Triguboff wants clarity on NSW quarantine apartment needs

Harry Triguboff, pictured at his World Tower serviced apartments. Picture: James Horan
Harry Triguboff, pictured at his World Tower serviced apartments. Picture: James Horan

Hotel operators are warning the NSW government to declare how many more serviced apartment towers it will need for COVID-19 quarantine, or authorities could run out of available rooms.

The demand came as the federal government laid down fresh edicts that will see international arrivals into Australia cut by half and returning Australians face paying for their own hotel quarantine under a national cabinet plan to stop a Victorian-style outbreak in other states.

Billionaire Harry Triguboff, who owns 20 serviced apartment towers in NSW and Queensland, says under government directives the business cannot be mixed. Serviced apartments used for quarantine purposes cannot also be used for general public use.

“When the virus appeared, some serviced apartments (operators) offered beds to the government,” Triguboff told The Weekend Australian.

“I now hear there may be few beds required and now there is more demand for our product (from the general public).

“What we want is the government to tell us what they need and by whom. This way we will know what is needed,” Triguboff said in a statement.

“Once we start leasing there will be no whole (serviced apartment) buildings left.”

The hospitality sector is facing further uncertainty after prime minister Scott Morrison flagged new plans that would see returning Australians pay for their accommodation rather than taxpayers picking up the tab.

The prime minister also said states would shift to charging people and he would seek to have a nationally uniform system of pricing for states that adopted this measure.

Hoteliers face the prospect of fewer arrivals with Morrison saying the number of returnees “will be cut by just over half across all the various ports that are taking those residents returning to Australia”.

“There is also a view across the National Cabinet that they are all effectively moving to a charging system for the hotel quarantine that is in place for those returning individuals,” he said in Canberra.

Accor chief executive Simon McGrath, who runs a portfolio of 400 hotels across Australia, backed Triguboff’s calls for greater clarity.

“I agree with Mr Triguboff saying the government should be clear on which assets it needs and for what period of time so the hotel industry can provide assistance to supporting the wider community,” said Mr McGrath, who runs the nation’s largest hotel chain.

“I agree with Mr Triguboff, it is important to give clarity and that the government and hotel owners work together to provide this infrastructure which is playing a really vital role for the wider community,” Mr McGrath said.

Another senior hotel executive said the New Zealand government had provided much greater certainty and clarity on the issue than the Australian government. “The New Zealand government gives clear outlines to hoteliers, they take the entire hotel for either three or six months,” said the hotelier, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Triguboff questions what will happen to the expats, hospital staff, students and workers who will require the whole building to live in while in quarantine.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Triguboff closed half of his 20 serviced apartment towers, each with hundreds of units.

But on Friday he reopened the last of his serviced apartment blocks in Brisbane.

He says the government needs to declare how much COVID-19 quarantine accommodation it still requires.

“Otherwise the government won’t be able to access these buildings,” Triguboff says.

Arguably the nation’s largest owner of serviced apartments, Triguboff controls accommodation towers on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and NSW.

His NSW city and suburban serviced apartments were leased to the government at the height of the pandemic.

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