Warehouse to guest house

General Manager Esplanade Hotel David Bornmann.
General Manager Esplanade Hotel David Bornmann.

A warehouse built by the harbour master was used to accommodate the first convicts transported to Fremantle from Britain in 1850.

And ever since then people have stayed on the site, at the corners of Essex and Collie streets.

But it wasn’t until the America’s Cup that the hotel became something like what we see there today.

General manager David Bornmann said that even now, after a change of ownership and refurbishment, it was still proudly displaying its long heritage.

In the year to come not only will expanded alfresco dining be installed in Marine Terrace but the original corner bar will be opened.

However, Fremantle is in danger of having too many hotel rooms and with the heat off the economy existing hotels are not longer consistently at capacity.

But this has not stopped a rush of proposals for new hotels being put through the planning process.

‘I would think a lot of the proposals are speculative,’ he said.

While taking advantage of the festivals and events held in Fremantle, Mr Bornmann warned of too strong an attachment to America’s Cup- style rejuvenation and a boom and bust economy.

‘We have had the mining boom for the last five or six years not realising it may end as abruptly as it did.

‘All that money should have been put aside.’

Mr Bornmann says the City needs to put more energy into welcoming the visitors and directing them to areas that are active.

‘With the cruise ships we could do better, it’s an amateurish approach,’ he said.

‘What we do on arrival down at the wharf is pretty ordinary, they have them on trams and drop them at the tourist office in King’s Square where there’s empty Myer building sitting there.

‘They should drop them at the cafe strip.’

Having been independently owned for so long, how does the Esplanade by Rydges fare in parochial Fremantle which is typically distrustful of the big end of town?

‘We’ve kept the heritage flavour,’ Mr Bornmann said.

‘I believe the hotel was under-performing before us taking it on; it was in need of change.’