Hotelier Middle East Power 50 2016: 1-10
Hotelier Middle East reveals who made the top 10 in our Power 50 List 2016. Click to find out
01. Guido de Wilde, Senior Vice President, Regional Director Middle East, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
Under Guido De Wilde’s watch, Starwood has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 12 months winning him the number one spot on Hotelier Middle East’s Power 50 ranking
Guido de Wilde is the inimitable leader of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in the Middle East, and has seen the operator grow from strength to strength in this region over the last year. In his role, de Wilde is responsible for the operation of all Starwood properties in the Middle East (over 50 hotels and resorts) and leads the development of Starwood’s brands in this rapidly expanding region.
In the last year, Starwood introduced The Luxury Collection in Lebanon with the opening of Grand Hills Broumana, along with the Westin in Qatar with the opening of Westin Doha Hotel & Spa — a long-awaited opening. Another launch for Qatar includes the first Luxury Collection in the country, signed in Lusail, along with a Le Méridien hotel.
In the UAE, The St. Regis Dubai opened at the end of 2015, with W Dubai Al Habtoor City getting a soft launch in June 2016. The Westin Dubai Al Habtoor City is scheduled to open this month. Sharjah also saw the launch of Starwood’s first hotel, with the Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort & Spa, and another first, this time for Ras Al Khaimah with the first Starwood signing — the Four Points by Sheraton Ras Al Khaimah.
Expanding into secondary and tertiary cities as well, Starwood signed its first property in Unaizah, Saudi Arabia, the Four Points by Sheraton Unaizah. Saudi Arabia is also set to see the brand debut of Westin and Element hotels, both signed for Riyadh. Under his aegis, Starwood introduced Aloft in Saudi Arabia in August with the opening of Aloft Riyadh, to be followed by Aloft Dhahran this month.
All of this no doubt showing the importance of the region for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. De Wilde tells Hotelier Middle East: “The Middle East continues to be an important market for Starwood’s overall global strategy and our development teams have done a great job in growing our portfolio in the region. Starwood continues to look for opportunities to expand its brand portfolio in the region by working with the right partners in the right places on the right properties. We are now on track to operate 100 hotels in the region by 2020.” It also operates more than 300 restaurants and bars in the Middle East.
Emphasising the importance of guests and relationship-building, he notes: “I believe effective communication, collaboration and alignment are vital for success. Working as a team and with respect for all team members is key for me. It is important to be easily accessible and establish a culture of open dialogue. And to be an effective leader, I honestly believe one must never stop learning and should continue doing more than what people expect from you.”
On a personal note, a satisfying accomplishment for de Wilde has been the Road to Awareness initiative. Over the past nine years, Starwood has raised over US $6 million for UNICEF.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has, of course, been acquired by Marriott International — but at the time of writing, the two companies are separate entities, awaiting final anti-trust clearance. Here’s to another year of phenomenal growth by Starwood brands!
By the numbers:
11 Number of years in role
30 Number of years with starwood
54 Number of Middle East operating hotels
46 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
02. Pascal Gauvin, Chief Operating Officer, India, Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Gauvin is continuing to expand the group’s regional footprint, while staying profitable in a challenging business environment
In the last two years, Pascal Gauvin has climbed this list, slowly and surely. From seventh spot in 2014, to fifth last year, he’s now ranked the second-most powerful hotelier in the region. The growth has been remarkable — in the last year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has opened a number of properties.
The InterContinental Residence Suites Doha was signed in November last year, along with the InterContinental Doha Festival City signed this May. Three Crowne Plaza hotels have been signed in the last year — one in Kuwait, another in Makkah, with a third in a currently confidential location. Holiday Inn, as part of its mid-market offering, has also been signed for Dubai Festival City.
The firm’s luxury brand, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, and under Gauvin’s command, it continues to grow its presence in the market.
Gauvin tells Hotelier: “We will open our first InterContinental in Fujairah next year. This is an especially important hotel as it is our first resort under the InterContinental brand in the Middle East.”
He continues: “Following the opening of InterContinental Dubai Marina in 2015 and the upcoming opening of InterContinental Abu Dhabi Grand Marina, close to 30% (by number of rooms) of our hotels across the region are InterContinental Hotels & Resorts’ properties.”
Gauvin has re-asserted the group’s commitment to its mid-scale offering across the region, bearing in mind developments such as Dubai Expo 2020 and Saudi Arabia’s national vision 2030. The operator is also continuing to grow its KSA footprint through its master development agreement with Dur Hospitality.
