London’s longest serving general manager of a luxury property, Geoffrey Gelardi, was presented with the Mary Gostelow Award for hospitality during the opening forum of ILTM Cannes 2018.

The prize was handed over by last year’s winner, Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso.

Gelardi stepped down earlier this year as General Manager of the Lanesborough Hotel where he had served for 28 years, after previous positions at the Hotel Bel Air and the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle.

In announcing the winner, Upchurch sung the praises of Gelardi… and the award’s namesake, Mary Gostelow, stating, “One of the things I love about this award is that is in the shape of a heart; a heart that started with an incredible lady who has done so much for our industry. Her passion is palpable. Any time you’re with Mary, you can always feel the passion that is so vibrant in our industry. When I look back on my career, over 30 years ago, as a young man, I think that one of the most important things about how luxury has evolved is that it really has evolve not only from the opulence and the design, but it is about the heart, and it’s about the care, and it’s about how luxury is personal. And I remember when I first started many years ago, I used to think about what I used to call the ‘Imperial GM’, meaning that they pretty much only came out for the celebrities and the big wigs, and they were a little aloof. Then I started to notice this new generation of people who really got out there: the way they interacted with their staff, the way they interacted with their clients. They were out front and breathed personality and soul to their properties. But for me personally, there was a small number of people who took me under their wing. And tonight, it is going to be a great pleasure for me, because one of those people who also did something that was unheard of back then. And that was the GM who spent time with travel advisors, who went out there and saw us as a valuable group of people, who spent time with us, who came to our meetings, who came to our cities. This particular individual put me under his wing; he came to very early meetings when we didn’t have the reputation we have today, he gave up his time, he gave his energy, and I am incredibly proud to say tonight that the new Mary Gostelow Award winner is Geoffrey Gelardi.”

Receiving the award, Gelardi said, “What can I say? This is a shock. I have been in this industry all my life. I am in the middle of writing a book which starts with my great grandfather who was in the hotel industry, and my grandfather who was one of the most famous hoteliers in the world; he was one of the first international hoteliers in the world. He was General Manager of Claridge’s of London and he opened the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 1931. And then there was my father… This industry has been very special to me and my family. I have loved this industry. As many of you know, I just spent the past 28 years at the Lanesborogh. I did many other things while I was there. This is such a great honour, Mary, and I am not sure who is responsible for this (eds: a smile from Matthew Upchurch), Matthew and Alison, thank you so much. It is very much appreciated and thank you all.”

The theme of this year’s ILTM is Wellness, and the opening forum played host to three specialists in the field, who gave inspiring and oft times participative presentations:

Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner at ILTM Cannes 2018

Julian Paccaud, resident osteopath and founder of Ecologie du Corps – Empower your Body and Mind, Anna Bjurstam, Wellness Pioneer, The Global Wellness Institute – the new ecosystem of luxury, and Dan Buettner – explorer, Blue Zones – Secrets of a Long Life.