04 June 2019

Chroma Group – Why Hiring Hotel Experts is Fundamental To Success

For first time hotel developers, the perception that a hotel project is just like a residential project, couldn’t be further from the truth. Hotels are true commercial projects, they have an ongoing life and need to maintain high standards for a long period of time and they need to be refreshed at regular intervals to keep up with the existing and new competition. Residential apartments are sold once and therefore removed from a developers ongoing costs.

Design, material and product selections must be able to withstand the rigours of continual use (and abuse). People don’t tend to treat hotel rooms like they would treat their homes. Selecting a consultant team and especially an experienced hotel designer is critical to the success of any hotel project, any weak links in the team and project will have its challenges.

We had a chat with Hotel Guru, Brett Patterson, from Chroma Group – Melbourne’s leading Hotel Construction & Procurement team to shed some light on how our clients and consultant teams can consider off-shore imports to reduce cost and raise quality, and the importance of hiring local hotel experts such as DBQ within hotel projects!

1. What is it that you love about hotels? What drew you to the hotel sector?

Having worked across every commercial sector over the past 30 years, Hotels and hospitality provide the most personal satisfaction. It’s the development of long-term relationships with clients and consultants, knowledge sharing, the repeat opportunities to work together and the level of trust created. Not only that, it’s the gratification of being able to deliver high quality projects that become familiar to most people, not just those in the hotel industry.


2. Tell us about your team set up and what you bring to a hotel development!

Chroma Group has been in operation for close to 3 years now and we have steadily built a team, now numbering 14 and growing every couple of months. We hire people that share the same passion as us for hotel projects and are a great cultural fit for our business. Their experiences are widespread which brings some great knowledge sharing to the wider team.

We bring a broad range of hotel expertise; from design review and management, assisting design teams with appropriate product and material selections, undertaking value engineering and budgeting to meet client, operator and budget expectations, programming, construction, fit-out, refurbishment and full FF&E and OS&E Procurement.


3. What does the hotel of the future look/feel like?

Size does not matter anymore! We are seeing a distinct shift in thinking whereby hotel rooms are now much more about quality, not quantity. Design focused, smaller rooms with high quality fixtures, fittings, connectivity and functionality are becoming the norm.

Connectivity does not just relate to IT either – guests spend less time in their rooms nowadays – connection to the hotel’s local surrounds and to fellow guests is more and more so being achieved by shared collaborative spaces and anchored by great F&B offerings.


4. What is the difference between hotels in Australia and South East Asia, in your opinion?

One major hurdle for international owners looking to develop hotels in Australia is cost. Cost of construction is significantly higher in Australia, so too is ongoing operational cost due to labour rates. This dictates that in Australia (when designed correctly) back of house space is generally smaller and more efficient in its design in Australia than South East Asia.

Another interesting symptom of the relative cost of construction is the apparent ‘brand creep’ in South East Asia. The feasibility of new hotel developments in South East Asia more easily allows developers to ‘up-spec’ their new asset.


5. China was always the ‘go-to’ for custom furniture design. We are aware that Europe is hosting a booming amount of high quality furniture manufacturers – how does Europe compare to China in terms of cost and quality in your opinion?

European furniture certainly has an edge of Chinese manufacture, they are specialists of creating high quality products with many decades of experience and R & D. Surprisingly, they are also very cost comparable with Asia providing you are not procuring through a local retailer.

The Europeans certainly have a greater level of attention to detail, they have honed the manufacturing process of each item and quality of each completed item is infinitely better and more durable.


6. How much of the furniture in your projects is custom built vs purchased from a supplier?

Custom furniture is pretty the norm for all hotel projects. Clients may select specialist pieces for public spaces from local suppliers. Budgets are major drivers of hotel projects, unfortunately most local suppliers just don’t seem to have worked out a way to make this work yet, which is really disappointing.


7. Is there a specific type of consultant who is often overlooked on Hotel projects but you would suggest are fundamental to success?

Yes, absolutely. Especially in Melbourne where the depth of hotel experience is limited. This has been due to the lack of hotel development of the past 20 years. Hotel developers need to know when seeking fees and appointing consultants, who the individuals are that will form part of their team and not just the company as a whole. Far too often, consultants are appointed on fees or reputation within a differnt sector, and not specific hotel experience. Cheap fees are also quickly eroded by poor design.

Unfortunately, we see all consultant disciplines with weaknesses that lead to a lack of understanding in the basic layouts of a hotel, knowing what brand they are working on (or the type of guest experience they should be considering) and importantly what the price point they should be targeting for all materials and products.


8. What is the biggest challenge for hotel construction in Australia?

Australia is going through an unprecedented boom in hotel development. The two biggest challenges for hotel construction are; The cost – Australia’s high cost for skilled and unskilled labour makes it very difficult for projects to financially stack up.  Most hotel projects require multiple sources of income to make them viable, whether that is components of residential apartments, office and retail. Secondly, the lack of hotel expertise from consultants to contractors. Developers must ensure they look into the correct group of consultants within the Hotel space.


9. What is your number one piece of advice for new hotel developers?

Think carefully about who you appoint as part of your consultant and build team, appoint the right operator to manage your asset and confirm the project feasibility still works if there is an over supply of hotel rooms and rates get cut.


11. How common is an automatic assumption that all furniture will be ‘customised’ in Australia? In China it is almost a given that nothing will be purchased as an original proprietary item so we customise every piece of furniture in the property. Are Australian owners aware of the benefits of a custom furniture collection or is it more likely they will assume everything to be proprietary?

It is almost always assumed that furniture will be customised. As a result, we find interior design documentation varies from “look and feel” brief based on proprietary furniture items as inspiration through to completely original bespoke designed furniture. It always amazes me that local furniture suppliers continue to target interior designers and architects as opposed to owners and developers when marketing their products. Unfortunately it is rarely viable to procure proprietary furniture for hotel projects in Australia via local retailers and agents.


You can learn more about the works of Brett and his team at www.chromagroup.com.au


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