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Tourism stories

MACq 01 engages Master Storyteller

Edition 182_Justin Johnstone

Tasmania’s first fulltime professional Master Storyteller has signed on to enliven the nation’s first deliberately planned story-telling hotel, MACq 01 on the Hobart waterfront.

Justin Johnstone has a background in theatre, heritage and tourism, as well as a passion for history and all things Tasmanian.

Mr Johnstone was born interstate into a family with a Tasmanian connection stretching back to the 1850s.

After visits to the State over 20 years ago, he won a competition run last year by Tourism Tasmania to be its Chief Wombat Cuddler.

Mr Johnstone subsequently had little trouble convincing the HR people at the Federal Group’s MACq 01 that he has a natural affinity for Tasmanians and their stories.

“Be they colourful and quirky or hearty and resilient, the stories of Tasmanian people are stories of people forged in adversity, tempered by toil and honed by achievement,” he said.

“From the first peoples and traditional owners to the convicts and free settlers; the fearless souls who pushed their way into the wild interior, Tasmania produces and attracts remarkable individuals.”

Mr Johnstone will lead a team of four fullā€time story tellers, who are eager to share Tasmania’s stories with visitors to MACq 01.

Inspired by tales from its immediate locality of hangings, survival, love, whaling, shipwrecks and other disasters, the story-telling hotel will use Tasmanian characters as its point of difference.

Mr Johnstone and his team can’t wait to begin escorting guests on tours of the hotel and around the surrounding waterfront to connect them with local history and the characters who shaped it.

The guides will have tales ready about gentlemanly rogues, unstoppable explorers, ferocious independence fighters, pioneering politicians, a fearsome female tinker, several ingenious inventors and many other colourful islanders.

The Federal Group’s Chief Executive, Greg Farrell, said: “When you approach the door [of your room at MACq 01] there will be a face looking back at you with a small sentence about that person’s life.”

A book containing the person’s story will be waiting in the room and the decor of the room will be tailored to reflect the person’s character.

“There will be on-staff story tellers whose job it is to mingle with guests and take them to their rooms,” Mr Farrell said.

Built by Vos Construction, MACq 01 has had probably the best pre-opening publicity since Lonely Planet waxed lyrical about the unfinished Three Cape Walk in 2014.

Britain’s Independent has declared MACq 01 one of the hottest hotels opening worldwide this year.

“The innovatively designed Saffire Freycinet caused a stir when it opened in Tasmania in 2010, and so it’s exciting to know it has a sister property launching in June on the waterfront of the State capital,” the Independent reported.

“A high-end hotel on Macquarie Wharf in the heart of Hobart, a ferry ride from MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art), MACq 01 will tell the story of Tasmania’s history through its 114 rooms, which each reference a local character from its first people, inventors and explorers to convicts and heroes.”

Fitout contractor Pike Withers is working on the interiors of the hotel.

Guest rooms will be large and 65 per cent will have harbour views. The warehouse-like external design will accommodate an Old Wharf Restaurant, a Story Bar and a lobby/lounge with echoes of an ancient Tasmanian camp site.

The former Head Chef at Saffire, Simon Pockran, will be in charge of the Old Wharf Restaurant.

Pockran’s predecessor at Saffire, Hugh Whitehouse, is now the group’s Executive Food & Beverage Manager and will also be influential in the evolution of the seafood-focussed restaurant.

The MACq 01 building will also host two well-liked Tasmanian eateries: Cinnamon, Launceston’s Thai-style operation, and the Coal River Valley favourite, Frogmore Creek.

The hotel is set to be Tasmania’s most studied tourism venture, following a partnership agreement between the Federal Group and UTAS.

A PhD student will be embedded in the hotel in a project designed to increase understanding of local tourism offerings and visitor responses.

UTAS’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Brigid Heywood, said “[UTAS] is well renowned for conducting research with real-world applications, and our island state is the perfect place to explore a new tourism offering such as MACq 01.”

Jobs at the hotel have been advertised across a range of fields including guest services, butlers, porters, hotel maitre d', bar supervisor, food and beverage team leader and housekeeping.

Speaking to the media in March about the Federal Group’s plans for a luxury resort at Cradle Mountain, Mr Farrell spelled out a strategy to create "critical mass" by adding high-end accommodation there and at Port Arthur to the group’s Hobart hotels and the brilliantly successful Saffire Freycinet.

“Once we have completed all of these developments, Tasmania will rival New Zealand as a luxury destination and have the high-end products to compete with any luxury destination in the world,” Mr Farrell said.

He said the group’s expanding stable of boutique hotels would each conform to the values of the Tasmanian brand.

“Even more than that, we believe we have to do what we can to aid the brand, not use the brand,” Mr Farrell said.

The Cradle Mountain retreat will be built on 40ha of land — mainly high-country native bush — adjoining the Wilderness World Heritage area.

The Federal Group has owned the land since 2004 and intends to minimise the retreat’s building footprint while maximising its view-lines to Cradle Mountain.

Construction will follow completion of its $25 million "sister property" at Port Arthur.

The group is working on a design for the Comfort Inn motel site at Port Arthur and expects to lodge a development application soon.

Publicity about the Cradle Mountain project followed the Federal Government’s release of funding for a preliminary study into a bold $164 million proposal to revitalise visitor infrastructure in the area.

Tasmania has become quite a hot spot for investors with recent Foreign Investment Review Board data showing a jump in approvals from $30 million to $1.06 billion.

That total was calculated before announcements that Australasia’s first Hyatt Centric hotel would be located in the Elizabeth Street Mall, the Marriott chain would run a hotel in the Parliament Square redevelopment and Melbourne eco-building specialist, Small Giants Developments, was planning a six-storey apartment block in Bathurst Street.

Image courtesy of MACq 01

4 April 2017, Edition 182

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