The Young Ones
All these successful hotel owners have one thing in common – they’re yet to celebrate their 30th birthdays. By Tatyana Leonov.
THE FAMILY TYCOON: Bobby Hiranandani, 28, is the director and owner of the newly opened InterContinental Sydney Double Bay
Opened in November 2014, the new InterContinental Sydney Double Bay adds some vivacity to Sydney’s affluent harbourside eastern suburbs. The hotel is part of the Royal Hotels portfolio, a family business that Bobby joined in 2009 at the age of 23.
“Royal Hotels is a family business and I always knew I was going to be a part of it,” he says.
“Little did I know I would be the director five years on! My real passion is to see everything come together in a manner where it works seamlessly. I can’t say there’s a particular aspect of the hotel or even my job that I love most. For me it’s about when the door opens and everything works like clockwork.”
Evidently, not only does everything work like clockwork at the hotel, it looks like it too. The complex has been refurbished in such a way that it’s retained its regal character through the revitalisation and Bobby says key to its success is a collaborative spirit.
“The team is small, but very significant. We don’t make any huge decisions unless everyone is at the table,” he says. “The ideas are a result of everyone working together.”
BOBBY’S TOP TIP: “Don’t be too emotional and remember the saying: ‘Hotels are built on egos and sold on cash flows’.”
HIS HOTEL: 140 lavishly appointed rooms and suites, retaining many of the original features of the former Ritz-Carlton. intercontinental.com/doublebay
THE GO-GETTER Olivia Byrne, 26, is the company director of Eccleston Square Hotel in central London
“I always had the hotel bug,” laughs Olivia from her boutique hotel in central London.
“From a very young age I knew I wanted to work in hospitality... so when I was 23, I opened Eccleston Square Hotel. My family was in the hospitality business in Paris and I started with summer jobs in the hotel at the age of 15.
“From there it was summer internships working in restaurants, one of which was in a luxury hotel in Monaco, which gave me an idea of the luxury market and the attention to detail required to work in it.”
Furthering her studies, Olivia went on to Lausanne Hotel School (often referred to as the world’s top hospitality school) in Switzerland and there she realised her dream was to manage a family business.
“When you have no experience on how to manage a business, you do make quite a few mistakes, but the most important thing is to learn from your mistakes... fast!”
She cites recruitment as one of the most challenging aspects, especially in the early days. “Recruitment is tough when you have no experience and you’re not really sure what exactly you’re looking for. I think the toughest thing for me was building a strong team with people that could buy into my vision.”
And while it was difficult, building a business from the ground up excited Olivia, who believes she has created the next generation of boutique accommodation. Guestrooms at the hotel feature top-grade technology, including Hästens electronically adjustable beds (which cost £12,000 each), 3D televisions, smartglass shower walls that frost at the touch of a button and iPads that act as in-room concierge.
Today she works closely with her brother and says, “He’s the only one that I can really confide in and it’s great to have someone who has the same vision. We talk a lot about strategy and the tough decisions that need to be made from time to time for the good of the business.”
OLIVIA’S TOP TIP: “Start early, the younger the better. Anticipate and plan years in advance – education, internships, work experience and ultimately your business.”
HER HOTEL: A boutique adults-only hotel in central London with 39 stylishly appointed rooms. ecclestonsquarehotel.com; designhotels.com
THE ACCIDENTAL OWNER Ryan Davies, 28, is the owner and director of Llanerch Vineyard in Wales
Welshman Ryan didn’t always know he’d be in the hospitality industry. In fact, apart from a few bar jobs while travelling and studying, he had no previous experience in hospitality – and by no means did he ever envision managing a hotel and vineyard.
“I had just turned 24 and was working as a geologist for a geotechnical engineering firm in Cardiff at the time,” he says.
“But I quickly found that it wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living.” But even after this epiphany, the hotel business was not front of mind. An extreme sports fanatic, Ryan began exploring work options in the field.
“I researched wakeboarding (a hobby of mine), had discussions with an adventure company and looked to see if I could set up an extreme sports location near Cardiff.”
And while he found an ideal plot, the access was poor and eventually someone suggested land from a vineyard that was in receivership.
“I instantly saw the potential of the vineyard, and although completely different to my initial idea, my parents agreed to lend me the money to put a bid in for Llanerch Vineyard.”
Fast-track four years and Ryan is at the helm of a five-star 10-bedroom boutique hotel and adjoining vineyard with an extra 19 rooms in the pipeline. He admits to having made plenty of mistakes, but says blunders are all part of the learning process.
“The hardest thing to do is admit your mistakes and move on.” And although he didn’t get past the wine and hotel rooms to get the adventure sports business underway, Ryan still makes time for it.
“I’m an adrenalin junkie and I won’t be giving that up any time soon,” he laughs.
RYAN’S TOP TIP: “Communication is very important. I brainstorm with everyone daily and never hesitate to ask questions.”
HIS HOTEL: 10 five-star luxury rooms among the vines, with plans for an additional 19 rooms. llanerch-vineyard.co.uk
THE ECO-WARRIORS Sangjay Choegyal, 27, and Tim Edwards, 29, opened Gal Oya Lodge in Sri Lanka together with a third owner this year
Growing up together in the jungles of Nepal, Sangjay and Tim only started planning their hotel a year before it opened. But they were from good stock having grown up only knowing the hospitality way – Tim’s father and Sangjay’s mother ran Tiger Tops, a luxury adventure tourism company.
“We were both fortunate enough to gain experience working for great companies and people at an early age,” explains Sangjay. “But while we would have enjoyed continuing along those career paths, we always wanted to create something we could call our own.”
They combined forces with a third shareholder and director (John Balmond, who is 34) with the view of creating a unique hotel experience.
“We wanted to create something Sri Lanka had not yet seen and kept this in the back of our minds with every decision that we made along the way,” remembers Sangjay.
While their decisions were swift, they dedicated much of their time to finding the perfect location, which ultimately was Gal Oya.
“It stood out as a favourite – for its stunning beauty, vast number of elephants and the fact there were no other places for visitors to stay.”
For the build, they sourced native materials, collaborated with local artisans and builders, and
fused traditional construction techniques with modern functionality. And key to the offering would be a diverse and engaging guest program.
“Today we offer boat safaris on Sri Lanka’s largest lake, which often involve sightings of elephants swimming from island to island, as well as other wildlife such as crocodiles, deer and monkeys,” says Sangjay.
“We also offer local cultural experiences, including a trip to learn about the customs and ways of life of the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka.”
Although it’s still early days for the trio, they say the strong response to date can be attributed to a strong work ethic, the fact that they share responsibilities and always play to their individual strengths.
SANGJAY AND TIM’S TOP TIP: “There’s no better time to pursue your dreams than today. Even though there will be plenty of hurdles along the way, as the saying goes: ‘Where there is a will there is a way’.”
THEIR LODGE: Nine thoughtfully designed rooms in an expansive natural location. galoyalodge.com