5 Things to Know About HSMAI Lifetime Honoree Mary Gostelow

Spend just a half-hour talking to Mary Gostelow and you’ll come to understand how she’s lived the life and built the career she has as a globe-trotting luxury-travel guru. She has a spirit of infectious curiosity, a need to share her latest discovery — and a lot of energy. During a recent interview with HSMAI, she answered questions while sitting at her desk and performing exercises using a therapeutic band. “Excuse me,” she said cheerfully while extending her leg. “I always multitask, so I’m stretching my limbs.”

Stretching is something the British-born Gostelow is used to. Early in her career, she worked for The Daily Telegraph in London, but she only began focusing on travel and hospitality when she was living in Beirut, where her husband was teaching school. Today, she produces The Gostelow Report, a monthly market intelligence briefing on high-end travel; runs Girlahead, an online travelogue; contributes to a variety of industry publications; and — when there isn’t a pandemic happening — is on the road 300 days a year

Next month, she’ll receive HSMAI’s Winthrop W. Grice Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Public Relations during the virtual Adrian Awards Gala. “It makes me seem as though I’m dying,” Gostelow said with a laugh. “I said to my husband, ‘I don’t need any eulogies now, because I’m going to be getting them.’” She added: “I am just extremely honored, and I thank all those people who have helped and do help supporting what I’m trying to do, which is very simple: It’s making the world a better place for all the stakeholders that I can reach.”

Here are five things we learned during our interview with Gostelow — as a tribute rather than a eulogy:

1. Travel and hospitality found her. “We were living in the Middle East, and somebody found out that I’d been on my school newspaper in [high school] and said, ‘Oh, you must edit a magazine for my hotel, and then for all my hotels in the area.’ That led me into hotel mystery shopping, which I did for a few years, and as I traveled the world mystery-shopping, I had to have a reason to be in places like Kabul, in Afghanistan, and in various places in Nicaragua before anybody went to Nicaragua. I started writing articles and I built up a following of people who actually read what I wrote, which was extraordinary to me.”

2. The Gostelow Report started out as a personal letter. “As I was traveling, I used to write a proper letter every week on my old-fashioned typewriter to my father and my mother-in-law. You see, I was double-tasking even then — they had to share a letter. And then people started saying, ‘Hey, we’d love to have that!’ It started out as a pure travelogue, and now it’s variously the Bible or the precis of what’s going on. For as long as I can remember, which isn’t very long, I have limited the subscription to 500 intentionally. I know who they all are, and that’s a big help. I mean, it’s actually customized for 500 people.”

3. Her favorite place to travel is everywhere. “I have spies around the world. I’ve just been talking to a spy in Oman, and it’s so exciting because he’d just been to fjords in Oman that I had no idea existed. They have a brand-new minister of tourism in Oman, and as soon as I’m able to travel again, I’m getting back to Oman because I’m going to have a chance to spend time with the minister of tourism. I love Oman, but then, my goodness, if we think of the great U.S. of A., I love driving up through New England in the fall. I love springtime in Washington, D.C. I love running up and down Nob Hill when I’m in San Francisco. I have favorite places, but I don’t have one favorite place. I have things that I like everywhere.”

4. She’s excited by whatever she’s never heard of. “I’m always hearing something new that I didn’t know about. For instance, I was talking yesterday with people in Israel who are investing in wellness technology there, and I’m so excited because they’ve invested in a new system that is like Nespresso coffee capsules, but they’re capsules that are filled with vitamins and nutrients. It’s brilliant. That’s what keeps me going. There’s always something new. It might be technology. It might be yet another glorious part of the world I haven’t come across before. Everything like this excites me. I’m constantly using adrenaline in seeing what’s new.”

5. The pandemic has changed how she works. “I’ll tell you, I’ve never been so busy in my life. I’m in England, which is GMT [Greenwich Mean Time]. I have a very basic piece of paper that gives me KSA plus three. That’s Saudi Arabia’s time — they’re three hours plus. Sydney is plus 11. I’ve a call later tonight with Honolulu, which is minus 10. And then we have India, which I speak to at least every other day, which is plus 5.5. So, my day starts very early and finishes very late at night. I’m all over the place, talking and picking up things. The main problem is that when I was traveling, a lot of my creative writing was done on flights or in the car on the way to the airport, because I’m two hours from London Heathrow. Now that time has gone. So, how and when do I write? It’s the main crisis in my life, actually.”

Categories: Marketing, Public Relations
Insight Type: Articles