Saad Audeh, chairman of Campbell Gray Hotels and a founding member and director of Audeh Group of Companies, traces his journey into the hotel business and offers his thoughts on which regional markets show potential
What are the similarities between Campbell Gray Hotels and the family business, Audeh Group of Companies?
The Audeh Group has been providing quality products and services within a global trading business for over 20 years, so we have a strong understanding of how to build rewarding, well-founded partnerships. Campbell Gray Hotels is committed to creating and operating individual and unique luxury hotels and developments, so we both share the same passion to create the best, whilst providing the highest possible standards of service and commitment to our customers and clients.
Can you tell us how you came to be in the hospitality business and in the Jordanian market in particular?
Having traveled extensively across the world and stayed at numerous hotels, I was tired of the corporate chains of ‘cookie-cutter’ hotels. I realized that many of today’s travelers, whether business or leisure, wanted a hotel that simply made them feel special and delivered great service and accommodation. This inspired me to look further into the hospitality business. The Jordanian property market has been booming during the past few years, displaying international standards of luxury living. When I saw the pace at which Abdali, the new downtown location, was developing, I could immediately sense its tremendous ambition and potential. We, as a family, knew straightaway that we wanted to be part of this new story in Amman and, at the same time, promote and enhance our homeland. The overall business atmosphere is very positive, making it the ideal time for any consumer to be part of this opportunity, which is how Campbell Gray Living Amman came to be born.
What details can you share about the USD 5 billion Abdali real estate development project in Amman?
The Abdali project was inaugurated in 2014 by King Abdullah II of Jordan and is the largest national mixed-use development project, in the heart of the Jordanian capital. It covers 384,000 square meters of land and comprises a total area of over 1.8 million square meters. The project promises to attract investors from many regional and international businesses. To summarize, Campbell Gray Living Amman is a mixed-use development for the 21st century. It offers 78 designer residences, with a choice of one, two or three bedrooms, as well as 24 serviced hotel apartments, premium office space, serviced offices, and dining and boutique retail space. This area will be further complemented by the arrival of Campbell Gray Amman Hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2020.It will be a destination in itself, providing residents, tenants and visitors with the opportunity to live a life of luxury in one of the most historic cities in the world.
How did you connect with Campbell Gray Hotels and how did it become part of the Audeh Group?
Our foray into hotels was by chance! We started off with the residential building in Amman – the four plots – of residences and offices, and then the second plot became available two years into the development. That’s when we decided to include the hotel. We recognized that we would need to work with a big hotel operator because at this stage, we didn’t know enough about the hotel business, but we also knew that we wanted to be treated like partners, and not just another client. During this time, I was traveling to Beirut and a friend of mine told me about a great hotel – Le Gray, Beirut – with a really good collection of wine, where we could have a cigar on the roof terrace afterward. I thought, ‘This sounds great, I’ll stay there next time.’A couple of weeks later, that’s what I did and I was really impressed. So, I did a Google search to find out who was behind the hotel and came across Gordon Campbell Gray. Then, as I was checking out, I thanked the person at the front desk, telling them that I’d had a great stay, and asking if they could give my compliments to Gordon Campbell Gray. I added that if he was around, I’d love to say a few words and to my surprise, I was told he was actually there. And that’s how Gordon and I met up to discuss the possibility of Campbell Gray Hotels branding and operating the Amman development. Several trips later, Campbell Gray Living Amman was born and, shortly after, I saw the potential to expand our portfolio into the service and hospitality industry. Campbell Gray Hotels is now part of the Audeh Group of companies. We now have six hotels, after starting out with one, three years ago. I think Gordon and I are very much ‘ying’ and ‘yang’; we complement each other very well!
What are the distinctive features of Campbell Gray Living?
The residences at Campbell Gray Living Amman have been designed by the renowned, London-based Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and are amongst the most stylish in the region. Gordon Campbell Gray has also overseen the design to add the instantly recognizable stylish flair found in their properties worldwide. The apartments are designed to deliver comfort, contemporary living and convenience, with an accent on elegance, whilst providing exclusive and unique additional lifestyle services for residents. When walking into each apartment, the open-plan kitchen, dining and sitting areas blend seamlessly into the terrace, providing owners with the ability to enjoy the residences year-round. We are also very proud that the property won three awards at the International Property Award Africa & Arabia in three categories last year: Interior Design, Architecture and Mixed-use.
You are known to have an interest in ecological products. What are your latest initiatives in this area?
We believe in using ecological products and eco-friendly technology in our projects. When it comes to renewable energy or adopting eco energy, there is always a premium to pay; however, over time, these natural resources are proving to be increasingly efficient, with the result that components such as solar panels and battery storers are becoming more affordable. I’m very keen to build green hotels. Construction-wise and material-wise, we work with many natural materials already, so it won’t be long before we go completely green.
How do you assess the hospitality industry in the MENA region and which markets do you regard as the most attractive?
Growing numbers of developers are tapping into branded residences; managed, serviced and branded is the way forward for the region. We have been studying the GCC market for a while now and recently announced the launch of the hotel property: ‘The Merchant House’ in Manama, Bahrain. With an ideal location and beautiful traditional building, The Merchant House is going to be a real gem. We are keen to have a presence in the region, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and already have projects in the pipeline.