Australia’s very first AC Hotels by Marriott was introduced to the market this week with the opening of AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne Southbank on Thursday.

The 14th brand to enter Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio in Australia, AC by Marriott is a design-led lifestyle brand that originated in Spain.

Speaking to media, industry partners and guests at the official opening, Marriott International Area Vice President – Australia, New Zealand and Pacific, Sean Hunt, said the brand is gaining momentum globally.

“The brand was first introduced in 2011 – it was a joint venture with renowned Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan and based on the beauty of classic modern design with European soul, and Spanish roots,” he said.

“This brand is growing incredibly fast – 180 hotels around the world and growing.”

Hunt said Melbourne’s reputation as the “cultural and design capital of Australia”, makes it the perfect location for the brand’s Australian debut.

The 205-room Southbank hotel, located near the South Wharf precinct – an area which is currently undergoing a major urban renewal project – is owned by Melbourne-based mixed-use real estate developer and investment company Capital Alliance.

Dog-friendly Premium King room at AC by Marriott Melbourne Southbank

Capital Alliance Founder and Managing Director, Mohan Du, said he believes the hotel which will spark the beginning of a new landscape for Southbank.

“Four years ago, we made a commitment to continue our investment in our belief with the hotel sector,” Du told guests at the opening.

“We feel that assets like hotels are truly wonderful pieces of real estate. It is phenomenally beautiful, and it activates the area. It’s not just about the building itself, it helps the area that it is in.”

Thinking outside the box

The property’s food and beverage offering is run by Peter Rowland Group (PRG) – which is also behind retailer David Jones’ iconic Food Halls. It includes a Spanish-influenced dining experience, Sorolla, a freestanding bar, Triana Bar, which offers views of the city skyline, and pool bar, Bar de Buceo, which also offers drinks and light, alfresco style dining.

The brand’s AC Gin and Tonic is available throughout the hotel, served in a custom glass by sculptural glass artist Adam Walmon.

“This is a pilot in that we are partnering with PRG, a company that’s also owned by acquired by Capital Alliance, to provide our food and beverage solutions,” Hunt said.

“I think hotels now need to think outside of the box they need to offer something different …  differentiate themselves. I think this hotel will do just that.”

Infinity pool at AC by Marriott Melbourne Southbank

Leisure facilities include an outdoor, infinity pool spanning the width of the building, 24-hour fitness centre, and a variety of meeting and event spaces with floor-to-ceiling windows. Collaborative spaces including the brand’s signature AC Lounge – a modern co-working space by day that transforms into a social hub offering European-style tapas by night.

Modern minimalism

The hotel design, by DKO Architecture, features open and clutter-free layouts with sleek desks and open closets, reflecting the industrial warehouse style of South Melbourne.

Modern classic finishes are used throughout including natural stone tiling, textured timber, metal details, layers of drapery and brass accents.

Working in collaboration with DKO, hotel General Manager Harry Singh said they have brought to life the core elements of the AC design philosophy.

“Every detail of the experience is meticulously over-thought to create a seamless stay,” he said.

“AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne Southbank’s design truly reflects the brand’s experience. The design approach to every space is optimal comfort and utility through to modern décor, with open layouts offering functional beauty without distraction.”

Renowned interior designer and TV personality Darren Palmer, who emceed the opening event, described it as modern minimalism.

“One of the major trends out there at the moment is reinvigoration of minimalism through a 2022 lens, and if you want to know what that looks like, you’re standing in it,” he told those gathered.

“Minimalism is, in its essence, the distilling of design down to its most perfect form. It is really distilling design and making it perfectly precise.”

The hotel’s bar offers views of the city skyline

Singh also spoke about his longstanding admiration for this brand and his pride at introducing it to the Australian market.

“My love affair with this brand goes back a long time – before Marriott was part of his brand – back to 2008, when I first travelled to Spain,” he said.

“I was there for a month, I travelled the cities and ended up staying in quite a few [AC] properties and I really loved them.

“Forty years later, here I am opening the first AC by Marriott in Australia. It’s such a momentous occasion. I’m super proud. It’s probably one of the proudest moments in my 20 years with Marriott International.”

Marriott growth

The hotel marks Marriott International’s ninth hotel in Melbourne and is the third new hotel to open in the Victorian capital over the last 12 months.

Speaking about the broader business recovery, Hunt said there are many promising signs.

“COVID – to my mind – that’s in the rear vision mirror,” he said. “I think that’s behind us; we’re getting on with life, it’s just part of the fabric of society.

“Right across the system we’re seeing 60% occupancy – the business is just continuing to take off.”