A MASSIVE increase in Chinese tourists keen to sample South Australian food and wine is behind the refurbishment of a heritage building into a luxury hotel in Adelaide due to open this year.
Chinese visitor numbers increased by 40% last year according to a report from Tourism Research Australia, with growth fueled by an 85% increase in international airline seats into South Australia and targeted marketing in China.
To meet this increased demand from both leisure tourists and business travelers, hotel groups have been busy opening new properties in Adelaide.
Sitting on the corner of the main intersection in Adelaide’s CBD, the circa-1934 Adelaide Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society (CML) Building is being converted into the Mayfair Hotel Adelaide by the Malaysia-backed Adabco Group.
An international partnership is behind the $55 million development expected to open in October this year, adding to other former commercial buildings being converted into hotel and residential properties. Around the corner, another former bank building, the Westpac building, will be home to Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant brand.
Key players in the Adabco Group said they had recognised an opportunity in South Australia to develop assets in the hotel and hospitality arena.
“Mayfair Hotel will be a five-star, 170 luxury rooms hotel,” said Aaron Oh, general manager of the group, which also owns the boutique Adabco Hotel nearby on Wakefield St, and other small business in Adelaide.
He said the hotel would focus on the high and international tourism markets.
Ian Horne, the general manager and CEO of the South Australian branch of the Australian Hotels Association, said there are some 600 rooms coming online in 2014 which will help meet demand in busy times such as the festival season in March when occupancy rates reach over 85% for the entire month.
Horne said the expansion of the Adelaide Convention Centre, which has already attracted $30 million in new business in part through the South Australian Governments $2 million “bidding funds” pledge, will also lead to more demand.
“It’s a chicken and egg scenario in Adelaide,” he said. “The massive expansion of convention facilities, the medical precinct and the Riverbank and Adelaide Oval development are the drivers to attract more visitors but hotel developers confront the commercial realities of doing business in an already competitive market.”
Hotel groups that see an opportunity to cater for increased numbers include the Mayfair and two other hotels – the Quest King William South and Ibis Adelaide – opening in 2014.
The Mayfair will include a fine-dining restaurant, on-trend casual dining, designer retail outlets, “as well as a chic rooftop bar capitalising on the breathtaking views of the Adelaide hills”, as well as the main Hennessy lounge named in tribute to the building’s original architects, Hennessy, Hennessy and Co of Sydney.
Oh said the company saw Adelaide as an ideal hospitality business base, citing the climate, lifestyle, beaches, food and wine as “highly desirable” assets.
“We are looking to cater for a growing international, particularly Asian and European, tourist trade as well as corporate visitors,” he said.
Despite its aim to lure Chinese visitors, the company resisted incorporating imported features into the project, preferring to maintain the local feel, using SA-crafted furnishings and finishes, “as well as SA produce on the menus”.
He said the project would provide hospitality jobs for more than 150 with recruitment to begin soon for multi-lingual staff, “especially people fluent in Chinese”. The team will comprise a mixture of local and overseas talent.
Involvement with South Australian businesses had been of “utmost importance”, said Oh.
Local furniture makers, upholsters and suppliers were used wherever possible, “with excellent results”.
The hotel menu and wine list will strongly reflect local SA produce and wine, confirmed Adelaide chef Bethany Finn, who is executive chef for the cafes, lounges, room service, special events and functions.
The chef said everything would be house made, showcasing the state’s best culinary assets.
“We have amazing produce in South Australia – clean, green and so diverse, so why look any further? We are very conscience of food miles and the environment,” she said.
Finn promised to incorporate elements of Australia’s indigenous ingredients into a seasonally changing menu of beautiful meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables right on our doorstep.
Breakfast would be a specialty she said, “so don’t expect to see the customary hotel buffet”.
A variety of multi-cultural morning food, from congee with a twist to crab omelet will be on offer.
Adabco vowed it would be looking for more opportunities ahead, adding to a stable of Adelaide businesses, also including city-dweller-focused Wave Gourmet Supermarket on Gilles Street.
Aaron Oh, General Manager
Ph: +61 8 8210 888
45 King William Street, Adelaide