‘What Owners Want’: Hotels Director, Steve Skarott talks innovation and a focus on domestic leisure at AHICE 2020

In a room ‘permeated by a sense of optimism’ on Day 1 at the 2020 Australian Hotel Industry Conference and Exhibition (AHICE) in Sydney, Australia, Salter Brothers Director of Hotels, Steve Skarott joined a panel discussion on the topic of ‘What Owners Want.’ 

Moderated by Nigel Greenaway, Colliers International Director of Hotels, the panel discussion centred around hotel brands needing to add value to their offering during these challenging times rather than ‘chase occupancies by lowering rates to unsustainable and damaging levels’.

So, how is Salter Brothers responding to the challenge with its 7 hotels across the eastern seaboard of Australia?

A focus on Technology & Innovation

Technology and innovation are at the core of the Salter Brothers Group culture, values and operations.

On the Panel when asked ‘how hotels can avoid adding to their cost base during a period of low occupancy’, Steve’s reply centred around technology and innovation, saying “I’ve seen a lot of innovation in other sectors, particularly restaurants and fast food retailers and as hoteliers, we need to look at the opportunities out there and put it into practice.  Customers are a lot more comfortable using technology. We have to embrace that, push for change, set new benchmarks, deliver services differently and in a way our customers are seeking.”


Skarott said “the COVID crisis has driven the Hotels team at Salter Brothers to not only remove costs from the hotel operations but also think about how we can deliver services and product differently in the future, while operating at profit margins similar or better than before, on lower revenues. For us, it’s about driving innovation, both in technology and service delivery”.

Across the Portfolio, the Group is introducing automation and self-service, and for many modern day guests these innovations are well received and most often preferred over traditional models.  One such example of this is the new and innovative technology platform offered by AirService, an investee company of Salter Brothers Private Equity Fund.  AirService’s Guest Experience Tablet (GET) is revolutionising the food and beverage experience for hotel guests who are travelling for work and leisure and want the digital convenience and flexibility to order what they want, from their hospitality venue of choice, and at their leisure.

“Opening up new opportunities for guests to experience food, wine and customer service offerings from the comfort of their own rooms, is a key driver for the future traveller and one that Salter Brothers is focused on delivering through technology and service”, said Steve.


A focus on the Domestic Leisure Market

Approximately 76% of Salter Brothers Hotel Group guests in CY2019 were Australian and New Zealand residents, reflecting the domestic focus of the hotels in the portfolio.  Given this and the expectation that domestic travel and business activities are driving demand as part of a new ‘Covid-normal’, the Group is well placed to capture this domestic demand quickly.

As part of the Panel discussion, Steve Skarott spoke of revenue recovery plans and the development of additional product shelf to attract domestic leisure for city escapes and beachside retreats, and also the establishment of new distribution partners to gain greater access to leisure consumers.

“The restaurants and bars of our recently refurbished Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach and Crowne Plaza Melbourne Hotels have been redeveloped and reimagined. Under the leadership of Matthew Butcher, Salter Brothers Head of Restaurants and Bars, the new food and beverage offerings across these hotels are on-trend, representative of a diverse range of globally inspired food and beverage styles and experiences, and most of all, destinations in their own right. When combined with our recently refurbished hotel products, a great leisure experience can be explored and enjoyed”, said Steve.

With many more Australians now having to holiday at home, the Salter Brothers portfolio of hotels is poised for the recovery, with value-added offerings the focus for our Hotel teams in the year ahead.

Read more about Salter Brothers Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach and Crowne Plaza Melbourne refurbishments, and also how Shutters Restaurant at Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach was recognised last week with a Gold Award for Interior Design at the Sydney Design Awards.