Featured Speakers

Devina Divecha - Hospitality Writer & Consultant

Devina Divecha is an independent writer, editor, emcee and media consultant, specialising in the hospitality and F&B industry. Until July 2018, she was the Group Editor of ITP Media Group’s Hospitality Group of titles and editor of Hotelier Middle East. Prior to that, she was the editor of Caterer Middle East, and has written for a number of other magazines published by ITP Media Group since April 2011, covering sectors such as interior design, architecture and facilities management. Previously a respected food blogger in Dubai, where she has lived since 1989, she retains a significant online following across various social platforms, and is also routinely ranked among the top 100 non-resident Indians on social media. She holds a BSc in Business from the London School of Economics and an MA in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield.

Christopher Hewett - Director, TRI Consulting

Christopher Hewett joined TRI in 2010 and since then has engaged in more than 50 assignments throughout the MENA region encompassing market and financial feasibility studies, operational reviews, operator selection and valuations. He has advised clients including government organisations, publically listed companies, high net worth individuals and financial institutions. He adopts a pragmatic and rational approach to unique hotel and real estate projects, guiding clients through the various stage of the development lifecycle. In addition to his advisory services, Hewett is a regular commentator on the regional hotel and tourism industry, frequently appearing in various media outlets as well as presenting and participating in industry conferences, exhibitions and events. Prior to his consulting experience, Hewett gained more than 10 years of hotel operations experience with senior management roles in various hotels and resorts in New Zealand, Australia and Dubai giving clients a 360 degree view of hotel development and operations.

Ignace Bauwens - Regional Vice President, Middle East, Eurasia & Africa, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

As Regional Vice President for the Middle East, Eurasia and Africa at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Ignace Bauwens is responsible for driving the company’s strategy and strengthening its growing portfolio of hotels across established markets and new geographies. Bauwens joined the company as Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa in November 2016, and since then he has dramatically grown the portfolio of brands in the region, most notably in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In February 2018, his remit was expanded to include the Eurasia region, to further grow the portfolio of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts brands in India and neighbouring markets. Bauwens has worked in the Middle East since 2002, and prior to joining Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, served as Managing Director for BLH bvba Hospitality Consultancy and as CEO of Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH). He has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, including senior operations roles at Accor and InterContinental Hotels Group. Bauwens is a native of Belgium and speaks four European languages fluently – English, German, Dutch and French. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management from Vives Brugges (previously HTI Brugge) in Belgium. He is based in Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ Dubai office.

Laurent A. Voivenel - Senior Vice President, Operations & Development Middle East, India & Africa, Swiss-Belhotel International

Laurent A. Voivenel is the Senior Vice President, Operations & Development for Middle East, Africa & India for Swiss-Belhotel International, spearheading the group’s expansion in the region. He holds more than 30 years of extensive international hotel and asset management experience with some of the world’s leading and most prestigious hospitality brands including Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels & Resorts. Prior to joining Swiss-Belhotel, Voivenel was the Chief Executive Officer of HMH – Hospitality Management Holding for more than three years and was the primary driving force behind repositioning HMH as the Middles East's largest and most credible operator in the dry segment while setting in motion aggressive expansion. With a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), Voivenel has a proven track record in areas of corporate mergers and acquisitions, hotel development and investment, multi-brand operations, as well as outstanding management experience across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Being based in the Middle East for the past 17 years, Voivenel also has a deep understanding of the region's unique business dynamics and culture that has resulted in a solid network and close ties with hotel owners, developers and investors.

Elie Milky - Vice President Business Development Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, Radisson Hotel Group

Elie Milky is responsible for driving expansion opportunities and leading Radisson Hotel Group’s strategic growth and hotel portfolio in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. With responsibility for increasing the Group’s regional portfolio to 100 hotels by 2020, across each of Radisson Hotel Group’s core brands: Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Inn by Radisson, Radisson RED and the Radisson Collection. A Lebanese/Gambian national, Milky has more than 11 years’ experience in development and asset management with international hospitality consultants, as well as a global hotel operator. Milky was formerly part of the HVS team based in London and in Dubai, where his focus was on conducting feasibility studies, valuations, ROI analyses and strategic advice across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He joined Radisson Hotel Group in 2010 as Business Development Manager quickly rising to his current VP role within the organisation. Milky’s strengths lie in his ability to execute strategic agreements for new-build and conversion opportunities while forging strong relationships with new and existing owners. He is adept at assessing market conditions and gathering intelligence, turning opportunities into business. Milky has a BA in Hospitality Management & Tourism from Notre Dame University in Lebanon and an MBA in International Hospitality Management specialising in Hotel Real Estate and Finance from the renowned IMHI – ESSEC Business School in Paris. A passionate hotelier, Milky began his career more than 15 years ago in hotel operations immersing himself in all facets of hotel management before specialising in hotel real estate, finance and development.

