New hotels ease the squeeze in Newcastle

TOURISM operators are looking forward to the opening of three new hotels in Newcastle to tackle a shortage of hotel-type accommodation.Among the first to open will be the Gateway Inn, at Mayfield, which is expected to be fully operational no later than April, providing 50 hotel rooms and 26 serviced apartments and rated 4.5 stars.Wests Group chief executive Philip Gardner said yesterday the Gateway would help meet the city's demand for fully serviced accommodation.Developer John Waterhouse expects the Grand Mercure apartments in Hunter Street to be operating in April."Twenty apartments will be open by February and we'll have a . . . full opening in April," Mr Waterhouse said."We have had a lot of interest. We had a lot of people who wanted us to stay working over Christmas."The Grand Mercure is part of the 12-storey Pinnacle with 40 hotel apartments plus residential units, on the old Latec House site.At Lee Wharf, "practical completion" of the 4.5 star-rated Chifley serviced apartments is expected by the end of March, adding 80 serviced apartments to the market.Newcastle Visitor and Convention Bureau manager Ruth Appleby said the new hotel stock was most welcome, because Newcastle's accommodation shortage had forced operators to turn business away."We have had very high occupancy rates this year and have turned away some conference business, particularly in October/September, because there's not enough accommodation," Ms Appleby said.It is expected the 89-suite Sebel Hotel being built at the old Royal Newcastle Hospital site will be trading before Christmas 2010.Other works on the books in the city include a serviced apartment block on the former Empire Hotel site, in the West End, the conversion of the Terminus Hotel/South British Insurance building to an eight-level apartment block and new accommodation at the Great Northern Hotel.