Free nights, complimentary dinners and breakfasts, sparkling wine on arrival and late checkouts. The ritziest CBD hotels in Sydney and Melbourne are pulling out all the stops to entice domestic holidaymakers to rediscover their cities in the absence of almost everyone else.
While some of the hotels are starting to experience a little more life on Friday and Saturday nights, room occupancy rates without the corporate and overseas travellers who make up 80 per cent of their market are still woefully low, especially on weekdays.
And with hopes of more help from the Federal Government's tourism recovery package now dashed, many city hotels have now introduced hugely cut-price rates with lots of bonus extras in a bid to keep the home fires burning.
"We're reaching out to Australians and saying it's time to be re-introduced to the cities, and experience some of the attractions they have to offer," said Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson.
"So why not go to Sydney or Melbourne and stay a few days in a 5-star hotel for a 3 or 4-star rate, and liaise with the concierge about what to do? It's a fabulous opportunity."
The deals are wide-ranging. In the Park Hyatt Sydney, on the harbour, guests could stay for the first two nights in a King Harbour View room from $1120 per night and then have a third night free. At the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, there's a saving of 20 per cent on the bill for three nights, so the price is now down from a nightly $270 to $216, plus sparkling wine, a late checkout and flexible cancellations.
The Hilton starts its sale from March 16 when prices are slashed by up to 30 per cent till the end of the year, so stays at the newly-refurbished Hilton Sydney are from $224 a night, and at the Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, opening March 22, from $255.
The just-reopened grande dame InterContinental Sydney has a special for three nights with an upgrade, breakfasts, $100 restaurant and bar credit, parking and late checkout, for $1145, valued at $1700. The riverfront Crowne Plaza Melbourne has a similar deal for $975, valued at $1370.
"Everything's showing signs of recovery but we're a long way from being at a sustainable level," said Tamer Habib, general manager of the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay, where mid-week stays are being offered from $250 a night instead of the usual $350.
"CBD hotels have been the worst affected by COVID-19, and we're running at a loss even with JobKeeper and it's a really big disappointment the Government is not giving us any support. But it is a good opportunity for staycations for good rates."
In Melbourne, at the Clarion Suites Gateway, the 2020 Choice Hotels Asia-Pac Hotel of the Year, room prices are 20 per cent off the best available rates, at $215 instead of $269. General manager Tony Cakmar said, "It's an excellent proposition to come to the city and really enjoy everything they have to offer.
"It's wonderful to come and see the restaurants and cafes reopening, the AFL and NRL starting again, and the streets full of vibrancy. I think it's important for mental health to get out and experience it all."
Couples can meanwhile save around $500 on a staycation at The Fullerton Hotel Sydney, with a $370-a-night stay and a free dinner, mini-bar credit, breakfast and a tour. Deals at Pier One Sydney Harbour include dining, valet parking, cocktail and snack credits with a saving of $155 a night and the W Melbourne has a saving of $70.
"There are so many great packages on offer at the moment," said Dean Long, CEO of Accommodation Association. "It's the perfect time to come and stay, enjoy having your bed made for you, walk to work, have a cocktail on your way home and then dinner by the water, and be in the centre of all the action."