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gharani strok


Dubrovnik Croatia resorts and Windsor hotels

Welcome to GS Hotels & Resorts...

Goran Strok,
Chairman and Founder of GS Hotels & Resorts
Incorporating Wren's Hotels & Adriatic Luxury Hotels


Goran Strok is Croatian and was brought up in the former Yugoslavia and brought up in Zagreb where, after finishing High School, he studied Law at Zagreb University. Born to a father who was an army General and World War II Hero who was also in the Spanish Civil War and a mother who was, at the time, one of Croatia's very well-known painters, he inherited an enviable combination of unstoppable energy, artistic flair and a practical temperament.

Goran Strok's early career was as a successful professional racing car driver before turning to business

As a young man Goran Strok enjoyed great success in professional motor racing and won seven national titles. His competitive spirit impelled him to participate in European and world championships, racing cars in Formula, Prototype, Saloon and Rally categories. During this period, he made regular contributions on motor sport to Yugoslavian and international newspapers and also acted as a consultant, test driving new models in the automobile industry.

Between 1975 and 1978 Goran Strok was employed at one of the more successful State Trading Companies of former Yugoslavia, Velebit & Company, based in Zagreb, to concentrate on the development of foreign trade. His remit directly involved him in securing contracts valued at over USD 200 million. In 1976 he became involved with Bernard Harper's Acoustic Chemicals and Dayton Chemical Services. His acumen for promoting the products persuaded Harper to arrange a UK work permit on his behalf.

In 1977 Goran Strok moved with his family to the UK where he worked as an independent consultant to process plant engineering and construction companies Davy McKee, Davy Corporation, Zimmer & Lurgiof Frankfurt, Thyssen of Dusseldorf, Foster Wheeler World Services in Reading and Lummus Crest in Paris, and also the UK civil construction companies Costain and Wimpey.

His personal involvement in securing projects in excess of US$ one billion built him a reputation as an exceptionally gifted businessman. It was at this time that he met Derek Markland, former MD of Davy McKee, who became his business partner for 20 years and remains a friend for life.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Goran Strok and his partners, including Derek Markland, helped establish the first privately owned newspaper in Eastern Europe, "ZAPAD". They also signed the first mobile telecommunications licence contract for Eastern Europe, in Budapest, Hungary. In addition, they were heavily involved in property development in the United Kingdom, Canary Islands, Croatia and in Thailand where they created a golf leisure complex in Phuket. With these projects ticking over, the partnership set about the acquisition of a North Sea oil industry service company in Aberdeen, Aberdeen Marine Oil Developments Ltd. (AMOD). AMOD's business was to provide operating and maintenance personnel for offshore oil rigs and platforms.

At the time of acquisition AMOD employed less than 100 people. By the time they were ready to sell the business in 1992 to Norwegian oil and shipping company Kvaerner, AMOD employed well over 1000 personnel. During this period Strok and Markland ran their offices in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok representing major engineering and construction companies.

A journey into hotels begins

Where it all started...Sir Christopher Wren's House in Windsor and the Grand Hotel Bonavia in Rijeka were the first two hotels purchased by Goran Strok in 1995

In 1994 Goran Strok decided to change his professional direction. He made an initial move into a quality asset based business with emphasis on the hotel and resort sector. This move proved to be the birth of GS Hotels and Resorts as it is today. In the short 12 year history of the company Strok has successfully managed 16 hotels culminating in the exclusive hotel portfolio he operates today. His achievements make for impressive reading. Each and every hotel has undergone a complete refurbishment according to the high standards of luxury and the last three (Hotel Excelsior, Konavle Tourism and Hotel Kompas in Dubrovnik) are due to happen in the year 2007/08. Capital investments made nearly every year set the company apart from its competition. The 12 years strategy has resulted in an impressive growth in revenue in year one of 300,000 to over 40 million in 2006 and more than 1000 employees.

