International Women's Day: The Marylebone Hotel

Q&A with Bernie Gallagher, Chairman of The Doyle Collection.

Tell us about your role and your business...  

I am the Chairman of The Doyle Collection, a group of 8 hotels which operate across Ireland, the UK and the US. Each of our properties – landmark buildings in city locations - has its own distinct personality that is rooted in, and authentic to, its neighbourhood. I also sit as the Head of the Design Team within the business, which means I have direct involvement in the look and feel of each suite, bar, restaurant and meeting space within our portfolio.  

What inspired you to choose this career?  

My father, PV Doyle, founded The Doyle Collection in 1964 with his first hotel in Dublin. Since that time, the company has expanded extensively. From a very young age, my father would take me into the hotel at the weekends and during school breaks, where I had the chance to observe the way he worked first hand – I suppose you could say it is very much in the blood! He really nurtured my curiosity and instilled a work ethic that I believe has stood by me. I grew up in this industry, and have had the opportunity to work in every part of the business at one time or another. I am immensely proud that The Doyle Collection remains a family owned company, and undoubtedly the greatest privilege of my professional life has been to take on the mantle of Chairman from my father. He was passionate about travel, and creating an atmosphere of comfortable luxury for our guests – despite his success, he never thought to stop moving or stop developing. I believe he would have been proud of the way the brand which carries his name has grown over the last 56 years.  

What do you think are some of the main contributing factors that got you where you are today?  

I would say that my determination to assure the future of The Doyle Collection has been a major driving force in my career progression. Expanding the Group, and remaining as a proud Irish and family owned brand is a central part of what we represent. I believe I have always had a clear vision of how our hotels, bars and restaurants should make our guests feel - exuding a unique warmth and pervasive atmosphere of Irish hospitality, imbuing each space with the familiarity and intimacy of a carefully curated and luxurious home.  The fact that I have grown up within the hotel business also ensures that I am not afraid to make changes and try new things. The central tenet of the Doyle Collection experience always remains the same, while we are constantly on the search to remain ahead of the curve – whether that be in designing a new outdoor terrace, developing our existing food philosophy, or supporting the Arts in our communities.  

What motivates you?  

I am very thankful to say that my energy and passion for the work we do in The Doyle Collection has never waned – I still feel the hunger to succeed and develop the Group in new and exciting ways. I am constantly motivated by the creativity, energy and dedication I witness every day in the team. This past year has presented the travel and hotel industries with unprecedented challenges, something which has naturally caused personal anguish as the leader of an international company – but it is also in the midst of these challenging times that I have been deeply inspired by the innovation displayed by the team, not to mention the front line and health care heroes who have worked so tirelessly to protect us in recent months. Facing challenges that initially have seemed insurmountable has caused us to pivot in many new and exciting directions. It is discovering these positives and small wins that keep me motivated through the more taxing times.  

Who or what women inspire you?  

I am lucky to say that I have a small group of female family and friends who truly inspire me in different ways – from business acumen, health and wellness, art curation to parenting. Every single one of whom would be mortified to be mentioned here! Women on the public stage who have inspired me throughout my life include: Founder of the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, former US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, interior designer, Clodagh, wellness and lifestyle Guru, Elle MacPherson, and visionary fashion designers Vera Wang and Simone Rocha.  

Do you have any advice for other women looking to get into the same field?  

The greatest piece of advice I would give women in general is practicing self-belief and self-compassion. The most important relationship you will have in your life is that which you have with yourself – so be kind to her! Being a proud mother of two daughters, I think it is in your actions that you create the best example for those who look toward you. I have tried to practice this in my personal life and career alike.  For women looking to work in the hotel industry, I would first and foremost recommend a healthy curiosity. This is a business which demands that you stay current and amenable, while always remaining true to your core values and providing a consistent level of service that reverberates through generations. It can be a tricky tightrope at times, getting that balance right. Staying curious and engaged in the world is absolutely necessary in this line of work, in which we create havens for travellers experiencing their own adventures away from home.  

What does International Women’s Day and this year's theme ‘Choose to Challenge’ mean to you?  

I believe International Womens Day is an opportunity for society to celebrate women in our communities and homes – from CEOs, full time mothers, retired citizens and carers. As a female leader in an industry which has been predominantly male dominated, I am proud of the respectful ethos and culture we have created for our team, whether male or female.  For me, the theme this year could not be more pertinent. When we choose to challenge, we bring about change in the world.  

Why did you choose Marylebone Village for The Marylebone Hotel?  

My father acquired The Marylebone in 1984, making it the first of our three London hotels – for this reason it holds a special place in my heart. A central impetus in choosing the location was the strength of unique and established character which the village has always maintained – it is completely in and of itself, and distinctive from every other part of London. We were determined from the outset that our hotel and its bars and restaurants would become an inherent and seamless thread in the fabric of the community – something which I believe we have achieved.  As a group we take our commitment to social responsibility very seriously. The Marylebone Hotel and 108 Brasserie is very proud to be a long standing partner of Community Consortium which supports charities in the local neighbourhood, such as: West London Mission, Womens Trust and House of St Barnabas. All three of our London Hotels also maintain a close relationship with Demelza Hospice Care for Children.  The long-term vision of The Howard de Walden Estate and their support and dedication to Marylebone Village has been a true inspiration for us to continue to invest in our hotel in Marylebone, which we see as the hub of this exquisitely special village. 

Where is your favourite place / what is your favourite thing to do in Marylebone Village?  

A favourite indulgence of mine remains taking the opportunity to lose a few hours on the Marylebone High Street and surrounding area, where there are always new discoveries and treasures to be found. A perfect afternoon would include stopping for a coffee in The Natural Kitchen, spending time perusing the shelves in my favourite haunts such as Monocle, Daunt Books, Paul Smith and VV Rouleaux, grabbing lunch in La Fromagerie, and perhaps a stop at Cube Gallery -  one of my favourite exhibition spaces in London.  


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