Hotelier Middle East Power 50: 11-20

Hotelier Middle East reveals who made position 11 to 20 in our Power 50 List 2016. Click to find out

Panos Loupasis, Vice President Development, Middle East & Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group
Panos Loupasis, Vice President Development, Middle East & Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group
Christian Muhr, Vice President Egypt & Levant, Hilton Worldwide
Christian Muhr, Vice President Egypt & Levant, Hilton Worldwide
Hussein Ali Hatata, Vice President, Hospitality Division, Al Khozama Management Company
Hussein Ali Hatata, Vice President, Hospitality Division, Al Khozama Management Company
Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla, Chief Executive Officer, Katara Hospitality
Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla, Chief Executive Officer, Katara Hospitality
Robert Kunkler, Chief Operating Officer, Minor Hotel Group
Robert Kunkler, Chief Operating Officer, Minor Hotel Group
Rami Moukarzel, Vice President Development & Acquisitions MENA, Louvre Hotels Group
Rami Moukarzel, Vice President Development & Acquisitions MENA, Louvre Hotels Group
Dr. Badr AlBadr, Chief Executive Officer, Dur Hospitality
Dr. Badr AlBadr, Chief Executive Officer, Dur Hospitality
Jamal Serhan, CEO, Warwick MENA / Senior VP, Warwick Hotels & Resorts
Jamal Serhan, CEO, Warwick MENA / Senior VP, Warwick Hotels & Resorts
Ziad El Chaar, Managing Director, Damac Hotels & Resorts
Ziad El Chaar, Managing Director, Damac Hotels & Resorts
Chris Newman, Chief Operating Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group
Chris Newman, Chief Operating Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group

11. Panos Loupasis, Vice President Development, Middle East & Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group

With a specific focus on Africa, Wyndham hopes to add to its pipeline and portfolio, having signed quite a few properties in the last 12 months

Panos Loupasis has occupied the position of vice president development for Middle East and Africa for just little under a year, but he has ensured Wyndham has looked towards new frontiers — especially the African continent.

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At the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference earlier this year, Loupasis claimed the company signed seven contracts: two new hotels in Oman, two new hotels in Iraq and three new hotels in Ethiopia.

The American operator also debuted its Wyndham brand in the UAE earlier this year, in partnership with The First Group, a Dubai-based developer with whom Wyndham plans to develop more hotels in the coming years. Loupasis says: “Since I took over business development at Wyndham Hotel Group in 2011, the company’s Middle East and Africa portfolio of operational hotels has grown 46%, from 37 to 54 operational hotels, with a further 20 hotels in development.”

Wyndham has added four new properties to its tally over the last 12 months, bringing its total number of operational assets to 46 in the Middle East. The number of hotels in the pipeline, however, stands at 14 (down from 15 last year).

Loupasis is quick to point out the success of its Ramada brand. “In the Middle East we went from a relatively unknown player to the leader in supplying mid-market accommodation across the region with our Ramada brand.

Currently, we have 31 operational Ramada hotels across the Middle East. We also continue to introduce more of our brand portfolio across the Middle East, including Wyndham Grand, Wyndham, Wyndham Garden, Tryp by Wyndham, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada Encore and Super 8.”

By the numbers

9 Number of months in role
5 Number of years with company
46 Number of Middle East operating hotels
14 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

12. Christian Muhr, Vice President Egypt & Levant, Hilton Worldwide

Despite the security challenges, Muhr has had a year marked by revenue growth and landmark openings

Personally recommended by Hilton Worldwide MEA & Turkey president Rudi Jagersbacher, Christian Muhr leads operations of the Egypt & Levant region for Hilton Worldwide, along with driving regional strategy development — with a pipeline of 11 hotels across these markets, all of which are expected to open in the coming 3-5 years.

In the last year, Muhr has had to face a number of challenges, not least because of the security concerns in the region he handles. Hilton Worldwide, under his leadership, has advanced the development of its first DoubleTree by Hilton in Egypt & Levant, with the expected opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Ain Al Sokhna (197 rooms), Egypt, in 2019.

Given this potential, Muhr is finalising negotiations to widen its brand portfolio in Ain Al Sokhna, with the introduction of its first Hilton Hotels & Resorts hotel in the area. As Hilton Worldwide continues to build on its long-standing legacy in Egypt, a country it has served for more than 55 years, the hospitality company expanded its resort presence in April 2016, with the unveiling of its 18th property in Egypt in the form of the Hilton Alexandria King’s Ranch (199 rooms).