Marloes Knippenberg - Chief Executive Officer, Kerten Hospitality

Marloes Knippenberg started her career with Hilton's award-winning fast track program, after which she successfully held senior operational and commercial management positions in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, leaving Hilton in 2013 to become an entrepreneur. Testing the waters, she partnered with a Venetian Contessa and developed a line of Italian products for the American and Middle Eastern market. Following its success, dynamic, passionate and dedicated to delivering results, Knippenberg returned to hospitality where her heart and expertise lay, developing and launching Kerten Hospitality. Kerten Hospitality is a division of Kerten, a leading investment firm dedicated to creating value and profitable growth using expertise, commitment and innovative approach. Kerten Hospitality is the umbrella brand for a portfolio of hospitality brands that can be operated in any boutique mixed-use projects. The hands-on approach adds a unique value to every project, as it allows for full comprehension, partnership transparency and flexibility. Creating value for all stakeholders through profitable growth and operational improvements, efficient capital management and corporate restructuring. Brands under the group include House Hotels - a portfolio of luxury boutique hospitality experiences for travellers in the know; Cloud7Hotels – a mid-market lifestyle concept; Ouspace – offices that provide an inspirational working environment for a developed and sophisticated audience; and Frikadell - a tech-savvy premium burger brand.

Martin Kubler - Chief Executive Officer, sps:affinity

Martin Kubler is a hotel GM turned hospitality & service industries consultant with more than 20 years executive-level management experience in three, four and five-star hotels in Europe and the Middle East. In May 2011, Kubler founded Iconsulthotels, a boutique hospitality, leisure, and tourism consulting firm based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which quickly gathered local and regional acclaim. In 2016 Iconsulthotels acquired SPS – Strategic Partnership Solutions and rebranded as sps:hotels, part of sps:affinity. Kubler holds an MBA in International Hospitality and Service Industries Management, Marketing, and Innovation, from Glion Institute of Higher Education, and is highly creative, passionate about communication, innovation, and the interactive world. He is interested in many things and understands an eclectic mix of business, science, and art. Kubler knows people and how to communicate with them, but he also knows how to make organisations work and extract the best profits for their many stakeholders. Kubler is very well networked, a frequent speaker at hotel and customer service conferences and events, such as ITHS, HTF, and the Hotel Show, and a regular contributor to industry websites and publications such as eHotelier.com, Hotelier Middle East, Travel & Tourism News Middle East, and Hospitality Business Middle East.

James Berry - General Manager, Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Media City

James Berry brings with him more than 20 years of experience in the hotel and hospitality industry. In his new role as General Manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Media City, he will oversee the 246 room property, more than 200 full-time employees, three restaurants, three bars and twelve meeting rooms. Prior to his current appointment, Berry had been serving as General Manager at the Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel after spending two years as a General Manager at Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel. Previous to that Berry spent four years with Guoman & Thistle Hotels, now known as glh, in London, as VC General Manager at The Tower Hotel and Acting General Manager of The Cumberland in Marble Arch. Berry has also previously worked with Radisson Hotel Group as General Manager of Park Inn Peterborough, during which, he also oversaw the opening of the Park Inn Rotherham, and at Park Inn Thurrock.

Siegfried Poppe - Chief Operating Officer, Smartotels Hospitality International

Siegfried Poppe is the Chief Operating Officer of Smartotels Hospitality International LLC in charge of operations for the firm’s managed and owned hotels. Prior to joining Smartotels, Poppe held numerous executive roles with Marriott International for more than 20 years. More recently, Poppe was General Manager of several hotels for Marriott in Europe including full- and limited-service properties. He also worked at Marriott’s European headquarters as Franchise Operations Manager, leading owner relationships for more than 10 hotels in Italy and Spain for a diverse portfolio of Marriott-branded properties including JW Marriott, Renaissance and Courtyard. Further, Poppe has a background in finance, leading the finance departments in various hotels throughout Europe for more than 10 years. He has a Bachelors in Hotel Management from Hotelfachschule in Bad Harzburg, Germany, and is fluent in Italian, German, English, French and Dutch.

Remco Werkhoven - General Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Business Bay

Remco Werkhoven is the General Manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai – Business Bay. Werkhoven was basically born on the runway of Amsterdam’s airport, so it was no surprise that he was destined for travel and the hospitality industry. He started in the region in 2000 as the Assistant F&B Manager at Hilton Beach Club Dubai and obtained a track record for opening properties across different roles and destinations within the UAE. Now celebrating a 25 year career with Hilton, he opened DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah in 2014 before returning to Dubai to open DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai – Business Bay which opened its doors in July 2017.

Anne Scott - General Manager, W Dubai The Palm

The soon to be opened W Dubai The Palm will be led by General Manager Anne Scott. Scott joined W Dubai – The Palm after eight years in Asia Pacific, where she held the role of General Manager at the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur Hotel & Residences, St. Regis Sanya Yalong Bay, The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort and Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort. As the opening General Manager, Scott will be tasked with bringing W Hotel’s distinctive blend of contemporary luxury to Dubai and delivering the signature W mantra, Whatever/Whenever® service philosophy, providing guests with whatever they want, whenever they want it. She will also be instrumental in delivering a full calendar of exclusive W Happenings that showcase what’s new and next in design, fashion and music to guests and local trendsetters alike.

