BOB East is responsible for overseeing operations at Australia’s second largest accommodation operator. With 15,000 rooms under management, Mantra Group’s properties are located across major tourism destinations and include brands such as Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree.
How do you see the corporate events industry moving forward after a lackluster 2009-10 FY?
We are very positive about the prospects for this sector moving forward. The next 12 months will be the strongest in many years. We are already experiencing a significant uplift in booking activity for large residential conferences across all regions. Corporations understand the importance of connecting people and entertaining staff and clients.
Which cities are leading the charge back and where does the Gold Coast fit in?
Sydney has experienced the greatest uplift in demand and pricing. All other capital cities are strengthening and we are particularly positive about Perth, Darwin and Adelaide. Melbourne has seen a number of new hotels recently open and may struggle in the short term to match the new supply levels. Gold Coast tourism numbers are holding firm. The Gold Coast performed better than most markets through the downturn and we expect the next year to trade ahead of last year.
What about this once vibrant and economic powerhouse that we live in? What in your view is required to lead the city forward so that the tourism industry will best benefit?
The tourism industry is travelling reasonably well compared to the greater Gold Coast economy. The Gold Coast has been very reliant on the property market and the current downturn has impacted heavily. On the bright side I have tremendous confidence in the entrepreneurial ability of local businesses and I see greater diversification in the local economy than ever before. To stay competitive we need to invest in marketing the region as well as taking a well-considered approach to planning for infrastructure and upgrade projects for our city. The Gold Coast will rebound strongly. Just how strongly will depend on the decision we make on these projects.
Peppers has demonstrated a vote of confidence in Broadbeach given the deal with Niecon in what will be the first 5 star hotel in more than a decade. What was the rationale there?
It will be the largest property in the Peppers portfolio and it represents the first foray into the metropolitan hotel sector. We are delighted, we love Broadbeach and love the Gold Coast. There is everything here with the convention centre, shopping, retail and restaurants. It’s really becoming a considerable hub for the Gold Coast.
Mantra employs 3500 people. What changes have had to be adjusted in terms of the way you lead such a large team?
Our first priority is to attract and retain the very best teams in hospitality. We spend an enormous amount of time and effort developing our teams and creating a service culture which is second to none. We view this by no means as a chore. One strength, I can lay claim to is that I have always surrounded myself with energetic and motivated people who share my values. Mantra group recently won the Best Hotel group in Australia at the national AFTA Awards and I believe that the entire team at Mantra Group contributed to this achievement. I’m pleased they received such high recognition.
What are the key qualities that you bring to the role?
I enjoy working with great teams. Beyond that I have an absolutely clear vision to create the favorite hotels group in Australia. We have the ability to create something special and I feel privileged to be in a position to take this group to great heights.
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