COMMENT BY JAMES WILKINSON
When the Mirvac Group first announced the sale of its hotel portfolio a couple of months ago, international hotel chains started circling. And as the potential owners started to be revealed, it was quite clear that soon enough, Australia was going to lose a great hotel brand in The Sebel.
Most famously and occasionally notoriously, The Sebel Townhouse in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay started in 1963 what has grown to become a well-known brand spanning Australia and New Zealand.
When it first opened, The Sebel Townhouse was considered to be Sydney’s most luxurious hotel and until it closed in 2000 to become apartments, was home to the music industry’s greatest performers, including Elton John who famously had his wedding reception after getting married in Darling Point.
Over the last 12 years, The Sebel’s roots haven’t been forgotten and the brand turned into one of Australia’s finest in the upscale and upper-upscale segments.
For those in the hotel and travel industry, The Sebel has oozed charm, charisma, contemporary elegance and practicality. It was one of the brands that grew – and led the way – for serviced apartments across Australasia and Mirvac can be credited for the way it protected the brand, ensuring quality right across the board.
When Accor re-brands The Sebel properties, Australia will lose an icon. But, the hotels are going to a good home and with Mirvac staff still at the helm in a number of properties, that same high-level of service will be expected and received.
The certain disappearance of The Sebel brand will be a shame, but that is the cost of consolidation in the current economic climate. Ultimately, the industry can expect further large transactions as companies move away from non-core operations.
While this may be the biggest move in the industry since the SPHC takeover by Bass over 14 years ago, it is certainly not going to be the last.
Global chains have been circling a number of other locally-based players and with new-build opportunities having almost dried-up, it appears that acquisitions will be the way forward for cashed-up companies looking to expand presence and introduce new brands.
The big question now is: which brand is next?