Christian Merieau - Founding Partner, MMAC Design Associates

With 30 years of experience in interior design, Christian Merieau has honed his skills from the foundations of interior craftsmanship rising to the ranks of senior management. After an early education in hotel administration, he obtained a degree in interior design in 1989 and later qualified as an interior architect in Geneva, Switzerland. Merieau relocated in Dubai 2005 as Managing Director for well know international design firm. After nearly 20 years with this firm designing projects for international hotel operators such as Hyatt, IHG, Millennium, Rezidor, Rosewood, Marriott, Starwood and Accor, he launched MMAC Design Associates, an award winning boutique Dubai-based interior design consultancy agency specialised in mid-scale and luxury hospitality design. Merieau was listed on several occasions as one of the most influential designers in the Middle East by Commercial Interior Design magazine, and he has also helped drive the growth of APID, the Association of Professional Interior Designers since 2009 and currently holds the role of Executive Board member.

Rupprecht Queitsch - CEO & Senior Partner, INHOCO Group

Rupprecht Queitsch, a German national, is the CEO and Senior Partner of INHOCO Group – International Hospitality Consulting Group has worked in the hotel business for 40 years in 21 hotels. Queitsch recently left his role as General Manager for the JW Marriott Marquis – Hotel Dubai, which became the largest hotel in Dubai and tallest hotel in the world when it opened in November 2012 – to set up his own consulting firm in Dubai, the INHOCO Group. Prior to moving to the Emirate in 2011, Queitsch had worked for 24 years as a General Manager, including six openings and two large-scale re-brandings. This included the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel & Conference Center, a takeover from Accor to become Europe’s largest Marriott hotel in the convention capital.

Yannis Anagnostakis - Chief Executive Officer, RAK Hospitality Holding

Prior to joining RAK Hospitality Holding, Yannis Anagnostakis was employed by Hilton International (Athens, London, Durban, Cairo), InterContinental Hotels Group (Miami, San Francisco, Toronto, Dubai) and Jumeirah Group (New York, Dubai). His hospitality career path has included managerial and executive roles in hotel operations, project management, estate management and hotel development. Since joining RAK Hospitality Holding, Anagnostakis was tasked with the establishment of the Company and its subsidiaries and oversees their operations. Yannis is a graduate of Les Roches International School of Hotel Management, Switzerland.

Rabih Feghali - Vice President – Business Development & Investor Relations, Ròya International

A graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Les Roches Hotel School, Switzerland, Rabih Feghali is responsible for Ròya's business development activities. Having spent the early part of his career working in New York City at iconic properties such as The New York Palace, The Plaza and the Westin, he moved back to the region almost a decade ago to his hometown, Abu Dhabi, to run a boutique hotel. Feghali later joined a private bank to look after the hospitality real estate portfolio, working hand in hand with hotel owners, before starting his current role at Roya - the region’s leading hospitality consultancy firm. His blended background combining hands-on knowledge in hotel operations and management, contract negotiation and real estate acquisition prepared him for the complex layers in business development within hospitality. A regular panelist and moderator at hospitality investment conferences across the Middle East and Africa, his business focus and strength in communications, opportunity analysis and negotiation are all driven by a passion for every aspect of the hospitality industry.

Khalid Anib - Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi National Hotels

With more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Khalid Anib has had the opportunity to manage various hotels under well-reputed international hotel chains in different countries and has had exposure to different business models, resorts, city hotels and mixed-use developments. Before joining Abu Dhabi National Hotels, Anib spent five years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the Managing Director of Al Hokair Group, where he played a key role in the group’s successful IPO. Prior to that, Anib was a General Manager for AccorHotels and Banyan Tree hotels. Anib is a Finnish citizen of Moroccan origin and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Strathclyde University, United Kingdom.

Jalil Mekouar - Chief Executive Officer - Hotels, Majid Al Futtaim - Properties

Jalil Mekouar is the Chief Executive Officer of Hotels at Majid Al Futtaim – Properties leading the business unit’s growth strategy across the entire portfolio of existing assets and new developments. Mekouar joined Majid Al Futtaim in July 2017, responsible for overseeing the company’s growth plans, performance and roadmap in alignment with Majid Al Futtaim’s vision of developing integrated lifestyle destinations. With more than 25 years’ international Real Estate and Hospitality experience, Mekouar has held senior regional and global roles across six continents with large public listed and Fortune 500 companies in corporate finance, investment strategy, asset management, corporate strategy, business development and hospitality operations of various asset classes including hotels, resorts, spas, time-share, retail, residential and mixed-use. Mekouar joins Majid Al Futtaim from leading advisory and asset management firms in the US where he was Managing Director and President, and spent several years with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) as Managing Director for Middle East & Africa, based in Dubai, and Chief Operating Officer for the Americas, based in the US. Mekouar speaks fluent English, Arabic, French and Thai and holds an MBA in International Hospitality Management from Cornell University (USA) and ESSEC (France) as well as two post-graduate degrees in Financial Accounting in addition to Tourism and Hotel Management.