Prominent property developer BEKL has announced its acquisition of the Geelong Conference Centre, with redevelopment plans that will see the site transformed into Geelong’s first “retreat style” boutique hotel.
Nestled in the lush botanical gardens within the Eastern Park Precinct, the development is set to become a stunning destination hotel and conferencing facility that caters to city escapes, corporate retreats or events, exhibitions, birthdays and weddings, with wellness at its core.
In March, BEKL purchased the 1.6-hectare site, which boasts a building area of 4,500 square metres, including seven conference rooms, 46 accommodation suites inclusive of four two-bedroom suites, a restaurant, guest lounge and bar, multi-purpose mezzanine floor, full commercial kitchen and sprawling gardens.
The site also features an in-ground swimming pool and spa, laying the foundations for a unique redevelopment like no other Geelong has seen.
BEKL managing director Katherine Liu said the development will bring an internationally artistic feel, while drawing local inspiration from its botanical surrounds and “bush retreat” heritage, placing emphasis on the human experience.
“An intrinsic part of our design process is using sustainable and high quality urban renewal practises.
“We are huge advocates for the practice of biophilic design; connecting people and nature within our built environments as a means of reducing stress levels, increasing mood and the overall feeling of wellbeing.
“This will be a big focus as we move to create a wellness destination to be enjoyed, be it by corporate guests, leisure travellers or locals.”
According to Tourism Australia, wellness tourism has grown at 7.6 per cent per annum over the past five years with 900,000 visitors engaged in wellness activities for 2018, this growth rate is twice that of tourism as a whole.
“We identified a huge gap in the market, given the region is lacking in small, high-quality accommodation providers with a focus on experiential accommodation, especially where wellness is concerned,” Ms Liu said.
“The development will herald the return of this venue as a significant economic asset for the region and a key destination for locals and visitors alike.”
The team combines rich international experience to bring high-end, internationally-inspired facilities to the region, encouraging rest and relaxation for guests looking to wind down after a conference, or rejuvenation for those seeking a weekend getaway.
“We want to provide guests with a slower, more connected experience, that allows them to disconnect from the day-to-day and reconnect with nature, and each other,” Ms Liu said.
Employing an authentic farm-to-table approach with ingredients sourced locally from the Bellarine region, the development’s food and beverage offering will provide guests with fresh and modern meals to nourish them through their stay.
Adjoining the East Geelong Golf Course, the site offers easy access to the Geelong CBD, with major arterials allowing an easy commute to the Bellarine and Surf Coast, with Avalon Airport just 25km away.
BEKL is in discussion with a number of hotel operators and hopes to appoint its chosen partner later this year.