This is soon to be joined by Hilton Cairo Nile Maadi (257 rooms), which is currently under development and expected to welcome guests by 2018, bringing Hilton Worldwide’s multi-brand presence in Cairo up to five hotels.
As part of a wider drive to grow its presence of resorts across the region, Hilton Worldwide is also progressing towards the opening of one of the largest resorts under development in its EMEA pipeline portfolio, with the expected opening of Jordan’s Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa (285 rooms) later this year. After the success of Hilton Worldwide’s mid-market brand launches in the UAE in 2015, the company now confirms that it has extended its focus on value hotel options to Egypt & Levant, revealing its plans to open Hilton Garden Inn Damietta Beach (130 rooms), exclusively to Hotelier Middle East. In the wider region where Christian Muhr sits on the EMEA executive committee and MEA leadership team, the last year has been a period of firsts and landmark openings — ranging across a multitude of brands including Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy by Hilton, Hampton by Hilton, and The Curio Collection.

Muhr tells Hotelier: “My vision for Egypt & Levant is to continue to deliver growth in order to stimulate the economy, in spite of the headwinds we face, and to evolve our business and team member mindsets, for the only constant in the industry is change. Our hotels in Egypt & Levant have increased their bottomline performance year-on-year in spite of the difficulties faced by the region.”

By the numbers

3 Number of years in role
34 Number of years with company
22 Number of Middle East operating hotels
11 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

13. Hussein Ali Hatata, Vice President, Hospitality Division, Al Khozama Management Company

Hatata solely created a hospitality division and nurtured it to become Saudi Arabia’s leading luxury hospitality company, starting with one hotel in 2007 to eight properties in 2016, with six further potential properties under development

With almost four decades’ experience, Hatata currently holds the position of vice president, hotels division at Al Khozama Management Company, a property development, management and investment company owned by the King Faisal Foundation (KFF). Since taking on his current position in 2005, Hatata has played an active role in driving the organisation’s ambitious expansion strategy into key cities across Saudi Arabia, growing from just one hotel in 2007 to eight operational properties in 2016, with more under development.

In addition to the management of the Al Khozama-owned facilities in Riyadh, he has increased Al Khozama’s hotel management portfolio to include Al Shohada Hotel in Makkah and Bay La Sun Hotel & Marina in King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah.

Openings in the last year include the Al Faisaliah Resort & Spa at Durrat Arriyadh in June 2016. He also signed an MOU for three properties in Jeddah — under negotiation for management agreements, as well as an MOU for a hotel and residence in Riyadh.

Hatata has also overseen the signing of management agreements for two new luxury hotel properties in Al Khobar, scheduled to open in 2016/17.

Most recently, Hatata negotiated with Rosewood Hotels Group the transition process for Al Khozama-owned properties — Al Faisaliah Hotel, Al Faisaliah Suites, Hotel Al Khozama, Al Faisaliah Resort at Durrat Arriyadh, and led the transition team ensuring seamless operation and zero employee turnover throughout the process.

Hatata first joined the Hotel Al Khozama, Riyadh in 1978, working in a number of operational and managerial roles. In 1997, he led the opening of the five-star Abha Palace Hotel on behalf of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, simultaneously holding the rooms division manager position for the Hotel Al Khozama. He was promoted to hotel manager in 1999, before travelling to Istanbul, Gstaad, Lausanne and Geneva, working in various hotels and positions as part of a development programme.

In 2003, he led the opening of the Al Faisaliah Residence, an apartment development in Riyadh which was converted in 2011 to a luxury five-star facility — Al Faisaliah Suites — featuring 106 contemporary suites, a ladies spa and an Italian restaurant — La Cucina.

A graduate of Lausanne Hotel Management School, and holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management, Hatata has completed management programmes at Cornell University, US, and the American Hotel & Motel Association hotel operations programme.

By the numbers

11 Number of years in role
38 Number of years with company
8 Number of Middle East operating hotels
7 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

14. Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla, Chief Executive Officer, Katara Hospitality

Al-Mulla is focused on an ambitious target of 60 hotels by 2026

After launching its standalone operating division, Murwab Hotel Group, last year, Katara Hospitality has had a good year. In January this year, Simaisma, a Murwab Resort, opened after undergoing a renovation, with The Avenue, a Murwab Hotel, getting its soft opening this summer.

