Cicada Lodge, Nitmiluk National Park

Accommodation Hotel GM’s Conference

Each year Hospitality NT hosts an Accommodation General Managers’ Conference, which sees our Accommodation Division Members from all over the NT get together and listen to expert guest speakers. Like many meetings and conferences over the past year, in addition to Todd Grierson and his team at Doubletree by Hilton Darwin hosting the event, the meeting was also a Zoom meeting.

Once again, the Minister for Tourism and Hospitality, Hon. Natasha Fyles MLA opened the Conference with not only a tourism update, but provided valuable information relating to COVID-19 as the Health Minister. All attendees acknowledged the hard work of frontline health staff in maintaining zero community transmission in the NT, which has provided a great opportunity for our local hospitality and tourism industry to rebound.

However, there was concern expressed by some attendees of the significant increase in the capacity of the Howard Springs quarantine facility, coupled with the switch from management of this facility from the National Trauma Response Unit to NT Government and the potential for COVID-19 to spread out of the facility.

The Minister reassured attendees that strict protocols will continue and that she was confident that the facility’s reputation for ‘gold standard’ will continue.

The Minister outlined the NT’s vaccination schedule, with the goal for all eligible NT residents to be fully vaccinated by October 2021.

There still is not a lot of information or plans that the NT Government is aware of the Federal Government reopening the Australian borders, whether in a ‘travel bubble’ with other countries who have a high level of vaccinated residents.

The Conference’s next speaker was STR Regional Manager Pacific, Matthew Burke who provided a detailed examination of Australia’s and the NT’s accommodation hotel performance over the COVID-19 period, as well as forward bookings.

Matthew explained that regional areas throughout Australia performed much better than the capital cities and that the recovery from a short sharp 5 day lockdown performed better than a medium-term partial restriction method, such as occurred in Sydney over the Christmas period.

Given the NT’s performance in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and getting the hospitality and tourism industries opened for locals as much as possible after 6 weeks shut down, our accommodation hotel market is performing better than other jurisdictions.

Matthew explained that the ADR for Darwin recovered from 2019, with a desire from locals to get away, but with very limited choice. For instance, NYE in Darwin achieved the best RevPar in the country and Saturdays were the busiest nights over the past 6 months.

The forward bookings for both Darwin and Alice Springs accommodation were solid, and Matthew noted that there were still rooms closed at the moment, due to come back online in the coming weeks.

Tourism NT’s Executive General Manager of Marketing, Tony Quarmby, gave an overview of the Department’s recent tourism campaigns, including the recently released ‘Seek Different’ media blitz, which seeks to encourage domestic visitors to the NT.

The feeling was quite positive, with solid bookings from the Ghan (most were postponed trips from 2020) and a feeling that the drive market will be positive. The only question mark is the flight capacity. It was only after the Conference finished, that the Federal Government’s billion-dollar aviation plan was announced on the nightly news. While the finer details on this scheme are not known, it is hoped that flights to Darwin, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock will be discounted from major capital cities airports.

More updates were provided by Migration NT Director Pompea Sweet and Manager Kevin Kadirgamar, which outlined the work they were doing with the Federal Government regarding our Designated Area Migration Agreement.

Hospitality NT Gold Partner, Hostplus NT Account Manager, Rachel Gallagher provided an update on the superannuation fund, as well as updates relating to insurance, and proposed legislation. At the time of the Accommodation Conference, the Federal Government is still set to legislate the increase in superannuation guarantee from 9.5% to 10.00% on 1 July 2021.

Sarah Andrews