It all started when he recruited a team of highly qualified and motivated professionals and in the tumultuous year of 1995 bought the Grand Hotel Bonavia in Rijeka, the 161 room hotel. With this investment, Strok started to turn a long-held dream into reality - to contribute to the rebuilding of Croatian economy and its tourism industry. In the last twelve years he has invested more than EUR 110 million in Croatian tourism.

He was convinced that re-establishing Croatia as one of Europe's finest tourist destinations was the way forward for the country on the international scene.

Strok's enthusiasm and efforts in the Croatian tourism industry have been recognized by a number of eminent international media houses such as NBC and the Discovery Channel, who have dubbed him 'a pioneer in transforming the Croatian luxury tourism sector' in TV reports broadcast in 2005.

A Supporting Influence...

The woman behind Goran Strok is his wife Renata who personally completes all the interior design of every hotel project undertaken

Working closely with his wife Renata, a talented painter and interior designer, Goran Strok set about a massive and ambitious refurbishment programme for the Bonavia. Over EUR 13 million was invested in the purchase and reconstruction of the top business hotel in the country. Throughout the closure all staff were retained on salary. With a spectacular opening ceremony held on 12 March 2000, the Grand Hotel Bonavia re-opened as a 121-room luxury four-star hotel with a five-star level of service.

Just three months later his attention was drawn to the 39-bedroom hotel opposite his office, overlooking Eton Bridge in the historic Royal town of Windsor, home to Her Majesty the Queen in England. He bought it, and as a direct result of the purchase of Sir Christopher Wren's House Hotel, The Wren's Hotel Group was born. Goran and Renata Strok's combined creative and business talents helped them to transform Sir Christopher Wren's House in to the finest hotel in Windsor. By 2001 they had invested EUR 22 million.

Subsequent years have seen a steady growth and continued investment in the exclusive Wren's Hotel Group portfolio, with a commitment to implementing the highest international hotel standards in all areas of operation. The company added two more hotels in the Thames Valley, one in the Cotswolds, two in Scotland. In December 2000 the Wren's Group acquired the prestigious Hotel Excelsior in Dubrovnik, the historic city's only five-star hotel at the time. Commanding an outstanding position both geographically and in the marketplace, the Excelsior received numerous prestigious awards from 1999 to 2004 as the best hotel in the country.

In April 2001 the Hotel Bellevue in Dubrovnik was purchased and in January 2002 the Group bought the 320-room Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, which was demolished at the time, and in December 2003 it purchased the 115-room Hotel Kompas. The hotels Excelsior, Bellevue and Kompas were purchased in accordance with the conditions of public competitions issued by the Croatian Privatization Fund. The Dubrovnik Palace Hotel was purchased in accordance with the competition issued by the state-owned company Hoteli Maestral, while the Grand Hotel Bonavia was acquired by purchasing the shares owned by minority shareholders and war veterans, as well as shares owned by the Croatian Privatization Fund.

All four hotels command stunning locations with magnificent views of one of the world's most beautiful cities.

With the purchase of the Hotel Excelsior, Goran Strok initiated the process of repositioning the Dubrovnik and Croatian tourism offer, entailing the highest standards of hotel operations and becoming the benchmark for competitors.

By 2002 the company was gravitating towards two key areas, Croatia and the Thames Valley in the UK. Reluctantly Goran decided to sell two Scottish properties and plough the capital back into the continued development in Croatia. As a result, at the beginning of 2001, he founded the first Croatian management company Adriatic Luxury Hotels (ALH), which runs the hotels he owns in Croatia. Thus, Wren's Hotel Group has two divisions: Adriatic Luxury Hotels (ALH) for the management of the Group's operations in Croatia; and Wren's Hotels to manage the UK properties and new developments.

In April 2002, ALH launched a ground handling agency, Adriatic Luxury Services, and in the early part of 2003 the company bought three smaller properties in Konavle and Cavtat which it intends to redevelop into luxury boutique hotels.

