Little National Hotel Sydney, General Manager, Sandra Bellamy

Since opening in 2020, Little National Hotel Sydney has navigated the highs and lows of the last two years and come out the other side stronger than ever. With leisure and corporate travel back with a bang, guests are embracing this modern, tech-centric hotel, as General Manager Sandra Bellamy tells Ruth Hogan.

Opening a new hotel mid-pandemic isn’t without its challenges. What were those first 12-18 months like for the business? 

We opened Melbourne Cup Day, November 3, 2020, with very few bookings and an enthusiastic team. The bookings started to pick up and we were holding strong at 90% for NYE; then crash, the North Shore lockdown caused a cancellations frenzy, we ended up just doing 19%. The experience was challenging – a new team, many new to the industry and a gorgeous new hotel with few guests – it was heart breaking. It was difficult to balance the shifts and to have the hotel in full operation, but we kept our doors open and our staff on the rosters. An advantage, during preopening, was it allowed us to recruit the best talent from outside the hotel industry and to also recruit and help some colleagues who had been made redundant. And it gave us the opportunity to get everything right.

The rooftop bar at Little National Sydney

When you look back now, are there any important learnings that you took away that period?

We have grown so much from the pandemic, we have learnt how important looking after the team is, communication, nurturing and recognition, the need to feel that their role is secure became paramount. The calmness came from the top within Doma, and Pat Lonergan rallied the leaders daily with us all sharing updates about our strategies. As a smaller company we were able to make changes instantly. We ensured that communication with customers was seamless, made it easy to make booking changes and get refunds, and the guests in house were treated with absolute kindness and care.

Now that leisure and corporate travel have bounced back, what type of traveller is Little National Hotel drawing through the doors?

It’s been amazing. Firstly, the stay cays – locals treating themselves, even from just across the bridge or the east. Then it was the corporates, small businesses keen to get back in front of their customers; and now it’s the internationals, the larger and independent companies, as well as, surprisingly, the cruise ship business, all looking for the number one hotel on TripAdvisor! We’re trying to identify our customer. They’re the on trend, mature business traveller that wants a modern tech venue to do business; fashionable and sexy.

Little National Sydney features 230 rooms with super king-sized beds

The guestrooms at the property demonstrate a really clever use of space. Can you explain how you’ve maximised comfort and cosiness in a compact setting?

Our rooms are designed with everything that you need and nothing that you don’t. The layout has been pieced together by our owners and our director of hotels based on their experiences as they travel, and cleverly pulled together by Bates Smart. We’ve made sure to have quality products and finishes in the room: AH Beard Arms of Morpheus Super King beds, full size windows, automated controls for full blackout blinds, delicate curtains, quality glassware, Nespresso coffee machines, Silver Bullet hairdryers, Bluetooth speakers, Chromecast, at-the-touch virtual mini bar and Appelles guest amenities. We’re always keeping the environment in mind with 100% biodegradable slippers for our guests along with Brogo fluffy robes.

The lounge area invites guests to relax and socialise in comfort

It’s refreshing to see such beautifully designed accessible rooms. Was accessibility a key consideration in all aspects of the hotel design?

The Little National Hotel is completely accessible with the latest design requirements throughout, and there are no stairs to contend with. Our accessible rooms are considerately designed around an easy guest movement experience, with access to both sides of the bed, larger shower recess and each is located at the corner of the hotel offering Barangaroo harbour glimpses.

Technology plays a powerful role in maximising convenience at the hotel. What tech features do guests most appreciate? 

Feedback from guests shows that they are embracing technology. They love the simple functionality and connectivity throughout. The kiosk to check in and check out provides a seamless experience. At first, it was a novelty but now it’s a preferred option for the regulars.  Our in-room Chromecast is popular and there’s a high usage of the in-room Bluetooth speakers. We have a virtual minibar, guest service requests and express check out all available on the Tapendium tablets. I feel that guests mostly appreciate the ease of use and high quality of products – we succeed at every touchpoint.

The ultra-modern, slimline lobby at Little National Hotel Sydney.

While there’s no F&B venue onsite, you’ve managed to create a kind of home-away-from-home where guests can feel comfortable to order in. Can you explain how you’ve done that? 

We’re surrounded by the best restaurants in Sydney, so we encourage our guests to go out and explore. However, if they want to order in, we enable that choice. To support the dining experience for Uber Eats etc., we invite the guest to order to their room or to the rooftop bar; we provide bamboo cutlery and accessories as needed, and we meet the delivery at the door and deliver to the guest’s location swiftly. We want our guest to have what they feel like from the best possible venues.

Guests can avail of a bright and airy co-working space

What makes the hotel’s most loyal guests keep coming back to this hotel?

Service. Our service is highly regarded, personal and professional, friendly and warm. The regular guests enjoy the entire property experience, the uniqueness of the Lounge Bar/Library workspace facilities – it’s welcoming, and they can be productive whilst relaxing. Our guests also enjoy that they can chose to interact with the LN team, or they can have a completely automated stay with all tech touchpoints. They have choices and they chose the experience that suits their needs of the day.