RAPIDLY rising star of the Australian hotel industry, Joel Gordon, has made Cairns his home as new company Crystalbrook Collection launches into the high-end hotel industry, simultaneously kickstarting the birth of a brave new world of confidence in Far North Queensland.
Not your typical hotel manager, Mr Gordon, dressed in dark-coloured skinny-legged jeans, woven leather loafers and sports jacket over T-shirt, cuts a smooth tropical but chic profile as he moves through the Paper Crane restaurant of the recently opened Riley hotel on the Cairns Esplanade.
The 33-year-old from regional Victoria has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the hotel management industry to now head a $370 million project across three sites: Riley, Bailey and Flynn in the Cairns CBD.
After completing a TAFE course in hospitality and event management, Mr Gordon landed his first hotel gig with the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast.
Mr Gordon went on to work with Rydges, Sofitel and Atura hotels in Canberra, the Sunshine Coast and Sydney before moving to Cairns in January.
“The opportunity to open a brand new hotel as part of a brand new brand of hotel is such an amazing gift,” he said.
“The autonomy this company has been able to give me as far as a blank canvas goes is pretty spectacular.”
Having an older sister, who became a doctor, there was professional expectation placed on the young shoulders of Mr Gordon.
Expectation manifested in the young hotelier as a highly motivated and driven hospitality professional, who early in his career set rigid goals and mapped a strategy to enable the attainment of very specific career goals.
Investing so much of himself into Crystalbrook Collection, Mr Gordon is charged with delivering on the huge expectation of the first major hotel development Cairns has seen in 20 years.
“I am extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve. The jigsaw puzzle has just come together,” he said.
“It is about challenging what the norm is when you bring a new hotel on board. How can we get the interaction and the whole experience in a concept whereby people walk away and go, ‘wow, how good was that?’” he said.
While not running a multimillion-dollar business, Mr Gordon enjoys diving the Great Barrier Reef, riding his GSXR 600, working out at the gym and he would one day love to jump off a cliff in a wing suit.
Mr Gordon said the company made the decision to build in Cairns after observing constant growth of the market and no top-shelf hotel projects on the radar to keep up with growing visitation.
“We thought as a company that there has not been significant investment in the region for over 20 years. As far as high-end accommodation goes we saw a huge opportunity,” Mr Gordon said.
“As far as growth goes, Cairns was only second behind Canberra for last year.
“As far as developing regions, Cairns is one of the places that is growing and growing but there was never investment happening.
“We would be silly not to invest here.” The company also has a marina project at Port Douglas.
“Given the talk of the Global Tourism Hub and given the investment of natural energy on the Tablelands, people can see there is a hell of a lot of potential here in Far North Queensland and I have to say Cairns as a destination is in a transition period which is something that is extremely exciting to be a part of.
“As the hotels come on board and we bring something really special to Cairns, I am really looking forward to how we can impact that change.”
The hotel boss acknowledged the threat coral bleaching posed to visitation but remained optimistic the Reef would continue to draw visitors to Cairns.
“(We need) to change the messaging around the Reef. Too often it is talked about as being dead and we want to make sure the message is about reef conservation,” he said.
The growth of arts and culture in Cairns and proximity to the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park ensured the city would remain the jewel in the crown of the region, Mr Gordon said.