Hotel Management caught up with Founder and CEO of 8Hotels, Paul Fischmann, to discuss his latest opening – the stylish Sydney Airport-based Felix Hotel – as well as future plans for the business.
Tell us about the development of your new Sydney Airport property, Felix Hotel
The hotel took 17 months to build and we secured the site about a year prior. It was a quick DA process and then we got straight into the design and started building. We opened the doors on 1 February after receiving official handover on 30 January. We have still managed to smash our budget for the month of February with very strong bookings, mainly over the last two weeks of the month. We have experienced strong interest from corporates, airlines and bookings from delayed flights.
What part of the hotel are you most proud of?
The view! Guests have a view of the whole airport and it is unparalleled in this precinct. This is a plane-spotter’s heaven and we even have telescopes installed. We designed a cool hotel that is unlike anything else – as everything else is a little bit bland around here. We made a point of doing things as differently as possible and we think we pulled it off.
Are there any meeting spaces within the hotel?
We have two meeting rooms and an outdoor area that holds up to 150 people in a cocktail setting and we also have a great board room space. We have been inundated with enquiries since we opened the doors – around three to four a day.
What is the vision for 8Hotels in 2018?
We are more of a developer than a management company. I made the decision at the end of 2013 not to continue to build a large management company and there are a lot of reasons why I decided to do that. I didn’t want to compete with Accor and Mantra, and these types of groups – it didn’t make sense for me as a private business and I didn’t want to bring in investors, or go public. We had ten management contracts and ten owned assets, of which those assets were freehold and leasehold. There were partners and investors on the freehold and a couple of partners in the leasehold, so now it is about having fewer partners.
I felt as though our quality was slipping and we had a lot of older assets and it didn’t make commercial sense to be able to turn them into what I wanted, which is to do only great stuff – not mediocre stuff. It doesn’t matter whether it is one star or five star, it is about being the best at what you do in the market.
So I was happy to capitalise and essentially restructure how I was doing things and to work with funds for the first time – it definitely wasn’t an overnight decision. We sold off a lot of hotels we owned and we amicably parted ways with management agreements that we didn’t want to be in that weren’t bringing in return. We kept the ones that were, and we started looking for new deals. One of which is the Felix Hotel. We also have a building in Surry Hills and another in Pyrmont and I am also on the hunt for others.
We are happy to do management deals with the right partners, but we will develop and sell, and we will keep as well. Unlike a management company that is purely about building a business where there are more rooms under management, we are incredibly flexible.
While some people in the industry thought we disappeared, we actually never went away. We are stronger and better than ever, my personal lifestyle is better and I have lots of time to devote to the family, as well as to new projects.
We have also invested in an online hospitality training platform called Typsy.com. As early investors, we are very passionate about this NetFlix-style training service which uses hundreds, soon to be thousands, of short video tutorials to take the archaic way of training and developing hospitality staff and bringing it into the online age for the 250 million strong worldwide hospitality workforce. Typsy has a great back end with numerous features. One of many high profile customers already using Typsy is the most prestigious hotel school in the world – Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne – in Switzerland.
Is it true that you plan to sell Felix Hotel?
Felix Hotel is a great asset and we as developers are happy to sell it. As a management company, 8Hotels are here for the long-haul and we are very committed. We love the [Felix Hotel] and we are very proud of it. It is doing brilliantly in its first month and it is only going to get better.