Returning briefly to Sydney, Australia for a family wedding, I opted for a boutique property rather than one of staying with a multinational brand. Recommended to me through numerous sources was QT Sydney for its aspirational interior designs and unique expression of service. Upon arrival, this was hardly the typical sense of place I have grown accustomed to.
While many brands strive to emulate these kinds of trendsetting lifestyle properties, oftentimes they miss the mark, particularly when it comes to imbuing a cohesive personality that resonates with guests. Coming back to you with an important lesson on the global trend towards experiential design, I’ve recruited the property’s general manager of hotel operations, Rhys Jones, for a short interview to explain what makes QT Sydney tick in addition to some comments about the nine-strong QT hotel collection in general.
Let’s start with the genesis of this property.
QT Hotels & Resorts’ parent company, EVENT Hospitality & Entertainment, believed that there was a place for design-driven hotels and thus opened the brand’s first property, QT Gold Coast, in 2011. Following the great success of another QT resort property, QT Port Douglas, the brand opened its first urban location, QT Sydney, with a massive transformation of the State Theatre and Gowings department store, reimagining a local historic site with an authentic Sydney heritage. As the brand’s flagship property, QT Sydney continues to be a top performer, setting new standards of style within the Australian hotel market as well as winning many accolades including the #1 Hotel in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in the 2017 Travel+Leisure World’s Best Awards.
The vibe at the QT is distinctly young. Who are the key targets?
From the beginning, we’ve targeted people interested in a creative way of living. This often ends up being a younger demographic, but this isn’t exclusive to age; it’s more of a physiographic. Our hotels are appealing to anyone ‘young at heart’ as well as those who embrace quirk and seek the unexpected. EVENT Hospitality & Entertainment started as an entertainment company and we persist as one to this day. As such, our target is a guest who is seeking to be entertained. We believe that the art of contemporary hospitality has enormous potential to entertain and engage.
The hotel’s design sense is spectacular. How did this emerge?
Just like any production, we have a team of creatives who work together to create the final show. Our bars and restaurants surpass hotel industry standards of typical F&B outlets – they’re hotspots frequented by loyal locals. From the chefs who make this a reality to Janet Hine, the costume designer who creates the uniforms for our staff, everyone on our team is part of designing this spectacle. A good example of the playful intrigue we seek to offer at every step is the elevators which use sensor technology to adjust the playlists to the number of guests onboard. For solo riders, it’s songs like “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis while for two passengers the tracks include “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers. Our Public Areas Designer & Stylist, Nic Graham, and Guest Room Architect & Stylist, Shelly Indyk, understand this initiative. For example, each minibar includes quirky items such as a Grey Goose espresso martini kits while in-room there’s also a collection of memory-evoking games.
How do you translate this design sense into a service culture?
The service team at QT is dedicated to providing a luxury experience that’s also person and bold, as they ultimately hold the power of the guest experience in their hands. The ‘Directors of Chaos’ at QT Sydney and QT Melbourne – the managers who help orient guests – are a perfect example of this. They offer the same luxury experience that any Les Clefs d’Or would, yet they’re decked out in leather and red wigs. In stride with our design ethos of retaining the department store’s most distinctive features, our chefs and mixologists are encouraged to purchase local, unique ingredients while our room amenities are similarly sourced from well-known regional businesses. When taken all together, the people who work for our hotels take pride in working for properties that embrace its bold identity that’s also grounded in the local community, history and culture.
Can the QT concept can be expanded outside of Australia?
Definitely. We have already opened two properties outside of Australia – QT Museum Wellington and, most recently, QT Queenstown which opened in December 2017. We think the desire for customers to engage in an entertaining yet luxurious experience is worldwide.
As a rough estimate, how much in incremental ADR can be attributed to the design element?
The contemporary travel movement continues to grow, and QT Sydney saw an occupancy increase from 76.4% in 2016 to 83.6% in 2017. This was also reflected in ADR growth from $227 in 2016 to $238 in 2017 (up 4.9%). Additionally, and probably more telling with regards to the effects of design and experience, RevPAR was up 14.8% year-over-year, a very significant number when compared to our mainstream hotel brand, Rydges, which only grew by 3.7% year-over-year. Taken together, this demonstrates the successful effect of our overarching experience, encompassing everything from design to our restaurants, our spas and all other amenities.