And while Gauvin admits this year was challenging, IHG is showing a good first quarter performance with strong brand momentum. While RevPAR declined by 1.1% in AMEA, good performance across much of the region offset 10.4% decline in the Middle East due to the ongoing impact of low oil prices.
He notes: “We have made a good start to the year, driving RevPAR up 1.5% against the background of weak oil markets and the earlier timing of Easter, which affected several of our markets.
“The industry has had a challenging start to this year and we’re operating in a different environment compared to 2015. Driving growth, developing our brands and delivering great guest experiences in such a dynamic region can only be done by a team of talented people.
“One of my greatest achievements has been developing an exceptional team both on the front-line in our hotels and in our corporate offices.”
He says that in order to support the opening of 25 hotels in the next three to five years, IHG is looking at adding another 8,000 jobs over the coming years. “This will take us up to well over 30,000 employees in this region — a growth of about 30%”.
Gauvin concludes: “We are confident in our long term growth in the Middle East (GCC, Levant, and Egypt), which represents over 30% of our current portfolio across Asia, Middle East and Africa with 78 hotels. And with 25 hotels in the pipeline, we will grow by over 40% (by number of rooms) over the next three to five years.”
By the numbers
4 Number of years in role
23 Number of years with company
78 Number of Middle East operating hotels
25 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
03. Olivier Granet, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, AccorHotels Middle East
AccorHotels want to double its Middle Eastern presence in the next five years and has its new captain, Olivier Granet, to guide it through the challenge
Olivier Granet has had big shoes to fill, taking over from Christophe Landais — at the beginning of this year — who led operations for the French hotel company for about 15 years in the Middle East and North Africa. However, Granet is no stranger to the role or the region, having previously served as the senior vice president of development.
Granet has his work cut out as AccorHotels has mapped out a rapid growth strategy to double its presence from 75 operating hotels in 2015 to 150 properties by 2020. “We plan to open the same number of hotels that were developed by the group in the last 35 years in the region, over a span of only five years,” Granet says.
Granet says one of his key achievements was his involvement in facilitating 70 new partnerships that the company signed across the Middle East averaging, “one new signature every two weeks”. “A number of those properties have already opened and 55 remain under development.”
“Over the past seven months, I have pushed forward with our excellent and dynamic growth in this region. We are, on an average, opening one hotel per month in the region and are signing one new agreement every two weeks, demonstrating our credibility in the market and support from our partners,” Granet says.
In the last year, AccorHotels opened 10 hotels (3,216 rooms) across the Middle East: Marjan Island & Resort – managed by AccorHotels, UAE (299 rooms); Ibis Styles R Holding Dubai, UAE (191 rooms); Novotel Marsa Alam Resort, Egypt (268 rooms); Ibis IKIA, Iran (196 rooms); Novotel IKIA, Iran (296 rooms); ibis Dubai One Central (588 rooms); Ibis Styles Dragon Mart, UAE (251 rooms); Pullman Zam Zam Madinah, Saudi Arabia (836 rooms); Sofitel Jeddah Corniche, Saudi Arabia (191 rooms) and Novotel Yanbu (100 rooms).
He remains confident that Accor’s move to acquire FRHI will act as a major booster for the company. “With the acquisition of FRHI, AccorHotels will reach 50,000 rooms in operation by 2020 covering all market segments.”
By the numbers:
7 Number of months in role
16 Number of years with company
87 Number of Middle East operating hotels
71 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
04. Alex Kyriakidis, President & Managing Director, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International
The next year is set to witness many new openings from Marriott International, which has signed a host of new projects
Marriott International’s latest growth pipeline in the Middle East will see its footprint increase in priority markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Ten new properties representing 4,600 rooms are set to open across these two countries between 2016 and 2017. In Saudi Arabia, the company has revealed that 21 new hotels with approximately 4,200 rooms have been slated to open by 2025.
And while Marriott International declined to share any details with Hotelier for this feature, the operator is definitely undergoing substantial expansion; not to say the least about the upcoming merger with Starwood — at the time of writing, the companies are waiting on anti-trust clearance from China.
