New hotels opening in Sydney and Melbourne: Floor of rooms despite COVID-19

The sight of multiple cranes suspended over skylines was once a sign of a city's prosperity but now more than a few of them are attached to hotels under construction, products of a tourism boom that suddenly went bust.

Among the most prominent Sydney and Melbourne hotels due to open in the next year are two members of the five-star W brand, part of the giant US-based Marriott Hotels group. Located in The Ribbon building at Darling Harbour and in Melbourne's trendy Flinders Lane precinct, they will have a combined 887 rooms.

Several other hotels in the two cities are either under construction or listed to open in coming months, according to Tourism Australia research, even though most state and overseas borders are closed to international and domestic visitors.

In Sydney these include Crown Hotel Resort, One Circular Quay and Little National while in Melbourne there's the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Docklands and the Premier Tower Hotel.

They're set to flood markets with more rooms at inns than can possibly be filled by guests in the short to medium-term yet despite the uncertainty over future occupancy rates there is surety that a stay at the two Ws will be unlike any before them.

Sean Hunt, area vice-president of Marriott, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, said that by next year all of the hotels within the world's biggest accommodation conglomerate will be "touch free".

It means that a typical guest, pandemic or no pandemic, will be able to book, check-in and check-out online, as well as perform other tasks during a stay devoid of any contact with hotel staff.

The program was already being developed before the pandemic struck and its implementation has been accelerated. The group has also elevated its cleanliness standards as part of its new Global Cleanliness Council.

Despite historically low occupancies rising from from a low of 4 per cent to 30 per cent in June, Mr Hunt describes himself as a "forever optimist" who believes "people will travel again" with Marriott planning six more openings in the next year.


He expects occupancy rates will start to recover in 2021 as corporate travel re-emerges. Meanwhile he sees hotels and resorts relying on the weekend-centric leisure market to fill beds.

The sector has also been hurt by poor publicity generated by the use of hotels to quarantine returning travellers with the program failing in Victoria and fuelling a second wave of infections. But Mr Hunt believes the new touch-free technology will help instil more confidence in prospective guests.

"I do believe that there has been some image damage," he said. "What happened in Victoria shows you shouldn't be lax. But by 2021 all of hotels will have keyless check-in technology via all mobile phones.

"A lot of hotels have talked about introducing keyless technology but Marriott as group already had it under way well before the pandemic and now we're fast-tracking its implementation."

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