Picking a hotel in Brisbane used to be easy – not because of an abundance of choice but a lack of it. You got on an accommodation website, hoped there was a half decent four-star room available, booked it for a night and then started thinking about where you were invariably hopping on to next – usually the reef or Cairns or the Gold or Sunshine coasts.
But in the past 12 months that situation has changed completely. The Westin, W Brisbane, Emporium Southpoint, The Calile and Ovolo Inchcolm have all opened. Those properties joined other recent additions The Johnson, Peppers FV and Rydges Fortitude Valley (along with longer-standing boutique accommodation such as Spicers Balfour in New Farm).
Ovolo marketing director Stephen Howard says the wave of new accommodation is no coincidence. Brisbane’s hotel market is changing because the city is changing.
“Brisbane as a destination is growing up,” Howard says. “Every year it’s going from strength to strength from a cultural perspective, where it’s delivering excellence across the arts. That’s the reason Ovolo is here. We share those values.”
Ovolo invested heavily in Brisbane in 2018, opening Ovolo Inchcolm in April. Now comes Ovolo The Valley, a beguiling 103-room property at the northern end of Fortitude Valley in the vacated Emporium Hotel. Howard says the plan wasn’t originally for the Hong Kong company to open two Brisbane hotels in one year – it was “just the way the cards fell,” he says. “Brisbane was an important market for us and the right opportunities came up at the same time.”
The second opportunity was the Anthony John Group’s decision to move the Emporium across the river, reproducing that brand’s eye-popping glitz in new digs at Southpoint. Ovolo The Valley is a very different style of hotel, intended as a “whimsical oasis” inspired by the surrounding suburb. “It’s about escapism,” Howard says of the Woods Bagot-designed property. “The design takes cues from the local Valley precinct in terms of culture, music, the arts and so on.”
Standing out front, the old Emporium is almost unrecognisable. A striking green wall offsets the more austere elements of the wider Emporium precinct, the hotel’s public areas hidden behind cascading curtains.
Inside, the rooms vary wildly with vivid wallpaper, commissioned art pieces and richly coloured furniture. There are five types of accommodation available, ranging from neat executive-style “medium” rooms intended for shorter stays, to “rockstar suites” that pile on the luxury with a king bed, separate lounge, bar and dining area, a standalone bathtub, stereo, and original art pieces by Daniel R Watkins and Gerwyn Davies.
All rooms come with Google Chromecasts, USB wall plugs, iPads and Amazon’s Alexa voice service. As is the Ovolo way, there’s little in the way of the nickel and dime-ing that comes with a typical hotel experience; The Valley throws in free breakfast, wi-fi, minibar, happy hour drinks and a “loot bag” for guests who book direct through the Ovolo website.
“I travel a lot and there’s not much by the way of a hotel that does what we do,” Howard says. “There are all-inclusive resorts, particularly in the US, but not too many hotels that offer what we offer in terms of that whole experience. I’m surprised more people don’t do it.”
Not that Ovolo The Valley is complete just yet. Mid-year, award-winning chef and restaurateur Justin North will oversee the opening of a Luchetti Krelle-designed restaurant and bar. It will be the second venue North has opened for Ovolo Hotels after Sydney’s Mister Percy at Ovolo 1888. In the meantime, breakfast is served from the on-site cafe Société with in-room dining and chargebacks available from neighbouring Tartufo.
Ovolo The Valley
1000 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3253 6999