When plans change last minute to do a Q&A instead of a video interview, Hg2 presumes that hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray must be shy. But he’s far from it, with the man himself sweeping into the lobby of One Aldwych – the stalwart in his small but perfectly formed portfolio of hotels – with the confidence of who’s someone who knows exactly what he’s doing. And he clearly does, with three hot hotels to his hugely respected name; One Aldwych in London, Le Gray in Beirut and Carlisle Bay in Antigua. His philosophy, it seems, is simple; “I was tired of traditional hotels with boring beige marble bathrooms. I wanted to create modern classics that combine comfort with luxury. I’m not interested in minimalism; everything at my hotels is sumptuous, luxurious, decadent.” And his plush properties live up to their brief, with individually designed rooms, personally handpicked artworks decorating public spaces and the kind of in-house restaurants, bars and spas that would make stand-alone destinations by themselves.
Indeed, Le Gray in Beirut – one of the most eagerly anticipated hotels to have opened in the city in recent years – is as sumptuous as super-stays get, and Gordon is immensely proud of what it has achieved. “It’s the hotel of the future,” he says. “It sets a new standard for my company, is groundbreaking in its design, and is our most glamorous build to date.” Five years in the making, it certainly wasn’t without its struggles with the project hampered by civil unrest and two wars; after all, it’s only in recent years that Beirut has transformed its image from bullet-sprayed hellhole to jet-set destination. Now spending most of his time in the city, Gordon is a die-hard fan; “Beirut is many things; sexy, exciting, beauty, ugly, damaged, vain, decadent, complicated – but above everything, it’s utterly amazing.” When it comes to the best room, for Gordon there’s only one; “I would stay at the Corner Suite overlooking the buzz of Downtown.”
The main vein running throughout all of Gordon’s hotels, however, is its people; “I’ve tried to create snob-free zones. Everyone is treated equally, and guests have said that our hotels come across as warm, friendly and welcoming.” Reflective of their founder, then, whose hotels prove that substance is just as important as style when it comes to filling up the reservations book.
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