SYDNEY'S hotel scene is on the cusp of a major development spree with the Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Darling Harbour, seeking approval for a $150 million plan to add an additional 231 rooms.
The move comes as other hotels in the city, including the Shangri-La, The Darling at the Star casino, the Park Hyatt at the Rocks and the Sheraton on the Park, have commissioned significant upgrades in the past 18 months.
Hotels were once the sector that most investors avoided, but last week two Chinese-based private investors struck a deal with Sunland to buy the Palazzo Versace hotel on the Gold Coast for $68.5 million.
Occupancy rates nationally are at an average 85 per cent, although the lack of four and five-star beds has pushed up Sydney and Melbourne rates in the past year.
The owners of the Four Points by Sheraton, the Singapore-based M&L Hospitality group, plan to include an office, meeting, convention and exhibition space to add to the four-star hotel operated by Starwood.
This move comes as the developers of the nearby Barangaroo South, Lend Lease, are in discussions with James Packer's Crown Ltd to build the country's first six-star hotel, which could include a casino.
The Kum family bought the Four Points from GPT in late 2009 for $185 million and has spent about $15 million on renovations that have added 66 rooms and refreshed the exterior.
The family, through its M&L Hospitality Trust, also owns the Travelodge Docklands, in Melbourne, and the Swissotel Sydney.
The development before the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure is for a 25-storey hotel and office tower over Slip Street, at the southern end of Sussex Street, revitalising vacant land.
Construction is expected to start in 2013 and be completed in the first half of 2015. The plans also make use of airspace above the Western Distributor, allowing for floor-to-ceiling glass fronted views of Darling Harbour.
The chief executive of M&L Group, Jocelyn Kum, said the project would be the third phase of investment by the group, reflecting its confidence in Sydney.
The latest hotel to open in Sydney is the QT Hotel, on the corner of George and Market Streets, the site of the former Gowings building. It is billed as a "funky" boutique hotel with themed rooms, quirky uniforms and art deco features from the Gowings property.