Tourism and hospitality group, Crystalbrook Collection, is set to transform the Cairns skyline with a $500 million investment in three new international hotels.
The company is the Australian business of the Dubai-based Ghassan Aboud Group (GAG) – headed by billionaire businessman and philanthropist Ghassan Aboud. Its new properties will deliver more than 800 new hotel rooms to Cairns by 2020, creating 3,500 jobs and injecting more than $900 million into the local economy.
"You need to create demand, not wait for it to happen. Cairns is a great city and on the doorstep of one of the great wonders of the world. In the next five years, you will see it transformed."
- Ghassan Aboud
The three new Crystalbrook Collection hotels – all five-star properties, with the playful names Riley, Flynn and Bailey – are within 10 minutes’ walk of each other in the Cairns CBD and will cater for a potential 600,000 guests each year.
Riley is due to open in 2018, Bailey in 2019 and Flynn in 2020. Cairns developer Prime Group has been engaged to build the projects, which (together) will employ more than 500 people when they open. All will be self-managed.
Once operational, the hotels will join Crystalbrook Collection’s impressive portfolio of North Queensland tourism entities:
Crystalbrook Collection also has investments in the Queensland pastoral industry. In 2016, it bought the 35,000-hectare working cattle station ‘Crystalbrook’. It was Mr Aboud’s first property purchase here and inspired the name of his Australian business.
To date, Crystalbrook Collection has committed more than AU$700 million to tourism investments in Australia. This is expected to grow to more than $1 billion over the next three years.
“We undertook a lot of research before choosing Australia as an investment destination,” says Mr Aboud.
"We treat our Crystalbrook Collection hotels like children in a family. Riley is playful, Bailey is thoughtful and arty and Flynn is a little wild. This positioning allows us to develop more unique hotel characters, attracting different audiences to each property."
- Ghassan Aboud
When asked why he chose North Queensland to launch the Crystalbrook Collection brand, Mr Aboud’s immediate response was: “why not?”
“You need to create demand, not wait for it to happen,” he says. “Cairns is a great city and on the doorstep of one of the great wonders of the world. In the next five years, you will see it transformed. There have been no new five-star international hotels in Cairns for over 20 years. The city needs quality hotels and we are responding to the anticipated growth in tourism in the region.”
CBRE reported that a strong last quarter helped Cairns take out the top spot as the nation’s best performing hotel market for the fourth year in a row. Revenue per available room (RevPAR) growth was an impressive 9.5 per cent for the year ending December 2017.
Another reason for choosing North Queensland, Mr Aboud says, was the “overwhelming support” he received from councils, government and the tourism bodies.
“I have always felt very welcome here,” says Mr Aboud, who was named the region’s ‘Most Influential Person’ by the Cairns Post newspaper in 2017. “It is a great place to do business."
And while some businessmen will do anything to avoid competition, Mr Aboud encourages it.
“One big player is likely to attract other big players,” he says.
“And that will make the future for North Queensland very bright. We want this market to grow. It will benefit everyone.”
Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort
137 Esplanade, Cairns
Bailey, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel
163 Abbott Street, Cairns
Flynn, a Crystalbrook Collection Hotel
85 Esplanade, Cairns