The oldest, continuously owned family business in the world is a hotel, or rather ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), and is called Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan. It’s been in the same family for 52 generations. That’s helped by the Japanese practice of “mukoyōshi”, or adult adoption - more about that here. Families and ownership of hotels have been a feature of the world economy for a long time. Indeed, three of America’s top monied dynasties are hotel based - the Marriotts, the Hiltons, and the Pritzkers. Here are 10 great family-owned hotels.
Hōshi Ryokan, Komatsu
If Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the oldest family business in the world, then Hōshi is the second oldest. The traditional Japanese inn, Hōshi is now managed by the 46 generation and was founded in 718. There’s a wonderful film, which Family Capital has featured before, about the current owners, Zengoro and Chizuko Hōshi, and how they are passing the business to the next generation. It should be required viewing for anyone interested in family businesses, let alone a family running a hotel.
Based just outside of Salzburg, Gmachl has been owned by the same family since 1334. Michaela Hirnböck-Gmachl, the current owner, represents the 23rd generation. She runs the hotel, which claims to be the oldest family business in Austria, together with her husband, Fritz Hirnböck.
Seaside Hotel, Kennebunk, Maine
The beachside hotel in Kennebunk, Maine is the fifth oldest family business in the US. It is now run by the sixth generation represented by Trish and Ken Mason. Of course, Kennebunk, or at least the neighbouring town of Kennebunkport, is best known through its connection with another family business, the Bush family, who have produced two American presidents. The family have their famous house (known as the Bush Compound) not too far away from the hotel.
Hotel Sacher, Vienna
One of Europe’s grand dame hotels, the Hotel Sacher was founded in 1876, but has been under the ownership of the Gürtler family since 1934. Now managed by Elisabeth Gürtler-Mauthner, who took over the business from her former husband Peter Gürtler in 1990. Peter was the third generation of the Gürtler family to own the hotel.
West Lodge Park, Hertfordshire
The West Lodge Park hotel, north of London, has been owned by the Beale family since 1945. But the Beales have been a family business for more than 200 years when John Beale, a master baker, moved to London and opened a shop in 1769. The eighth generation of the Beale family now is involved in running the West Lodge, as well as a number of other hotels.
Baur au Lac, Zurich
Arguably Zurich’s grandest hotel, the Baur au Lac has been owned by the Baur family since it was opened in 1844. Currently, the hotel is overseen by the sixth generation represented by Andrea Kracht. The hotelier is also the chairman of the prestigious The Leading Hotels of the World group, which promotes the most luxurious hotels in the world, of which Baur au Lac is obviously a member of.
Bristol Hotel, Paris
The Paris hotel, one of the grandest in the city, has been owned by the Oetker family since 1978. Of course, the Oetker family are better known for owning one of Germany’s most famed family businesses, the food company, Dr. Oetker. The family, through a group called the Oetker Collection, also own Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, perhaps the most famous hotel on the Côte d’Azur.
Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong
The famed Hong Kong hotel has been owned by the Kadoorie family since it was opened in 1928. Now overseen by the family’s Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels group, which oversees luxury hotels across the world, the Peninsula is arguably the flagship hotel of the group.
Goring Hotel, London
Probably best known for its links to the British royal family - it is the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace - the Goring also has a reputation of being an impeccably run family business. It is now overseen by the fourth generation of the family, represented by Jeremy Goring, who took the helm in 2005.
Villa d’Este, Lake Como
Possibly Italy’s grandest hotel, the Villa d'Esteis owned by a very discrete group of shareholders with the biggest shareholder being the Fontana family. The Fontanas are better known for their business called Fontana Luigi SpA, which makes fasteners and high-strength bolts mostly for the automobile sector. But the Fontanas bought the hotel back in 2008 when it was being courted by a number of high-profile buyers, including the Sultan of Brunei.