Meanwhile, investments in the English properties continued, and the first hotel to operate in the Seychelles, Le Northolme, was acquired for the portfolio under a management contract. In 2003 Wren's Hotels signed a second contract in the Seychelles to develop and manage exclusive villas on Cerf Island.

A Palace in the making

The Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, Conference Centre and Spa
The largest tourism project in Croatia for 30 years opened in 2004

In 2004 after a brief, but highly successful operating year and a half, Strok took the strategic decision to sell his Indian Ocean Interests to focus his efforts on what became the pinnacle of his achievements in the hotel business - the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, Conference Centre and Spa. In May 2004 the Dubrovnik Palace opened after an investment of EUR 45 million to national acclaim in Croatia and throughout Europe. The hotel was opened by President Mesic of Croatia in front of a VIP audience of Croatian personalities from business, politics and show business as well as international strategic partners. British Airways provided an Airbus from London Heathrow Terminal 4 for VIPs for the occasion. It represented the single largest tourism development in the country in 30 years. This self-contained five star luxury resort in Dubrovnik was a symbol of the growth the company has achieved in the past decade and is a testament to Goran Strok's drive and determination to constantly challenge himself and improve his business.

Also in 2004 he founded GS Hotels & Resorts to act as an umbrella parent brand for the hotel management companies Adriatic Luxury Hotels in Croatia and Wren's Hotel Group in the UK, and to represent the business platform for future growth. ALH and Wren's Hotels remain the recognised and established Hotel names familiar with the million guests who use our services every year. GS Hotels and Resorts focus is on continued strategic growth and development and capitalising on the enviable reputation and image the company has created. The success of GS Hotels & Resorts interests can be recognised by the number of high profile world-wide partners currently working with both the Croatian and English Hotel portfolios, such as British Airways, Brioni, Gharani Strok, BMW and others.

ALH has preferred partner status with British Airways. Brioni - the exclusive gentleman fashion retailer opened its first boutique in Croatia in Hotel Excelsior right next to the boutique of the famous British fashion duo Gharani Strok, which was followed by the opening of Brioni and Gharani Strok boutiques in Croatia's capital, Zagreb, today operating under Adriatic Trade - a sister company of the ALH Group.

The Bellevue - an ethno, techno and rock hotel

'Ethno, because we like to use local materials, show off local craftsmanship and give a flavour of Croatian culture through the works of art on display and the decorative style of the hotel. The word techno speaks for itself: the hotel is absolutely state-of-the-art. And rock . is for rock and roll', says Renata Strok

October 2005 saw the beginning of a demanding reconstruction project of the Hotel Bellevue, which experienced an unbelievable transformation in just one year - from a two-star hotel into a luxurious 5-plus star hotel. More than EUR 20 million has been invested in the reconstruction of the hotel. The objective of the thorough reconstruction project was to create a true haven, a place to soothe the soul and stimulate the senses, offering an escape from the busy city. The new hotel has 93 rooms, including 12 suites and the 'Lovor' royal suite. All the rooms have sea views and balconies, are equipped with state-of-the-art technology. Renata Strok was in charge of the hotel's interior design, which is largely dominated by organic materials, a Mediterranean atmosphere, rich ambiance complemented with artistic concepts. Mrs. Strok's definition of the style of the new Bellevue is 'ethno-techno-rock'.

The Hotel Bellevue is the third luxurious five-star hotel in Dubrovnik, this prestigious Mediterranean destination, operating under the hotel group Adriatic Luxury Hotels owned by Goran Strok.

