Sydney Airport plays name game with rival hotels

Sydney Airport owns the Mantra hotel and the 199-room Ibis Budget hotel near the domestic terminal. Picture: AAP

Sydney Airport Corporation is attempting to stop hotels within the airport precinct from using the valuable “Sydney Airport’’ moniker to attract tourists by claiming a trademark infringement that prohibits the use of the words.

The publicly listed operation, which owns two hotels close to the domestic terminals, recently sent a legal demand to at least one hotel demanding it stop using the words “Sydney Airport” on its website, Google ads, Facebook page and all other marketing materials.

Sydney Airport argues it is a brand name and product, whereas the hotel argues the use of the words “Sydney Airport” is required because it helps potential guests locate it.

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Up to eight hotels within the airport precinct could be drawn into the stoush.

Sydney Airport says it is merely addressing genuine concerns by holiday-makers and business travellers.

“This is about addressing what is a genuine concern for both domestic and overseas visitors to Sydney, who are led to believe they will be staying closer to the airport, factor this in to their travel plans and are quite surprised to find their accommodation is not located on the airport precinct,” a Sydney Airport spokesman says.

However, the hotels argue that travellers, particularly international, wanting to stay at or near Sydney Airport would not know whether “Mascot” or “Wolli Creek” were close to the airport.

Sydney Airport owns the Mantra hotel and the 199-room Ibis Budget hotel near the domestic terminal and is about to build another hotel and possibly a second on property at the international terminal, under plans first mooted in 2015.

“It’s interesting that some of these hotels have traded with that name for years and now that Sydney Airport is in the business of running hotels all of a sudden there’s a trademark infringement,” one senior source says.

The ibis Sydney Airport Hotel is for sale as part of a huge Accor portfolio.

“We could suggest that if one hotelier has the letter pointing out the trademark infringement, the rest have received the letter.”

In its letter, the corporation requires all third-party travel agents to remove all trademark uses of “Sydney Airport” and confirm in writing the material has been removed.

“We understand there may be other hotels being developed in Sydney, and request that you do not use ‘Sydney Airport’ in a manner that infringes on our trademark rights or misleads customers in respect of any new hotels,” states the legal letter, obtained by The Australian.

“Sydney Airport reserves the right to take legal action against you if the issues outlined above are not addressed within a reasonable time frame.”

The crackdown could affect a number of Chinese and locally owned hotels, including the Pullman Sydney Airport, which is owned by China’s Nansan Group, and the Adina Apartment Hotel Sydney Airport, which is also owned by Chinese mainlanders. The Holiday Inn Sydney Airport is owned by the Huang family, who are based in Australia and mainland China, while the Stamford Plaza is controlled by Singapore billionaire CK Ow.

The Travelodge Sydney Airport is owned by a private local developer, while the Hotel Ibis Sydney Airport, which could also be on Sydney Airport’s hit list, is owned by Accor Invest and is up for sale. The Mercure Sydney International Airport is controlled by Charter Hall.

The publicly listed Sydney Airport Corporation announced in 2015 it planned to develop up to five hotels at Sydney Airport.

At that stage it called for expressions of interest to develop a range of hotels near its T1 international terminal and T2 and T3 domestic terminals, planning to invest as much as $350 million on the hotel infrastructure.

Listed hotel group Mantra and US hotel giant Starwood were at that stage jockeying to win the operating rights to some of the hotels, which will be wholly owned by Sydney Airport upon completion.

Sydney Airport said four years ago there was demand for more on-site hotels because of passenger needs following unanticipated flight cancellations and to accommodate flight crews.

Historically, on-airport hotels have had higher occupancy than hotels in the areas surrounding the airport, Sydney Airport says.

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