Taking Marriott International as a standalone company, in the last year it has signed many new hotels and brands. Residence Inn will debut in the UAE, with the Residence Inn by Marriott Al Jaddaf due in 2019. The company is also set to launch UAE’s first Renaissance hotel. And the Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai will be preceded by Abu Dhabi’s first Marriott Hotel, the 315-room five-star Marriott Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi, as well as the 64-suite Marriott Executive Apartments Downtown Abu Dhabi. UAE will add to its Autograph Collection: the 86-room La Ville Hotel City Walk Dubai, the 68-suite La Ville Apartments City Walk Dubai, and 500-room Lapita Hotel, are all set to open by Q4 2016. It’s also the long-stay segment where Alex Kyriakidis is seeing growth. After signing the 300-suite Marriott Executive Apartments in Doha, Kyriakidis told Hotelier: “The long-stay element is beginning to ramp up [in our pipeline]. The other key change that’s happening in the pipeline in the future is the relative decline, as a proportion, of upper upscale and luxury, in terms of percentage of rooms signed every year, and the expansion of the quality-tier and budget segment.”
Marriott International also signed a MFA with Dur Hospitality this year. Under the agreement, the first Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott properties will open in Yanbu in Saudi Arabia.
Kyriakidis said: “Our view hasn’t changed since we did the 2020 Middle East & Africa vision when I joined the company in that the UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt (despite its challenges), South Africa and Nigeria are super-growth markets. And by super-growth, we mean that these are markets where we could easily see ourselves having at least 10,000 rooms — putting Starwood aside for one minute.”
With the addition of Starwood, Marriott is looking at 80 hotels and 22,000 rooms in the UAE, 50 hotels and 14,000 rooms in Saudi Arabia, and 22 hotels and nearly 9,000 hotels in Egypt. “The focus for us will be, now that we have this phenomenal muscle in the market, how do we leverage that muscle? Once we put our heads together you can expect an announcement that will launch our refreshed MEA 2020 strategy,” added Kyriakidis. We can’t wait to see how that affects next year’s ranking.
By the numbers:
4.5 Number of years in role
4.5 Number of years with company
53 Number of Middle East operating hotels
05. Omer Z. Kaddouri, President and CEO, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation PJSC
After heavily investing in digital platforms, Rotana is confident of hitting the 100 operational properties mark by 2020
Home-grown hotel operator Rotana Hotel Management Corporation has had a good year, adding seven new hotels to its portfolio of 50 operational properties.
The pipeline stands at 42 (from 56 last year) bringing the total number of hotels in operation and under development to 99.
The operator’s president and CEO Omer Z. Kaddouri remains confident of hitting 100 operational properties by 2020. Kaddouri has not shied away from admitting the difficult times the industry has faced, but in adversity he has turned to new source markets — resulting in a rise in numbers from GCC, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.
Rotana has also intensified its digital investments. Kaddouri says this has resulted in an “overall online production by 14.08% in occupancy and 2.40% in room revenue (2015 vs 2016)”. Along with developing its own booking channels, Kaddouri has been a fan of OTAs, which led to a 25% rise in occupancy across Rotana’s regional properties and a 9.6% increase in room revenue in 2016 (January–June), versus the previous year.
Kaddouri also persisted in getting Rotana’s F&B outlets on an online booking platform; 56 of its restaurants are on the platform today. He says: “Since its launch in early 2015, we have received online bookings for more than 16,936 covers, a significant majority of which are made via our own websites and mobile app.” Rotana, in the past year, has revamped several F&B outlets and opened new concepts at many of its hotels.
By the numbers:
2.5 Number of years in role
19 Number of years with company
57 Number of Middle East operating hotels
42 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
06. Mark Willis, Area Vice President for the Middle East and Turkey, The Rezidor Hotel Group
Willis is steering The Rezidor Hotel Group through its spree of signings and recruitments, while empowering employees with progressive policies
Speaking to Hotelier, Mark Willis, who is the area vice president for the Middle East and Turkey with the Rezidor Hotel Group, says: “We are now in our third consecutive year of record signings in the Middle East and Turkey and even more importantly, our successful openings within the past year and all of these are testament to the achievements of our team.”
In the last year, the operator has signed Radisson Red, its new lifestyle select brand, in Dubai and Jeddah. The biggest new entry for the group, however, is the property signing in Iraq due to open in 2018. Willis adds: “However I’m keen to draw attention to our growth outside the main cities in both KSA and Turkey, where we remain a leader in the hotel industry for doing so.”
In 2015, The Rezidor Hotel Group reported a 1.5% increase in RevPAR and a revenue increase of 6.4%.
The EBIDTA margin increased by 10.1%, alongside continued growth in signings, openings and conversions, where Rezidor passed the 100,000 rooms in operation milestone.
