New sign city is healing in post-Covid world

New data shows hotels are now sitting at 60 per cent full occupancy, compared with only 40 per cent in January. Tourism Accommodation Australia’s Dougal Hollis said it was “hugely exciting and a bit of a relief’’ for a sector hit hard by lockdowns. “Essentially, we’ve jumped 50 per cent since January which is great and certainly heading in the right direction,’’ he said.“But just for context, if you look pre-Covid, you were looking at high-70s to low-80s.“So even though we’ve jumped 50 per cent, we’ve probably another 20 percentage points to go.’’Research by hospitality data analyst STR shows that Melbourne hotel occupancies surged in the past quarter, with major events, theatre and footy helping restore the city’s ­appeal. The Formula One Australian Grand Prix, which drew record crowds to Albert Park, helped lift occupancy rates to more than 65 per cent in April.Hoteliers have found guests choosing to spend more and treat themselves. Guests are also more spoilt for choice, with about 6500 new hotels added between 2021 and 2024, including 2000 new hotel rooms opening in Melbourne in the past year.Mr Hollis said this equated to about an 18 per cent increase in the city’s hotel stock and included luxury brands such as Shangri-La, Ritz Carlton and W Melbourne. Yarra Hotel Group managing director Norman Khan said opening Oakwood Premier Melbourne last December had been risky.But business was starting to boom, especially with ­Skybar Melbourne and Strato Restaurant recently unveiled on level 40 of the Southbank hotel.“We certainly feel things are heading in the right direction and the industry will be pretty close to fully back soon,’’ he said.The state government will inject funds into Victoria’s ­hotels and hospitality businesses, on Sunday announcing a $5.6m initiative to create 320 jobs in the tourism sector. Hundreds of jobseekers will be offered paid training – as well as 12 months of secure employment – in housekeeping and the preparation of food and beverages.Groups traditionally more vulnerable to unemployment such as 18-to-25-year-olds, people from culturally diverse backgrounds and disabled and Indigenous Victorians will be prioritised for the roles. Industry Support and ­Recovery Minister Ben Carroll said: “We know for major events, whether it’s Billy Joel, Hamilton … or that big event coming in 2026 called the Commonwealth Games, that we need to have a thriving ­hospitality sector.”

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