Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 116
James and Tamara Lohan
Mr. & Mrs. Smith, London
“It all started when I was still courting, still trying to impress Tamara,” explains James Lohan of the idea for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, an online and guidebook boutique hotel expert. Using what he calls the “old guard of guidebooks,” 12 years ago they went on a weekend getaway to what they thought selections],” James explains, adding that they had to launch their own publishing company to make their dream become a reality, since established publishers wouldn’t back them. “That is still true today.” But they were on to something: 20,000 books sold in the ﬁrst three months. Today, the determined duo have a collection of some 850 hip, sexy hotels, villas, and properties around the world, eight guidebooks (UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, Global Shortlist, Southeast Asia, European
Above, from left: A guestroom in one of Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s participating hotels, the Varsity Hotel & Spa in Cambridge, UK; the cover of the France guidebook.
was a luxury boutique hotel in the Lake District of England. Instead, it didn’t come close to meeting their expectations. Right then and there, on a PalmPilot, they wrote down all the things they would want in a guidebook—the best rooms, the best table, if the bathtub can hold two, things to do that were worth getting out of bed for— everything that makes for a perfect romantic getaway. “We wanted to know the best,” explains Tamara Lohan. “It had to be about authenticity—a great local pub, a little trattoria,” adds James. So in 2003, James, a self-proclaimed entrepreneur since the age of 10 who previously owned an event management company and a restaurant and member’s club, and ex-marketing exec Tamara, who also headed up business development for her mother’s matchmaking service the County Register, launched the ﬁrst Mr. & Mrs. Smith guidebook. It featured 41 UK hotels reviewed by architects, bar owners, artists—“Not celebrities, but people’s opinions you might trust,” Tamara says—all couples who experienced the hotels anonymously. Yet they were 11 short from their goal of 52 (one for each weekend). “We were mortiﬁed, and didn’t think we had a business. But we wouldn’t compromise [on our hotel
Coast, and European Country), a booking website, three tiers of membership with 75,000 members, a 24-hour-aday travel concierge team, and new headquarters in both Melbourne and New York. In that busy time, they also found time to get married and have two children. “It took awhile,” laughs James, “we were having too much fun out on the road together.” And in meeting them, it’s clear that they love what they do. As for working together, “We have very different, but complementary skill sets so we don’t tread on each other’s toes at work. We also make sure that we don’t spend every waking minute in each other’s company—we sit at opposite ends of the ofﬁce,” Tamara says. Next up: the duo are launching an iPhone and iPad app, which has playful features that stem from their funloving personalities like excuses to get out of work for a long weekend, tips on everything from how to mix a minibar cocktail to how to play strip poker, and their own version of truth and dare. As Lohan says, “We always try to be a bit different.” They also want to launch guidebooks on South America, India, and Germany, for, as they joke: “boutique hotel world domination.” hd