HM SPEAKS TO RICHARD MUNRO, WINNER OF AUSTRALIAN HOTEL MANAGER OF THE YEAR AT THE 2009 HM AWARDS.
HM: Richard, congratulations on winning Australian Hotel Manager of the Year. How was the award received amongst your colleagues and what did the win mean personally?
Richard Munro: Thanks James, I have to say out of our four finalist nominations that Star City was nominated for and being amongst such great hoteliers, I was very surprised and honoured to win. My team, colleagues and executives were very pleased to share this award with me.
HM: How is Star City performing at present, given the economic downturn?
RM: Like all of the hotels in Sydney, we are experiencing challenges that were simply not here this time last year and traditional corporate and meeting markets are soft. We are doing a lot of work with our existing database to communicate with them and they have shown great loyalty.
HM: How is the Sydney 5-star market performing and how is the industry banding together to maintain strong visitor arrivals?
RM: The 5-star market is down on PCP and there is some significant discounting going on in all categories of hotels. There are some unbelievable rates around at the moment, however I see that this will only move the contracted market around to the cheapest rate hotel and consumers may end up in a product that does not really suit them, which in turn can hurt the industry.
HM: What are you expecting for the remainder of 2009 across all segments?
RM: Good question, I had the opportunity to talk to many great hoteliers on the night of the HM Awards and we all agreed, Hotels are the first to feel any downturn in the market and we are one of the last industries to recover from an event like the Global Financial Crisis and H1N1. Having said that I believe we are seeing signs of recovery and there will be a lot of demand given low activity for the past 12 months, we will have to watch what happens over the next few months.
HM: How is the second hotel development coming along and what elements of the new property have you most excited?
RM: The work is going to plan with excavation well advanced and the next stage will be the start of construction of the hotel and the demolition of the steps and the ‘Rock Bar’ at the front of Star City. We are about to open Australia’s largest bar and sports theatre which signals the change in design of the actual Casino – it looks great and we are all very excited. The retail area will be the biggest change most people will notice with the building at the front of Star City extending to the road near the harbour incorporating a much larger offering of retail choice.
HM: The Star Suites were launched recently after an extensive refurbishment. What are the key features that help make them so unique?
RM: The Star Suites were launched with a very extravagant and decadent party, which reflects those suites very well. I have had so many guests talking about the features of the aqua TV over the new Spa with water proof remote controls and the connectivity of the large LCD to the desk for working through your holiday photos or getting a presentation ready for a large conference.
HM: You have some excellent F&B on offer at the hotel, including Astral and Sean’s Kitchen. What are the highlights in your opinion?
RM: We currently have six restaurants on the property that we manage and we will be adding many more in the next two years, which we are very excited about. Astral and Sean’s Kitchen are both run by award winning Sean Connolly and he has managed to develop individual styles that offer a different experience in each restaurant. We have one of Australia’s busiest buffets with an average of 1600 covers every day and our Trophies restaurant can serve over 5000 covers in any one day, so these restaurants and Lotus Pond take a lot of effort by my fantastic team – seeing them performing every day is the highlight for me.
HM: What does the hotel offer in the way of MICE facilities and what’s planned in the redevelopment?
RM: Currently we offer the Grand harbour ballroom with smaller breakout rooms. We are looking at an extension program as part of the Project Star development and we will increase capacity while maintaing the natural advantages this ballroom has such as terraces, natural light and sweeping views of the Harbour and CBD.
HM: How is the MICE market performing and what are you expecting for 09?
RM: This is the toughest market our business is currently tackling and is the market that has been most affected by the latest macro impacts, I see it bouncing back in mid 2010 (fingers crossed).
Star City, Sydney
80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, NSW, Australia
General Manager: Richard Munro
Rooms & suites: 480 (currently)
F&B outlets: 12
Conferencing: up to 1200 cocktail style
Recreation facilities: Casino, pool deck and gym, Lyric Theatre, retail.