MILLIONS of dollars’ worth of hotel construction is under way across Tasmania in an unprecedented response to a visitor accommodation shortage. Tasmania experienced a record $2.49 billion visitor spend in the last year and nearly 1000 new rooms will soon come online to meet growing tourist demand. Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Michael Bailey said it was terrific to see quality hotels opening or under way – which would alleviate pressures in the growing conference market.

“With record tourist numbers from interstate and overseas we are battling to find accommodation for our guests,” Mr Bailey said. “Not only does it create hundreds of jobs for the hotels and the building industry, it will also attract more conferences throughout the state. “The increased accommodation will also slow down the growth of Airbnb, which is a significant accommodation attraction but unfortunately has depleted the volume of rentals available needed to hundreds of homeless people.”

Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania CEO Luke Martin said the building of four hotels with 800 rooms in Hobart currently was unprecedented. “We have had three new hotels in a decade and to have four being built in one year is a huge injection,” Mr Martin said. The Hyatt Centric, Ibis, Marriott and Crowne Plaza are all 4-5 star facilities under construction. “It all creates more demand for flight capacity. The airlines look at occupancy rates and so there would be no new flights until supply increases so this activity will have a lot of impact.”

Combined, the list of other planned hotel developments across the state would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The most significant is Hobart’s Floating Hotel at the Regatta Grounds in the River Derwent. A Development Application is expected to go to Hobart City Council soon. While a cost has not been released, the proposed hotel would be a hovering ring shape with 165 suites over three floors. A museum and aquarium would be a feature while smaller pleasure craft and ferries would be able to moor within it.

Project spokesman Robert Morris-Nunn said it would be a unique tourism drawcard. “It will be an obvious destination during Hobart’s many aquatically themed festivals,” he said. “Tasmania, and Hobart in particular, is establishing itself as a destination that is very different from the mainland capitals, especially in the way that the city and its natural surroundings seamlessly merge into each other. This hotel proposal responds to the fundamental logic of adding to what is special and different about Hobart, rather than replicating what is done elsewhere.”

The Launceston City Council has approved the JAC Group’s $50 million Gorge Hotel development, which includes 145 rooms, a 500-person conference centre, 200-seat bar and restaurant, function rooms, rooftop cocktail bar, day spa and gym. JAC spokesman Dean Cocker said pending any appeals, the project could start early next year and be finished by early 2022.

Work is well under way on the 86-bed Verge Hotel, opposite the Albert Hall, while the 18-room Change Overnight hotel has just opened in York St. The Kentish Council also recently approved a $20 million high-end accommodation development on the edge of Cradle Mountain. Our Cradle, by developer Simon McDermott, includes 62 beds with six suites, 36 studio apartments and 20 staff beds and is expected to be completed by 2020.

By Tom O’Meara