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Exclusive: AHL’s massive QT brand plans

QT Gold Coast

EXCLUSIVE BY JAMES WILKINSON

Amalgamated Holdings Limited’s (AHL) Managing Director, David Seargeant, says he believes the boutique segment is the category to chase at present – and that’s a major reason behind the company’s significant growth plans for its new QT brand.

“I think boutique is where the growth is,” he told HM on the eve of AHL’s redevelopment of its Market Street premises in Sydney.

AHL is planning to have at least three QT hotels operating in Australia by the end of 2012: QT Gold Coast, which is currently operating and has just commenced a refurbishment of all guest rooms, due by December 2011; QT Sydney, a new, 200-room hotel on the corner of George and Market Streets in Sydney; and QT Port Douglas, currently the Rydges Sabaya Resort, which will undergo a refurbishment of its lobby and general areas, along with the addition of an outdoor cinema, before re-branding in April 2012.

“The flagship of the brand will be what we are starting to develop now in Sydney,” he says. “And to make way for that project, we have just moved into our temporary offices.

Seargeant says AUD$65 million is being spent on the new hotel, which was formerly home to AHL’s headquarters and the former Gowings store. Rooms in the property will start at 38-square-metres each.

“It will be very high-end designer-style like the leading boutique hotels in New York City,” he says.

Seargeant says AHL won’t be stopping there with QT, with additional properties located in key leisure destinations.

“We have further plans for the brand, including two resorts located in ski areas,” he says. “We are looking to develop new hotel infrastructure in Thredbo and part of that will include a QT hotel.

“We are also looking to develop the back section of Rydges Queenstown and that will be a QT as well,” he says.

While QT is where the future excitement is for AHL, the company has still been growing its popular Rydges brand.

AHL just took over Holiday Inn Wellington and re-branded it as a Rydges, while also buying out the remaining 75% of Rydges Rotorua it didn’t own. The company was also recently appointed to manage a property at Darwin Airport, along with The Reef House and Spa in Palm Cove, formerly with Mirvac. Rydges has also added Albury to the network, following a re-branding of the former Chifley Hotel.

Seargeant says the company is also looking at expanding into the 3-star market, with another new brand called ‘Abode’.

“We own some land at Blacktown (in western Sydney), which is currently a drive in,” he says. “We are turning that into a 120-room, contemporary and high-tech 3-star hotel.”

The new Abode hotel will be located next to a new Wet ‘n’ Wild theme park by Village and Seargeant believes that will have a significant impact on business.

He says there is opportunity to grow the Abode brand, however, AHL wants to use the Blacktown property “as a test case”, before embarking on a national roll-out.

About the hotel development market generally, Seargeant believes “there’s a lot of opportunity out there”.

“By the end of the year, new development will start to work, particularly in well-performing areas,” he says.

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