At the beginning of his journey into the hotel business, Goran Strok's vision was to create a unique collection of hotels and become a leader in the hotel industry. His British-Croatian success has brought numerous national and international awards to the hotels he owns. The Dubrovnik Palace Hotel has won the "Tourism Oscar", the prestigious World Travel Awards as Croatia's Leading Hotel and Croatia's Leading SPA Resort in 2005 and 2006 and was nominated in the category of Europe's Leading Resort. The Dubrovnik Palace Hotel also won the prestigious Croatian tourism award as best five-star hotel on the Adriatic, while the Hotel Kompas was named the best three-star hotel. In early 2006, the Hotel Excelsior was listed among the eleven hottest hotels in Europe by the Sunday Times. The Sir Christopher House Hotel & SPA won the best hotel award presented by Distinguished Hotels International. The Grand Hotel Bonavia, considered by many to be the cradle of the Croatian hotel business, received a valuable recognition for its contribution to the development of the Croatian hotel industry from the Croatian Association of Hoteliers and Restaurateurs. The hotel's 130th anniversary was celebrated with a spectacular ceremony at the Governor's Palace in Rijeka featuring the performance of one of the most famous violinists in the world Julian Rachlin and his friends.

The upcoming period will be marked with new investments and projects boldly led by Goran Strok. At the end of 2006, adaptation started of the old part of the Hotel Excelsior known as Villa Odak, which will be turned into a luxurious boutique hotel in the next few months, aiming to highlight the rich history of this cult hotel and adding wellness and spa facilities to ensure the Excelsior's flagship position within the hotel group.

In late 2006 Goran Strok announced further plans for expanding the group and purchasing hotels in Zagreb and Split. For that reason, a new hotel brand has been created - City Luxury Hotels - which will operate under the Adriatic Luxury Hotels Group as a cluster of its luxurious city hotels, also including future projects under management contracts. The flagships of the City Luxury Hotels brand will be the Grand Hotel Bonavia in Rijeka and Sir Christopher House Hotel & Spa in Windsor.

GS Hotels & Resorts today represents a prestigious international hotel collection, with luxury hotels marked by their charm, spectacular location, unique environment, real estate value and quality. Goran and Renata Strok regard each hotel as a private house and home and empower the general manager with total autonomy to ensure that every guest experiences a sincere and personal welcome.

At the beginning of the 1990s Goran Strok spent a lot of effort and time in lobbying the UK Government for recognition of Croatia. During the war his family and his companies were major donators for Croatia and the main sponsor and organiser of the 1st Anniversary of Croatian Independence.

In all his many spheres of activity Goran Strok enjoys the absolute trust of the Honorary President of GS Hotels & Resorts, The Rt. Hon. Lord Taylor of Blackburn. Lord Taylor's reports to Her Majesty's Government formed the basis for the management of schools in the UK and he maintains an active involvement in the management of the University of Lancaster. With Lord Taylor's help Goran Strok has made an important investment in the educational infrastructure of the Croatian town of Krapina and the Zagorje region by establishing the Izidor Strok Memorial Fund, in honour of his late father. Two courses at the Institute of English Language Education at the University of Lancaster were sponsored by the Fund, enabling established English teachers to update their skills. Goran Strok also gives special focus through the Adriatic Tourism Foundation to sponsoring young Croatian professionals and talented artists to enable them to develop their talents in Croatia and the UK, while Renata Strok sponsors Croatian war orphans as a Godmother.

Goran and Renata Strok have been the main sponsors of the Julian Rachlin and Friends Chamber Music Festival for the past six years and have long been sponsors of the Windsor Music Festival.

Goran and Renata Strok have two daughters. Their eldest daughter Vanja is a successful fashion designer - one half of the label Gharani Strok. Vanja's younger sister Tena also shows great promise as an art student. Goran's leisure interests include sailing, tennis, skiing, scuba diving and aviation. He has lost none of his passion for fast cars but never hesitates when asked to name his first love: his family.

Goran Strok's companies under GS Hotels & Resorts:

Adriatic Luxury Hotels - Croatia
Hotel Excelsior & Spa
Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, Conference & Spa
Hotel Bellevue
Hotel Kompas
Grand Hotel Bonavia
Konavle Tourism
Adriatic Trade
Adriatic Development
Adria Protecta

Adriatic Luxury Services - Tourist Agency

Adriatic Tourism Foundation

3 January 2007