In the coming months, Al-Mulla reveals, the operator expects to open more hotels in Doha, including Grand Murwab City Center and City Gate Hotel. Katara Hospitality is also responsible for Hotel Park, a family-friendly landscaped park in the heart of Doha’s business district, which opened in April 2016. Katara Hospitality also owns properties spread across Qatar, Egypt, Morocco, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Singapore and Thailand. The group portfolio has grown to include 35 owned and/or managed hotels and the company is now focused on achieving its target of 60 hotels in its portfolio by 2026.

Al-Mulla’s team is growing: Katara Hospitality’s team comprises approximately 200 employees, in addition to over 6,500 employees spread across hotels owned and/or managed by Katara Hospitality. International markets will expand in the coming years with the development of Katara Towers, Lusail Marina District in Qatar, Tazi Palace Hotel in Morocco as well as the Bürgenstock Resort Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

By the numbers

5 Number of years in role
7 Number of years with company
10 Number of Middle East operating hotels
9 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

15. Robert Kunkler, Chief Operating Officer, Minor Hotel Group

Forging new paths, Kunkler has inked deals for hotels in new territories, while reporting healthy profits

Minor Hotel Group added just one property to its portfolio in the last 12 months, but more importantly, the Thai operator has been busy inking new agreements to operate future properties. Under Robert Kunkler’s supervision, the group went from three hotels in the pipeline to nine.

Kunkler has also signed properties where Minor did not have a presence before: Ras Al Khaimah (UAE), Salalah and Jabal Al Akhdar (Oman). Its Avani brand debuted earlier this year when it took over Movenpick Deira. Overall the group is targeting a portfolio of 197 hotels and resorts by 2019 and Minor’s five year plan is to have 250 properties within the next half decade.

Financially, Minor reported a net profit growth of 82% YoY in Q1 2016, primarily due to improved operational performance, increased residential sales and a revaluation surplus relating to the acquisition of Tivoli Hotels & Resorts (which was completed in February 2016). Net profits rose by 10% year on year, RevPar (excluding new hotels) grew by 6% year on year in Q1 2016.

Amongst all its brands, Avani is set to carry the baton of development for the next few years, with the group having entered into agreements with Dubai and Abu Dhabi-based developers Nakheel and Dhabi respectively to develop
new properties.

By the numbers

2.5 Number of years in role
4.5 Number of years with company
11 Number of Middle East operating hotels
9 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

16. Rami Moukarzel, Vice President Development & Acquisitions MENA, Louvre Hotels Group

Louvre Hotels Group will bring over 40 new budget properties to the region

Following 12 years of experience in the Middle East hospitality industry, Rami Moukarzel (son of Amine Moukarzel), has been the Louvre Hotels Group’s new vice president of development and acquisitions in the MENA region for the last 12 months. In this role, the younger Moukarzel oversees a pipeline of 35 new hotels, expected to open by 2018. The group, Moukarzel confirms, aims to have 10-12 new hotels opening in the region each year, and has opened 12 new hotels in the region in 2016 alone.

Since Moukarzel’s appointment at Louvre, the company has begun increased expansion into KSA, with entry into Jeddah, Tabouk, Sharma and Unaizah. Other areas of expansion since Moukarzel’s tenure include Qatar, Algeria, multi-cities in Iran, as well as Korbous and Hammamet in Tunisia. According to Moukarzel, the group is also expecting to sign properties in Syria and Iraq. Upcoming properties in the region for the Louvre Group include branches of the five-star Royal Tulip expected to open in Beirut, Sharjah and Tunisia this year, Bahrain in 2017, and Muscat in 2018.

The group also plans to roll out more than 40 hotels in the MENA region, under the budget brands Campanile and Premiere Classe, in the next three to five years. With an ambitious global pipeline of 850 budget-friendly hotels worldwide, Moukarzel comments, “None of our competitors provide such a comprehensive turnkey solution for budget hotels.”

Looking to the future, Moukarzel says: “The essential ingredients to maintaining success in the region, I believe, is establishing trust, transparency and confidence with our stakeholders, which includes hotel owners, developers and our customers (both internal and external). The experiences I have accumulated developing a wide scope of hotel brands, from the ultra-luxury to the budget segments, over the past 10 years in MENA, has enabled us to stay ahead of the curve, evident in our continued growth in the region despite the political and economic challenges facing us.”

