourism Minister Liza Harvey was on hand for the launch today, saying the new hotels would provide a much-needed boost for the tourism and conference sector.

The state government had previously identified a need to roll-out 1,900 new hotel rooms by 2020 to cater for increased demand.

Today’s announcement, coupled with plans revealed last week by other hotel developers, takes the amount of rooms confirmed to be in the development pipeline to just under 1,800.

“Where we know we want to be as a state government is smack bang in the middle of that world conference market, and what we need to underpin that conference market is more hotel rooms,’’ Ms Harvey said.

“This is great news, it ties in perfectly with our strategy, we’ve been encouraging this sort of investment for quite some time and it’s great seeing the contracts being signed and the sod turned and the investment is actually coming here to Western Australia.”

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tim Milsom said the DoubleTree proposal was a significant coup for the port city, particularly efforts to revitalise its lagging east end.

“That east end of Fremantle is in desperate need of revitalisation, and I think to have an attraction like the DoubleTree Hilton is going to mean more and more people using that space and activating the area,” Mr Milsom told Business News.

“By them committing to the build on that side of Fremantle, an awful lot more investors will come and actually be a part of the new Fremantle story.

“Fremantle is going to be the second city of Perth, there are no two ways about it.

“It’s booming, people are coming, they are investing, and it’s going to be a great place to live and work.

“All we really need is a few more people around that area and the place will be transformed.”

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