Late last year the Spirit of Tasmania sailed into the new terminal at Geelong’s Port for the first time.
And in the city’s centre, the Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre is slated to open in 2025, right when the West Gate Tunnel and related works to make Geelong more easily accessible to the rest of Melbourne are due for completion.
In 2026, Geelong will be a host and venue for the Victorian Commonwealth Games, at the doorstep to some of Victoria's most popular tourist hotspots.
The city is firmly in the crosshairs for tourists. But it has one big problem. It needs hotels, and it needs them quickly.
“We are about 1000 beds short in our offering,” City of Greater Geelong mayor Trent Sullivan says, referring to what is needed ahead of the Games in 2026.
“So we are very welcoming of investment in the development of short-stay accommodation in our region.”
Those visitors will come in large numbers: the Spirit of Tasmania line moved to the new terminal in part to ensure it could berth larger ships currently under construction.
Geelong expects around 450,000 passengers to come into port on the Spirit of Tasmania each year.
They are expected to spend $57.3 million in Geelong and $174.1 million in Victoria by 2030.
Cruise ships are also returning to Geelong after a long break due to Covid.
The 2000 to 3000-person athlete’s village in Geelong earmarked for the Commonwealth Games will also bring behind it a retinue of fans, family, staff, volunteers and coaches.
All these tourists will require services, food and most importantly, accommodation.
Some of that is already under way.
“So at the moment, we’ve got nearly 4000 rooms in the region,” Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine director Tracy Carter says.
“And 1100 in approved developments or that are under construction.”
One of the developers already involved is Franze Developments, who is building the Geelong Quarter.
It will include the first hotel to be built in Geelong in the past 20 years.
A mixed-use project designed by Architectus, it will have two apartment components and a much-needed hotel at Ryrie Street.
IHG Hotels and Resorts will operate the new Holiday Inn and Suites-branded hotel component of the project, which Franze Developments will retain ownership of.
“The hotel has 180 rooms,” Franze Developments’ founder and managing director, Paul Franze, says.
“Essentially, 157 hotel rooms and 23 suites and the suites are for medium to longer-term stays.”
Franze Developments bought the site in 2017 for around $7.7 million when they first realised that there was a need not just for tourism accommodation but also for housing.
“The data then suggested that there was going to be a shortage of accommodation in Geelong and obviously the city is growing organically,” Franze said.
“Then sort of piggyback that on to the Commonwealth Games.
“The Spirit of Tasmania now has a 30-year lease and then there is the fast train and then just generally the whole city is growing at a rapid rate.”
While the Holiday Inn at Geelong Quarter is on track to open its doors in April this year, other projects are also in the works.
“There’s a Quest around the corner from the Geelong Quarter,” Carter says.
“Some of the others don’t have brands yet but they are all very much focusing on the urban areas of Geelong and on the opportunities within close proximity to the cultural precinct and to where the Convention and Exhibition Centre will be built.”
Pellicano is the developer behind what will be the second Quest hotel in Geelong at 71-77 Gheringhap Street.
Known as Quest Geelong Central, it has a development cost of $70 million with construction already under way.
Peddle Thorp and RPC Architects designed the plans for the hotel, which is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of this year.
But while the 1100 rooms under construction will help, by 2032, Carter says another 2200 will be needed along with the necessary infrastructure to support it.
“Ease of access into the region is obviously an important thing for tourism,” Carter says, referring to proposed plans for a high-speed railway line to Geelong and the completion of the West Gate Tunnel and Freeway works.
“We need experiences here to drive the demand and all of that supporting infrastructure that makes it easier for people to get here.
“It’s a critical part of the visitor experience.”
And if those visitor numbers keep increasing as expected, it spells opportunity for developers who can help provide them with a bed for the night.
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