A small, family-owned hotel company is a rare bird in these times of mega-chains with upwards of 30 brands. Even more rare is a lodging operator that owns and manages all of its properties. Welcome to The Doyle Collection, a group of eight hotels in Ireland, England and Washington, D.C., which, according to CEO Gordon Drake, is seeing more leisure business from the U.S. and wants to build on that growth.
Drake, who took the position in June and has a long career in luxury hospitality with companies like Six Senses and Rocco Forte Hotels, told TravelPulse that the company dates back to its founding in 1959 by Irish entrepreneur PV Doyle. After years of expansion and several corporate restructurings the group consolidated into its current size: eight high-end assets in prime locations – five of them luxury and three in the 4.5-star range.
While he has extensive experience in growing brands, said Drake, his current mission is to insure that the existing buildings are in the best possible shape before expanding. At some point he said, the company will add properties, and perhaps double in size in Europe and North America over the next 10 years.
It’s quality and not size that Doyle seeks, said Drake, adding that the company takes great pride in being family owned and managed with a strong foundation in its Irish heritage and a focus on being relevant in its communities and providing guests with “a sense of belonging.”
As an independent company, said Drake, “we want repeat guests, and we do that by creating an emotional connection to them.” One way to do that, he said, is through the company’s restaurants – also operated by Doyle. There is a thoughtfulness in their design, said Drake, that makes people feel comfortable and, reflecting of the Irish heritage, “the kind of places that make you want to have a drink with someone.” The food is simple and comfortable, he said, and the prices are reasonable so that locals might want to come in twice a month.
The beauty of the hotels, said Drake, is how suited they are to their neighborhoods. For instance, in central London, The Bloomsbury is associated with the Bloomsbury literary set and the Bloomsbury Club Bar in the lower level takes that into account, referencing all of the various romantic connections in the group. The Kensington has a very different feel, being in the “royal borough” and having a very polished refined feel to it. It is housed in several combined townhouses and the bathrooms have clawfoot tubs. All the properties have different “vibes,” said Drake. And all develop close associations with the arts – whether that be theater, museums or music in the form of packaging and other partnerships.
Doyle is seeking to work more closely with the trade, said Drake. He said The Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington D.C. is a Virtuoso preferred property while the Westbury is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, which is active with the trade. He said advisors should be aware of the hotels’ presence on the Conde Nast Readers Choice Awards with all five luxury hotels on that list with the Westbury ranked number one in Dublin and 36th globally.
Guests will also appreciate that Doyle is part of the Global Hotel Alliance and that its Discovery loyalty program offers room nights and many other benefits to members. Other members include similar luxury groups like Kempinski and Capella.
Doyle recently branched out into retail with a shop at the Westbury selling high-end items like teacups and candles; and that concept will be expanded. That addition is part of the continuing investment in the properties, including an emphasis on suites, always popular in the luxury market.
Coming out of the pandemic, the market mix has shifted, said Drake. Where the group used to rely more on corporate business, it leans much more heavily on leisure. And the percentage of U.S. guests is soaring with the Westbury seeing over 70 percent of guests from the U.S. and the London hotels at 30 percent.
When Drake was appointed over the summer, Bernie Gallagher, chair of The Doyle Collection and a daughter of founder PV Doyle, said the company had been transformed into an international group competing at the highest level in which Pat King (the previous CEO) played a seminal role.
The appointment of Drake, she said, “will strengthen the team and will facilitate the company’s vision to push the boundaries of luxury Irish hospitality and hotel design.” She said she believes that the strongest returns will be in the leisure sector in the near term, “and we are well positioned in each of our markets in this regard.”
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