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Hotel giant says tourism can rebound quickly if outbreaks are defeated


A major hotel chain believes the southeast Queensland tourism market could rebound to about 80 per cent of normal levels early next year if the outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne can be snuffed out.

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But the shutdown of the Sydney tourism market last weekend has already hit Queensland hard with the industry reporting mass cancellations.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the drive market could only do so much to sustain Queensland’s tourism operators.

“To see it go backwards (last weekend) was pretty devastating,’’ Gschwind told InQueensland.

“It’s been a reversal of fortunes and it’s the lack of certainty that is really sapping energy from them.

“I’m really struggling to average out (the occupancy). North Queensland is still doing very poorly whereas on the Scenic Rim and areas like that there are places booked out for weeks.”

Hilton Hotels’ Chris Partridge said the Brisbane hotel had gone from “90 per cent occupancy earlier this year to single digits’’, but there had been a recovery and there was room for optimism.

He said the Brisbane Hilton, which would normally get about 25 per cent of its business from international travellers, was now basically targeting the weekend market. Rooms mid week were selling for $156 a night online.

“In the beginning of July when we opened the borders to NSW we saw an immediate increase, particularly on the Gold Coast,’’ Partridge said.

“A lot of people had been sitting at home for three months and were very keen to get out.’’

But across Brisbane, occupancy for accommodation providers was probably around 40 to 50 per cent in the past month. At the depth of the lockdowns it would have been worse.

But there had been a recovery.

“There is a definite uptick on Friday and Saturdays,’’ he said.

“We have not seen the wholesale cancellations (when Sydney was declared a hot spot) because we have been supported by that drive market … people from Mackay and Rockhampton, as well.

“Hilton Brisbane was trading above 70 per cent (on Saturday July 25) which is probably the first time we have seen that since March.’’

The Hilton is now packaging deals for the drive market to include breakfast and parking. It has also moved to a contactless check-in and menu as travellers look for high levels of hygiene and confidence to travel.

“From Hilton Brisbane’s perspective about 25 per cent of business would originate from international destination so we won’t be factoring that kind of business into our forecasts until mid next year, similar to what [Qantas’s] Alan Joyce said.

“If domestically, NSW and Victoria and Queensland can jump on this current outbreak in the recovery we would be confident that by January-February we would be back to 70 or 80 per cent of 2019 levels.

“You can take a pessimistic or optimistic approach and in tourism you have to be optimistic. I’ve been working now for Hilton for 30 years and there are always issues.

“I can remember the pilots’ strike in the 1990s and then September 11 and the crash of Ansett. For every dip in the cycle there is always an upside.

“It will take a few years to get over the pandemic but I am sure in two or three years we will be back to normal. There may be a few different practices that we have learnt from the pandemic but by 2023-24 we will be back in the thick of it.’’

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