Daring to be different

Written by: Success North Queensland | November 30, 2018

Cairns’ first new five-star hotel in 20 years opened in November, to great applause. The $140 million, 311-room, five-star luxury hotel, with lagoon pool and private beach, spa, three restaurants including a rooftop bar, and incredible views over The Esplanade and Coral Sea and back out to Kuranda is just the first of three vibrant hotel projects from Crystalbrook Collection. Meet: Riley.

Wedged between reef, rainforest and outback, with incredible indigenous experiences and sunshine all year round, Cairns has always been a jewel in Australia’s tourism crown. The city is eternally green, the skies and sea are vivid blues, the locals are friendly and the business community is passionate about the city.

It’s surprising then to realise that in the past two decades, no new five-star hotels have been built in the tourism town. Until November that was, when the Ghassan Aboud Group-owned Crystalbrook Collection opened Riley, the first hotel in its growing Cairns empire.

Across the three hotels – Riley, Bailey and Flynn (anticipated to open in 2019 and late 2019/early 2020) – Crystalbrook’s investment into Cairns will be $600 million. 

Crystalbrook Collection’s Area General Manager, Joel Gordon, who oversees Riley, Bailey and Flynn, says once the hotels are complete, the group will employ around 500 staff to service the 845 hotel rooms and suites, 10 restaurants and bars, three function centres, two day spas and gymnasiums. To date, Riley has onboarded 174 staff.

“Cairns has so much to be able to give. Ghassan Aboud [the Dubai-based, Syrian entrepreneur who owns Crystalbrook Collection] views Cairns as a bit of an untapped resource, a diamond. He didn’t understand why there hasn’t been this sort of investment in Cairns in 20 years,” offers Joel.

The three hotels have been given gender-neutral human names. With human names come personalities, and each hotel has its own – Riley is playful but sophisticated, suited to families, middle-high wealth guests and those seeking a herb-infused cocktail or champagne at Cairns’ newest icon; Bailey is the artsy, cultured one with local artists to be featured on the walls, a focus on farm to table food, and a lobby inspired by the rainforest; and Flynn is the wild child of the pack with bold colours, hot DJs and spaces designed for Instagram.

On November 6, Riley opened to the public with 256 rooms, function/conferences spaces for up to 400 people, and its largest restaurant/bar, Paper Crane. Due to open on December 20 is the remaining tower, with 55 hotel rooms, a café/bar and a rooftop bar that is set to become an iconic venue.

For Joel, who stepped into the Area General Manager role early 2018, the past year has been fast-paced and full of decisions. Joel and his team have worked to “strip back the hospitality experience” and deliver a more modern, enjoyable guest journey from arrival to departure. Guests are welcomed at entry by a concierge, checked in via iPad and escorted to the elevator. Yep, that’s right – no queueing at the reception desk!

IPads are also used to order room service, book a day spa treatment, book a tour, order more towels, request for your car to be ready for you and to make a restaurant booking at any of the outlets across the collection, not just the hotel you’re staying in. 

The process of reimagining the hotel experience has led to numerous sustainability initiatives as well. There has been a conscious effort to reduce the use of plastics. Hotel keys are made from recycled wood, only compostable straws are used, and plastic bottles have been replaced with reusable pump packs. “We estimate we will be able to cut down 250,000 of those bottles over one year,” says Joel. 

“Since opening, Riley has been received really well by the public,” says Joel. “It was a really successful first week and our second week’s been even better, so we’re really looking forward to opening up the tower on December 20.”

Locals living between Townsville to Cooktown and the same distance out west are eligible for Crystalbrook Locals, a loyalty program offering discounts for accommodation, dining and spa across the collection.

Staying in Cairns this summer? See you at Rocco for an herb-infused cocktail and one of the best views in the North…


131-141 The Esplanade, Cairns City QLD 4870  |  (07) 4252 7777  |  reservations@crystalbrookcollection.com



Success North Queensland