Hotels

Why a hotel’s history is more important than you think

Klaus Kinateder

Hotels are much more than just a place to rest your head; they’re an experience, and travellers want to know their story. In this opinion piece, general manager of Sydney’s newest hotel, The Tank Stream, Klaus Kinateder, insists history is a powerful marketing tool, and argues it’s time all hotels throw a bit of storytelling into the mix.

In the short time I’ve been general manager of the Tank Stream Hotel, I’ve been constantly reminded of the importance and power of history for tourism marketing. – possibly because the ‘lifeblood’ of the city’s first European settlement flows right beneath the hotel.

I caught up recently with John Pastor, of GoLocal Tours, who conducts a Tank Stream and Hidden Laneways tour of Sydney, and he tells the story of Sydney’s colonial days with such fervour and colour that I was left wanting to discover even more.

Those who know Sydney will be familiar with Circular Quay, where the Tank Stream ends its journey into Sydney Harbour. In fact the Tank Stream is the very reason for Sydney’s location, as Captain Arthur Phillip decided to build the new town here because of the presence of this fresh water source. It was the very same reason why Aboriginal inhabitants had camped near the creek for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.

The stream started up in swamplands around what is now Hyde Park, gathering pace over waterfalls in today’s Bridge Street before making its way to the Harbour. Eventually ‘tanks’ were created out of sandstone to capture the fresh water and fight off drought, giving the stream its distinctive name.

Twice annually – usually April and October – Sydney Living Museums opens up a ballot for people to actually go underground and retrace a portion of the Tank Stream as it is today (effectively a large stormwater drain), though if you want an opportunity to see and hear the Tank Stream in more comfortable surrounds you can go to the underground bar area of the GPO building in Martin Place, where they have preserved the original exposed pipes. Even better, you can enjoy a drink while doing so!

Fascinating history is to be found throughout our area of Sydney, and while Melbourne may have made a name for itself with its atmospheric laneways, Sydney’s ‘hidden’ laneways not only have some great stories to tell, they increasingly contain some of the city’s best bars and dining venues.

Our own laneway, Curtin Place, is named after former Australian Prime Minister, John Curtin, and was originally known as Little George Street. The laneway forms the southern boundary of Harry Seidler’s iconic Australia Square building. The smaller building on the Pitt Street side has interesting V shaped concrete supports, which look very 60’s in terms of architectural style, but John Pastor highlights that the reason for their shape is because of the presence of the Tank Stream underneath. In fact, this is where the underground tours of the Tank Stream start.

We have created an attractive wine bar overlooking the laneway as part of the hotel launch, which involved the redevelopment of a 1960s building on the corner of Pitt and Hunter Streets – many might recall the former Dymocks book store that operated out of there for many decades.

Interestingly, both our building and the adjacent Australia Square were considered signature developments during the 60s, reflecting an ‘international style’ of architecture. Our building is clad in distinctive Wombeyan marble, which has been retained, while four new storeys were added to allow for 280 much-needed 4.5 star standard rooms to be added to Sydney’s hotel inventory.

Heritage consultants were used extensively in the redevelopment of the hotel, and we will be looking to launch a combined Tank Stream Walk and Stay package shortly with GoLocal Tours to give both leisure and business visitors the opportunity to gain a brief but fascinating insight into Sydney’s colonial past.

As Sydney’s newest international hotel – the Tank Stream is the first St Giles hotel to open in Australia – we wanted to be as innovative as possible and that comes through our ‘all inclusive’ room offer. So, included in the room rate is free high-speed wifi, free in-house movies, free non-alcoholic mini bar and Nespresso coffee. The combination has proved very popular, and helped establish ourselves as Sydney’s best-value CBD hotel.

Today, offering good accommodation is just one ingredient of a good hotel stay. Hotels need to ‘tell the story’ of their location to make the experience more memorable. For our own staff, understanding the significance of the Tank Stream name has been crucial, because while many Australians have heard of the Tank Stream, many international visitors ask the team about the origin of the name – especially as the stream was covered up centuries ago.

Our modern Australian history might be relatively short compared to many overseas cities, but understanding and appreciating the heritage that surrounds us is a really powerful weapon that provides great opportunities to engage with their guests and add to the overall experience

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