Vibe Subiaco is expected to open in October 2022.

Western Australia reopened its border on Thursday after shutting itself from the rest of the country for almost two years.

More than 23,000 passengers were scheduled to travel to and from Perth this week on Qantas and Jetstar flights alone, Qantas said, as families and friends seek to reunite and corporate travellers take to the skies.

TFE Hotels, Regional General Manager WA and NT, Matthew Richardson, told HM exclusively that tourism operators around the state “breathed a sigh of relief” when the border finally reopened.

“We’re excited to welcome guests back from throughout Australia and the rest of the world over the coming days, weeks, and months,” Richardson said.

“The last 697 days have not been without their challenges. Business, leisure, conferencing, and event travel has been severely impacted and non-existent at times. They breed us tough in the west and, at TFE, we haven’t been idle whilst the borders were shut.”

TFE Hotels focused on team health and wellbeing, and communication while the border was shut, something that Richardson said has been a key to retaining our wonderful team. The company also launched Vibe Hotel Subiaco and rooftop Storehouse Perth Subiaco restaurant in October 2020.

“Pleasingly, West Aussies have fallen in love with what we do – so much so that our Storehouse restaurant received our first hatted rating earlier this year. So, we look forward to showcasing those views over Perth from the rooftop of the Vibe, as inbound visitors return to our shores,” he added.

Looking forward, Richardson believes Western Australia is in a solid position to cope with increased Covid 19 cases.

“Whilst we will face some challenges in the coming months with recruitment and juggling leave for those that contract Covid, we’re looking forward to just getting on with the job and welcoming everybody back,” he said.

Hilton sees ‘solid signs of recovery’

Hilton Hotels Area Vice President, APAC, Paul Hutton, said the company looks forward to welcoming domestic and international travellers back to WA properties, but said the border reopening is just the first step on the road to the state’s tourism recovery.

“The pent-up demand for travel is real and we are already seeing solid signs of recovery,” Hutton told HM exclusively.

“At Hilton, we’re confident that in partnership with our great owners and with the support of our fantastic Western Australian team members, we will see meaningful increases in demand as domestic and international travel returns to the state.”

While Hutton said Hilton’s four operating WA properties faced a substantial set back, the Group has remained resilient and continued opening and signing properties across the state.

“Last November, we opened Hilton Garden Inn Albany, our first Hilton Garden Inn branded property in Australasia. Late 2020 saw the opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Waterfront and the signing of Hilton Garden Inn Busselton,” he said.

“So, despite the challenges of the border closure to our operating hotels, we were able to grow our pipeline with these positive openings and announcements over the last few years.”

Hilton also revealed a $45 million refurbishment of Parmelia Hilton in early 2021 after 10 months of renovation.  

Hilton is optimistic about travel returning in the domestic leisure market first but believes Perth hotels may struggle due to the slower return of business travellers.

“As the centre of Western Australia’s business industry, it will be most challenging for Perth hotels which traditionally saw a large percentage of business travellers,” he said.

Hyatt sees growth in corporate bookings from WA

For Hyatt Hotels, which only has one WA hotel in Perth, currently operating as a dual-zone quarantine facility, the benefit will be in the WA market coming to the east coast where most of its hotels are located.

Hyatt Hotels Regional Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Pacific and Indonesia, Kate Atkinson, said the company is already seeing an uptick in corporate bookings from WA residents.

“Overall, we’re seeing the corporate market really start to come back,” Atkinson told HM exclusively. “In the past few months, after lockdown, it was only really those small-, medium-sized businesses that were traveling – they weren’t bound by strict rules and regulations that a lot of these national or multinational companies have.

“We are now seeing a lot of corporates, global and national companies, start to lift restrictions on travel, and starting to see some good forward bookings from a lot of corporate businesses based out of WA, especially mining and resources.”

Atkinson said there is also some pickup in the leisure market with forward bookings. A large chunk of the Hyatt’s loyalty members are based in WA, so the business is now targeting those members to book with Hyatt when leaving the state to visit family or friends.

The Hyatt Regency in Perth is currently operating as a dual-zone quarantine hotel, using 30% of the hotel for bookings, while the remainder of the hotel is dedicated to isolating travellers, operating completely separately with different staff and entry/exit points to the rest of the property.

“We are seeing a little bit of pickup in that non-quarantine business, and with events, where [we will] have national attendees arrive to attend a conference or an event in person which is exciting,” she said.

IHG hotels to exit quarantine program

IHG Hotels and Resorts also had a number of hotels involved in the quarantine program, but these are set to re-open to travellers in the coming weeks.

“We had a number of our hotels requisitioned to assist WA Health manage through the Covid pandemic and we’re thrilled that these hotels are now transitioning out of the program and excited for them to re-open to the public after an extensive 6-week refresh and deep clean,” IHG Australasia & Pacific, Managing Director, Matt Tripolone, told HM exclusively.

“The timing with the border coming down couldn’t be better.”

IHG hotels in WA will ramp up marketing and commercial activities targeted at leisure and business guests now looking to travel to Perth.

“While we are realistic that the recovery will not be instantaneous and it may take time for confidence to return, we are confident that we have the teams, strategies and tools in place to drive positive momentum and lead in recovery,” he said.

IHG is hopeful, now that the border is open, it can attract both the domestic and, crucially, the important international labour market to ensure hotels are well staffed and able to offer a high level of service.