Chinese step up investment in Australian hotel sector

Mainland interest in sector grows strongly to become the fifth-biggest investor in country

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 5:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2014, 5:40am

Although new players in Australia's hotel sector, the Chinese are rapidly accelerating their investments this year.

"There is growing Chinese interest in hotel investment in Australia," said Oscar Westerlund, the director of strategic hotels at CBRE Hotels in Australia. "In the past three years, there have been eight major hotel investments involving first-time investors from China. This represents a significant proportion of total hotel sales in Australia."

Earlier this year, Shanghai-based Greenland launched a property project costing more than A$600 million (HK$4.3 billion) in Sydney, its first in the country, according to the Australian government website.

The Greenland Centre, which includes a high-end boutique hotel and a residential tower in the city's central business district, is expected to be completed in 2017.

Greenland's investment surpasses the total Chinese investment in Australian hotels in the past three years.

Mainland Chinese investors bought more than 970 hotel rooms in the three years for US$270 million, Westerlund said. In comparison, Hong Kong investors spent US$580 million for 1,667 hotel rooms over the same period.

"Hong Kong investors have a head start on the mainland Chinese as they have been involved in Australia for some time already," he said.

In terms of money spent on Australian hotels, Singapore leads Asian investors by more than two times the runner-up, Hong Kong, followed by Malaysia. Mainland China took the fifth spot, Westerlund said.

"The growing tourism interest from China in Australia has piqued investor interest," he said.

Chinese tourists nearly quadrupled to 685,000 last year from 177,100 in 2003. The number of Hong Kong tourists grew at a slower rate to 182,000 from 140,700.

Brisbane, the third-most populous Australian city, was seeking investment from Hong Kong and mainland China to alleviate its hotel shortage, said Steven Silvester, the director of investment attraction at Brisbane Marketing, the city's economic development board.

Because of the shortage, the city was losing 278,000 room nights and 121,000 visitors a year, equivalent to an annual income loss of A$149 million, Silvester said. "That has a direct economic impact on Brisbane."

Chinese visitors are both the largest and the fastest growing foreign source of tourists in the city, he said. "They are part of the reason why we seek investment from China and Hong Kong in hotels."

The number of Chinese tourists to Brisbane grew 20.2 per cent last year to 129,561 - 3.4 times the 38,086 in 2003 - according to official Australian data.

Arrivals from Hong Kong climbed to 19,981 from 16,865 over the same period.