Hong Kong-based Ovolo Hotels is making a serious play for the Australian market – with a big emphasis on the word "play".
With a service ethos it labels as FUN ("fabulous, unconventional, never boring"), the group's hotels typically feature bold design and an uncommon number of freebies, from minibars and "loot bags" of snacks to guest laundries and nightly happy hours.
The launch last month of Ovolo Inchcolm in Brisbane is the latest milestone in the group's rapid expansion. Since opening its first Australian hotel in 2013, Melbourne's Ovolo Laneways, the family-owned company has acquired another five east-coast properties. It bought the hotel on Sydney's historic Woolloomooloo wharf for $35 million in 2014 and spent another $20 million on renovations, followed by the opening of a sister property, Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour, in a former woolstore in Pyrmont.
Ovolo Nishi in Canberra opened in March, in what was the market-leading Hotel Hotel. Ovolo has promised minimal changes to the celebrated property (though we're sad to report the disappearance of the yabby jaffle from the menu at Monster Kitchen & Bar).
There's a new look, meanwhile, at Ovolo Inchcolm, formerly The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites in Spring Hill. The 1929 heritage-listed building was the residence and consulting rooms of Brisbane surgeon John Thomson, and while the building's Art Deco features remain, the new look is pure Ovolo with cheeky visual references to its past in Damien Hirst pills, skeletons and a "cabinet of curiosity".
Ovolo has started renovating another new Brisbane acquisition, Emporium Hotel, with a Woods Bagot design and new restaurant and bar planned. It will open its doors as Ovolo The Valley late in the year.
"We believe these ventures are the perfect alignment for Ovolo and fit our ethos of design very well," says Ovolo CEO Girish Jhunjhnuwala.
What's next? "We are looking at places like Noosa, Byron Bay, Port Douglas and the Gold Coast to create eco-friendly, lifestyle resorts," says Dave Baswal, chief operating officer of Ovolo Hotels Australia. "We are always looking for new opportunities."
Ovolo Inchcolm, 73 Wickham Tce, Spring Hill, Qld, (07) 3226 8888; Ovolo Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra, ACT, (02) 6287 6287; ovolohotels.com