Overseeing a team of more than 8,000 people in the region, Willis comments: “I believe that no good leader accomplishes anything on their own. I am very fortunate to have a strong and dedicated team around me and everything that we achieve is a shared success.”
He’s keen to emphasise the importance of people, and says he was involved in Rezidor’s continued employee empowerment journey. “Locally, we have doubled the size of our workforce in the office, whilst at the same time reducing e-mail traffic by over 40%. I much favour face-to-face interaction. Finally, I have introduced a ‘no travel week’ in order to ensure that my team can interact at the most important time of their working month.”
Adding to the existing Women in Leadership initiative in the Middle East, Rezidor has launched an enhanced maternity leave policy, claiming to be the region’s first hospitality company to have done so. “We are the first hospitality company to promote a female manager in KSA (at the Radisson Blu Jeddah); we have also increased our female employees in the Kingdom and the region,” he adds.
Willis concludes: “As a numbers-driven person and as a people development and relationship person, these results give me an enormous feeling of accomplishment.”
By the numbers:
3.5 Number of years in role
19 Number of years with company
36 Number of Middle East operating hotels
21 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
07. Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi, Founder, President and CEO, Millennium & Copthorne, Middle East & Africa
Ali Alzaabi is on a strong expansion path — all with the aim to hit 100 hotels by 2020. With 13 hotels added to the existing pipeline in the last year, he’s getting there
Responsible for bringing Millennium & Copthorne to the region in 2001, the brand’s president and CEO in the Middle East & Africa, Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi, an Emirati hotelier, claims he is on track to have 100 hotels by 2020. With 26 hotels and 7,200 rooms in operation in the Middle East, Alzaabi is currently looking at a pipeline of more than 35 hotels and 15,000 rooms in the area.
In the last year, he’s signed just over 6,000 keys and 13 hotels, and opened five. Out of these, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a high growth market, with 4,000 out of the 6,000 keys signed there.
The operator is committed towards expanding across the entire Kingdom, not only Makkah and Madinah, but also in Riyadh, Jizan, Tabouk and Jeddah — across the North, South and Western provinces.
Key hotel openings in the last 12 months include the Millennium Hotel Hail, Copthorne Riyadh, and the Grand Millennium Muscat. While not part of the region, he also was behind the launch of The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi in Georgia, the debut of the brand under his command. In the Middle East, however, The Biltmore Collection will open doors with the Bab Al Qasr Abu Dhabi — a soft opening is scheduled for this month, and will house 677 rooms, suites and residences. He isn’t stopping there — two more hotels under this brand are earmarked by Alzaabi, with The Biltmore Bateen Marina Abu Dhabi (2018) and The Biltmore Riyadh (2019).
Alzaabi, it would seem, after cementing the presence of Millennium & Copthorne MEA is signing new brands to enter the market. The operator signed the first four-star Millennium Place hotel in May 2016 with The First Group, with a current pipeline of two properties, but with hopes to reach 10-15 hotels.
Millennium & Copthorne currently employs almost 5,000 people, and with the ‘100 hotels by 2020’ target, is set to add another 15,000 to its team, with the corporate office team in Dubai having already doubled in size within the last 12 months.
He tells Hotelier: “The group’s evolution in the region is not only a consequence of our team’s efforts but also importantly very much a reflection of our respect for the culture and traditions in the region. I believe we have a very unqiue identity that provides our owners with the gravitas of an international brand combined with an innate understanding of the region.”
By the numbers:
15 Number of years in role
15 Number of years with company
26 Number of Middle East operating hotels
35 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
08. Peter Fulton, Group President, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South West Asia, Hyatt
With a pipeline that has grown one-and-a-half times in the last 12 months, the US hotelier is looking at introducing more properties under its newly launched brands
Hyatt has been busy over the last 12 months, signing new contract agreements and bolstering its pipeline significantly (24 hotels in the pipeline). The group, under the guidance of Peter Fulton, group president, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South West Asia, has also added four new operational properties — up from 10 last year to 14.
Globally, Hyatt has launched two new brands, Hyatt House and Hyatt Centric. Fulton says the brands could soon make their Middle East debut. Of the GCC countries, Fulton’s sights are on Kuwait, where the company is set to make massive strides.
Elsewhere in the GCC, Hyatt is set to open the Grand Hyatt in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. A Hyatt Regency is scheduled for Riyadh by Q4 2016, and a couple of Hyatt Places and Hyatt Houses will also spring up between Riyadh and Jeddah.
