Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sydney's tartan invasion pipes in record tourism results for the city

Edinburgh Military Tattoo surprises Sydney tourism officials with piping hot results

5 February 2010: While major events such as the Australian Tennis Open, Grand Prix and Ashes cricket predictably fill city hotels to capacity, the most surprising "house-full" event in Sydney for a number of years has been the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which will sell out Sydney's hotels for up to four days straight.

This weekend, visitors to Sydney without pre-arranged hotel accommodation will struggle to find a room any closer than 50km from the Sydney Football Stadium, where the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is being staged.

The Accor hotel group, Sydney's largest hotel operator – with over 30 hotels ranging from the luxury Sofitel and Pullman brands through to the economy and budget Ibis and Formule 1 hotels – has reported that all of its hotels have put up the "house full" signs for three days in a row, with the group recording an occupancy rate of 96.7% for the week, the best performance in over two years.

Accor's Darling Harbour hotels – Novotel, Grand Mercure, and Ibis – have gone one night better with four nights in a row of 100% occupancy.

"It has been phenomenal," says Accor's Darling Harbour General Manager, Lorraine Mercuri. "There are a few small conferences going on in the precinct, but basically this has been a tartan-led tourism boom for Sydney.

"We started getting bookings mid last year when details first came out, but the scale of the demand didn't really come onto the radar until late last year when hotels throughout Sydney had to start declining regular business because groups from NSW regional centres, interstate and even overseas started taking up sizable allotments specifically for the Tattoo.

"It certainly has attracted the more mature market, but we also have seen younger fans book in. And fortunately, most have elected to leave the bagpipes to professional players, even if the city has been awash with tartan this week.

"I think the fact that so much business has come from regional areas it is a vote of confidence in the economy. With all the rain over the past six months and greater optimism about the future of the agricultural sector, many people from regional Australia have decided to come to the 'big smoke' for a show and an extended break. The whole of the city will benefit, even if it has disrupted the travel arrangements for some business travelers who simply can't get a room at short notice."

Ms Mercuri said that the strong tourism flow extends throughout the month, with corporate travel and conferences taking over when the tartan brigade returns home. After a strong January performance, Sydney hotels are set to enjoy their strongest first-quarter since 2007.

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