Travellers are exploring their own state while borders are closed.
Travellers are exploring their own state while borders are closed.

Closed state and national borders have not entirely stopped Australians from taking holidays but instead, just narrowed the playing field in terms of where they can go.

While the nation grapples with COVID-19, enforcement of these restrictions has enticed those eager to take a break to look within their own state to discover destinations they might never have considered.

“Many hotels are looking creatively, like much of the hospitality sector, which has had to move to takeaway food options. Hotel operators such as Ovolo are offering ‘Restaurant in Room’ private dining concepts to Guestrooms when the restaurants may not be available,” said Marie Colangelo, JLL Project Director – Hotels. The concept was trialled at Ovolo Nishi Canberra and has since expanded to Sydney’s Ovolo Wooloomooloo.

Conversely, some hotels are enticing leisure guests by building more value into the price. Much like a cruise ship, some properties have opted to release package holidays whereby some meals beyond breakfast can be enjoyed at part of a stay – both at the hotel’s restaurant and by partnering with local restaurants eager to attract diners. In some cases, entertainment is also being provided in the form of vouchers to experience local attractions – providing welcome foot traffic and a reason to open for many operators. It is possible this new thinking could shape the hotel offering permanently.

JLL Project Director – Hotels, Marie Colangelo.

Prominent hotel investor, Dr Jerry Schwartz of the Schwartz Family Company, is one such hotel owner doing just that. Speaking at a recent JLL webinar, Dr Schwartz was full of praise for the idea.

“I think that is the sort of thing we need to provide in our resorts,” he said.

“As it turns out too, with the COVID period, there are all these regulations for meals. The way we’re doing it now is you have to allocate a time for guests and that’s almost like having your meal shift on a cruise ship. Not only for breakfast but also for lunch and dinner.

“Also, you’ve got to provide people with things to do in between meals and that in line with the facilities one wants to provide in resorts. I think it’s a great opportunity,” Schwartz added.

Dr Jerry Schwartz is the owner of the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.

Accor Pacific Director of Development, Brett Forer, says that there are hotels in some regional destinations, such as Orange and Bendigo, benefiting from a blending of leisure and corporate business by setting up for single-room occupancy mid-week and varying the room offering for families to utilise on the weekend.

“More and more we’re working with our franchisees as we start to examine a lot of these markets and how the changing behaviours of consumers are evolving and will continue to evolve post-COVID in terms of a far greater focus on leisure markets within Australia.

“For those that have been traditionally stronger in mid-week corporate markets, it is important to try and set up to start attracting a good leisure segment on the weekends as well.”

Colangelo said that from JLL’s analysis, the retiree market is one such market capable of helping to fill the mid-week vacancies for hotels and resorts.

Quest Orange is a new addition to the accommodation scene in the NSW town.

Factoring in present financial constraints, many hotels are refocusing their strategies to help customers get the most out of their stay, maintaining safety while being mindful of operational costs. Measures being taken by hotels to save on operating costs include opening the restaurant for shorter periods each day, reducing the frequency of maintenance schedules, investing in renewable power sources or even closing rooms or floors. For most of us, times have never been tougher.

Forer said there were huge opportunities in resorts expanding their offering to more inclusive operating models over the next 18-24 months.

“For a long time, a lot of Australians have travelled overseas to a lot of resort destinations and some of the appeal of that has been the all-inclusiveness of some of these resorts and the facilities they provide.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for Australia over the next 18-24 months in terms of how we reshape and look at resorts. I think everyone has been at home for a long time now and are tired of cooking and cleaning for themselves and want to go away and not worry about it. That’s what we really need to be selling right now.

Malua Bay, south of Batemans Bay on the NSW coast.

“Elements such as all-inclusive or part-inclusive are some ways we can creatively look at how we’re selling our resorts and our products.

“We’ve got amazing resorts that sit across the country, in amazing locations, that I think Australians are going to start to rediscover over the next 24 months. And it’s a period of time where we have a captured audience of Australians who don’t need to travel very far and if we give them those experiences that they’ve been looking overseas for, it’s a great opportunity to keep that traveller in Australia into the future.”

Colangelo added: “Travellers will also be looking for safe and clean experiences that comply with current social distancing measures and hotel operators are well placed to offer this to guests”.

For more information from JLL on the Regional Market Landscape, watch their recent webinar on the topic – CLICK HERE.