Fulton says employees are at the core of the group’s goals. “Over the last one year, I was fortunate to be the regional leader tasked with changing how we operate our hotels. With the help of my HR colleagues and teams across our hotels and corporate offices in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South West Asia, we connected with each of our hotels and helped them understand how to embed our purpose into every guest experience, every partnership, and every colleague interaction.”
He adds: “Globally, our mission is to become a company led by a single, unifying purpose. At Hyatt we believe that ‘we exist to care for people so they can be their best’. It’s been at the root of why our colleagues join Hyatt and why they remain with the Hyatt family, and it is also what we have brought to our guests for more than 50 years.”
By the numbers:
3 Number of years in role
34 Number of years with company
14 Number of Middle East operating hotels
24 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
09. Sami Nasser, Senior Vice President Operations, Middle East, Africa & India (MEAI), FRHI Hotels & Resorts
FRHI was taken over by AccorHotels in mid-July this year, but Sami Nasser is busy with imminent openings and new signings in new territories
FRHI Hotels & Resorts senior vice president, operations, MEAI, Sami Nasser has a vision to double the operator’s portfolio by 2020. And with 19 live properties, and 20 in the pipeline, this is an achievable goal.
Openings for FRHI Hotels & Resorts within the next six months include Swissôtel Al Maqam in Makkah (1,624 keys), the company’s flagship in Jordan, Fairmont Amman (opening December 2016), Fairmont Fujairah (opening January 2016) and Fairmont Riyadh (opening December 2016). Other properties set to open include the Raffles Jeddah, Swissôtel Jeddah and Swissôtel Al Khobar.
Earlier this year, the company also signed the 240-key Fairmont Al Khobar, currently in development and set to open in 2020, as well as the second Swissôtel property in Makkah, Swissôtel Al Maqam, due to open in September 2016.
Within Egypt, the development team has expanded beyond three Fairmont hotels in downtown Cairo and Heliopolis with the first tri-branded (Fairmont, Raffles, Swissôtel) project in Sharm El Sheikh, consisting of over 1,000 guestrooms and suites between the three hotels, the world’s largest manmade Crystal Lagoon, a retail promenade and boardwalk, and an 18-hole Colin Montgomerie golf course.
Moreover, earlier this year, FRHI announced a Fairmont hotel in Soma Bay, a popular tourist resort destination along the Red Sea in Hurghada and a Swissôtel in Katameyah, referred to as the ‘New’ Cairo.
Brand equity within the UAE has gone from strength to strength, with five operational hotels to-date and the inclusion of two more Fairmont properties in Abu Dhabi as well as Fairmont Fujairah, which will open next year.
Continuing to focus on quality as with last year, Nasser championed and formed a dedicated quality committee at the regional office consisting of Nadine Yetinger, director, operations & hotel openings; Stuart Nielsen, vice president, food & beverage, and Bastien Blanc, vice president sales and marketing.
“Together we have put in a systematic process including the following - constant follow-up through a digital platform, monthly review of performance with general managers, and the implementation of key strategic actions per hotel (four regional level targets and three hotel level targets),” Nasser tells Hotelier.
By the numbers:
3 Number of years in role
3 Number of years with company
19 Number of Middle East operating hotels
20 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels
10. Andreas Mattmüller, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East and Asia, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts
Mövenpick is committed to sustainability, with all 30 Middle East properties having earned a Green Globe certification
Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts has stuck to its guns of operating under a single brand name. The group continues to operate 30 properties across the Middle East and North Africa — the same number as last year, with one property added to its pipeline, which stands at nine. Five of the nine properties are set to open in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (three in Jeddah and one each in Riyadh and Khobar), three in Dubai and one in Erbil, Iraq.
All these new openings will be responsible for creating jobs. Its COO Andreas Mattmüller says: “We currently manage 7,800 employees in the region, which, in line with our 2020 strategy, we expect to increase to 11,800.”
In line with a company-wide commitment to energy and water conservation, Mattmüller has also made a strong push towards sustainability: “We are strongly committed to CSR. All our hotels in the Middle East have the Green Globe certification.”
Mattmüller adds: “Our vision is to achieve exceptional financial performance in our existing properties, continue high guest satisfaction as measured by third party groups (TripAdvisor and TrustYou) coupled with a high repeat guest ratio, maintain high employee satisfaction, along with effective development programmes, and continue developing our brand throughout the Middle East with upscale hotels and resorts based on a clearly defined development strategy, successful openings and positioning of various upcoming properties.”
By the numbers:
9 Number of years in role
15 Number of years with company
30 Number of Middle East operating hotels
9 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels