speaker spotlight: Campbell Gray Hotels

Daniel Johansson is a founding member of Campbell Gray Hotels, an owner operator and international hotel management company, whose properties include the Phoenicia in Malta and Le Gray in Beirut, Lebanon. Having trained in various hotels in Europe, including Spain, Switzerland and the UK, Daniel Joined One Aldwych in London for the opening in 1998 and subsequently took the role as Development Coordinator for Campbell GRAY Hotels as the company was founded and the group expanded. In 2005 he assumed the role of Development Director for Campbell Gray Hotels and is leading the implementation of the growth strategy for the company as well as overseeing the complete development process and master planning of all projects.

At MR&H 2018, Daniel spoke on the panel How to Optimally Run a Mediterranean Resort. Read his Q&A below.

1) How would you characterize the overall state of hotel investment and development in the Mediterranean region? 

Interesting, competitive and clearly in the strategy for a lot of investors, developers as well as operators. 

2) In what markets are you seeing the most amount of investment activity and why? 

Spain however simply due to size of market and our own interests. 

3) What is the biggest obstacle for a foreign investor searching for a project to invest in? 

Getting close to local opportunities which are only known to a handful of developers and brokers which are unlikely to be exposed to larger firm. 

4) What are the types of hotels and resorts being built and what has the best ROI? Branded? Select- or Full-Service? Multi-use Developments? 

For CGH this is entirely market and case by case specific, and with various business partners we search for value add projects where we can re-position an hotel/resort, as well as acquiring trophy assets, where in all cases we can brand, operate and add value. 

5) How do you compare hotel development in the Mediterranean versus other classes of real estate? Is it a safer or riskier bet? 

Like any opportunity, providing you have done your homework and due diligence, and established that you are bringing an innovative quality product to the market which has demand you should be in a good place. The hotel space in the Mediterranean has a long history and I would say generally it is a safe bet when you buy at the right price. There are still many family owned/run opportunities which can benefit from a brand association. 

6) What are the biggest operational challenges when running resorts in the Mediterranean, and how to overcome them? 

The seasonality certainly has an impact on the operations and it can particularly bring a challenge to the staffing. One extreme is that you are basically re-hiring part of your service team every year. This can have an impact on service levels and training resources and cost. Although many hotels in Malta, where we operate The Phoenicia, are seasonal we are fortunate to be busy all year round with a truly unique setting and location at the city gates of Valetta. Unless the destination itself is closed for a certain part of the year, you have to by focus your sales and marketing activities on the low season and making sure you have a steady stream of business, whilst in parallel making sure staff receives training, takes their annual leave and it is often the perfect time to do any disruptive and noisy maintenance work. Depending on the remoteness of your location, where you have a limited choice of suppliers and supply routes the cost of supplies can also impact the business significantly. 

7) What are you most looking forward to at MR&H this year? 

Feeling the mood on hotel development in the region first hand from the industry market experts, and meeting new developers, investors and consultants.