In what is believed to be the biggest hospitality property sale in the North West, Con Berbatis and business partner Fonda Grapsas took possession of Port Hedland’s historic Esplanade Hotel last week.
Terms of the sale remain under wraps but Neos Kosmos understands that the deal closed at over $30 million.
Mr Berbatis, who part-owns Perth’s Holiday Inn City Centre, said unmet demand for business and tourist accommodation in Port Hedland, along with customers’ growing expectations for more sophisticated accommodation and food and beverage facilities in the town, provided a strong business case.
“We’ve paid a top price because we’re expecting to get top-dollar in terms of returns,” Mr Berbatis told Neos Kosmos.
“It’s a big purchase. Port Hedland is fast-becoming the biggest iron ore port in the world, it’s a very high growth city.
“It’s rapidly converting from a rural outback town into a modern mineral resources hub, all in the matter of a decade.”
Mr Berbatis confirmed that BHP have taken up a lease with the Esplanade to provide half its occupancy for the company’s senior staff.
A major expansion of the hotel in recent years has increased the number of rooms to over 100. Further upgrades are scheduled include enhanced kitchen facilities, an extension to the existing restaurant and the creation of a lobby bar.
Central to the new owners’ plans is to raise the bar in terms of food and beverage in the town.
“We’re going to be rolling out a very sophisticated food and beverage operation, and we’ll be working in partnership with the leading hospitality consultants Plus 8 to manage that side of the operation,” said co-owner Fonda Grapsas, who added that customers are already seeing changes.
“We’ve just introduced a new a la carte menu to add to the buffet in the restaurant and the plan is to expand further. The new restaurant will combine a fully enclosed area as well as an al fresco dining area.”
Mr Grapsas, who among his business activities holds the Sumo Salad franchise in WA, will be overseeing the Esplanade’s catering and hospitality operations.