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The owner of Sydney's new $500 million luxury Sofitel hotel just did something really cool for charity

Hotelier Dr Jerry Schwartz meets the McElwee family. Source: supplied

The first new hotel built in Sydney in nearly two decades opens tomorrow, but on Tuesday night, the country’s largest private hotel operator, surgeon and philanthropist Dr Jerry Schwartz, hosted some very VIPs to enjoy the very first sleepover in the $500 million Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.

The five-star 590 room hotel by France’s Accor group marks the start of a hotel boom in the city, with another 4,800 new beds opening over the next six years.

AccorHotels has The William Inglis Hotel, MGallery by Sofitel set to open first quarter 2018 and The Porter House, MGallery by Sofitel scheduled to open in 2019 and others in the pipeline. A W hotel is planned for the former Imax site nearby.

Dr Schwartz, whose Schwartz Family Company already had 12 hotels, signed the deal for Sydney’s first purpose-built Sofitel, next to the rebuilt International Convention Centre, in 2014, and earlier this year, announced that he would offer the opening night to 28 charities as a fundraiser.

But the philanthropist decided he couldn’t choose just 28, so instead he offered 33 charities, dealing with issues ranging from medical research, to disadvantaged children and families, education, Indigenous development and homelessness, a floor each in the 35-floor 5-star hotel.

The charities raised $508,000 from the initiative.

Among those at the launch was the McElwee family from Darwin, whose daughter, Avianna, is being treated for an ultimately terminal disease in Sydney. They’ve been supported during their stay in the city through Ronald McDonald House. Aviana’s mum, Bethany, revealed that while taking a brief break at Fairmont Resort in the Blue Mountains, another hotel owned by Dr Schwartz, they were offered an additional free night’s stay and subsequently conceived their second child there.

Lindsay Cane, CEO of Sydney-based Royal Far West, which works to improve the health of children in rural and remote communities, told Business Insider that Dr Schwartz was “eternally generous”.

“Jerry understands how important a great hotel like the Sofitel is to support charities such as the Royal Far West and the opportunity it provides to engage people in both our causes as well as the hotel,” she said.

Dr Schwartz said it was his chance to give back a little to the city where he’s built a hotel empire that’s about to grow much larger.

“Being the most important hotel opening since the Olympics, we wanted to once again involve the whole of Sydney by supporting charities that do so much for communities across the city and the State,” he said.

He sees the Sofitel as the start of something big for the city.

“5-star hotels demand far higher levels of staffing and on-going costs, but the Sydney market is well placed to support this development and the many other 5-star stars expected to enter the market over the next five years,” Dr Schwartz said.

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