By the numbers

1 Number of years in role
1 Number of years with company
60 Number of Middle East operating hotels as of July 2016
35 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels as of July 2016

17. Dr. Badr AlBadr, Chief Executive Officer, Dur Hospitality

The eloquent CEO of Dur Hospitality rises up the charts thanks to his visionary growth strategy

One of the hottest GCC markets for hotel development right now is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Dr Badr AlBadr is making his presence known — in a big way. His goal is to triple revenue by 2023 to SAR 1.5 billion (US $0.4bn) by developing 14 new hotels and five new residential compounds.

Last year, the company signed a master franchise agreement with IHG for Holiday Inn-branded properties in the Kingdom. This year at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference, it signed an MFA with Marriott International to develop the first Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott Properties in Yanbu on a 7,467m2 land with an investment of SAR 87 million ($23.2mn). This 150-room project will be Marriott International’s first franchise in the Kingdom.

Under his leadership, Dur Hospitality has successfully extended its partnership with the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) for 20 additional years, through renewing the operating agreement of King Khaled Airport Hotel in Riyadh. It also acquired a 10,135m2 plot in Al-Hofuf city in the Al-Ahsa province for SAR 31.5 million ($8.4mn). The land will be dedicated for the development of a new four-star hotel with 120 rooms.

Finally, Dur Hospitality has also purchased a 3,850m2 plot in Jeddah in order to develop a 250-room hotel and serviced apartments.

But it’s not just development and investment on Dr AlBadr’s radar. Through the company’s work, he has increased the Saudi employment percentage from 21% to 33% from 2013 to 2015.

Dur Hospitality has also developed the first Gold LEED-certified hotel in Saudi Arabia: the Marriott Hotel & Marriott Hotel Suites at Riyadh Diplomatic Quarters. Speaking to Hotelier, he says: “We are working towards transforming all Dur hotels to green buildings.”

Dr AlBadr continues: “Dur Hospitality is working to be a positive contributor to the community through adopting and supporting several local CSR initiatives and programmes. We have two targets: saving energy and food and recycling, as well as supporting non-profit organisations.”

Sustained growth and Kingdom-wide expansion, he says, is his vision for the company. He seems to be doing just that.

By the numbers

4.5 Number of years in role
4.5 Number of years with company
11 Number of Middle East operating hotels
9 (6 new and 3 expansions) Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

18. Jamal Serhan, CEO, Warwick MENA / Senior VP, Warwick Hotels & Resorts


The 36-year-old American hotel operator has had an important year as it has undergone a complete brand revolution, helmed by Serhan

Warwick Hotels has recently undergone a rebranding and repositioning across all its properties, with its MENA head Jamal Serhan spearheading the regional changes.

Previously, each hotel in the collection used its own individual logo. However, as the company grew over the past 10 years and passed the 50-property mark, a decision was taken by Warwick to rebrand the entire group.

In the past three years, Warwick Hotels & Resorts has invested more than US $25 million (AED 91.82 million) in the renovation and refurbishment of its existing hotels.Warwick broke into the double digit numbers in terms of properties it handles in the Middle East, up from eight operational properties to 10 in the last 12 months.

Serhan is quite satisfied with the accomplishment, as he says: “Despite the instability in the region and the strong hospitality presence in certain markets, we have managed to expand and in the last 12 months have increased the amount of hotels that we have under our management.” Serhan enters his twenty-fifth year in the company and has been in hospitality for a little over 35 years — experience, which he hopes, will stand him in good stead as he prepares to grow the company in new markets.

By the numbers

5 Number of years in role
25 Number of years with company
10 Number of Middle East operating hotels as of July 2015
6 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels as of July 2015

19. Ziad El Chaar, Managing Director, Damac Hotels & Resorts

Ziad El Chaar moves up from last year’s spot, with the value of projects currently under development at US $20 billion

Ziad El Chaar from Damac Hotels & Resorts has moved up three places on the Power List, as he oversees a pipeline of 22 hotels with more than 13,000 keys on hotel rooms, serviced apartments and hotel villas.

Continuing the consistent growth since last year, El Chaar is responsible for 2,000 people — all spearheading the hospitality firm’s success story. As of July 2016, the brand has five properties in operation — the same as last year — but has added to its pipeline as well as brands under development. New brands signed or opened in the last year include Bugatti, Aykon Hotels and Resorts, Damac Maison De Ville and Damac Maison Royale.

The partnership with Paramount Hotels & Resorts continues with more projects in the works in Dubai and Riyadh. El Chaar tells Hotelier: “We have hotels that will be operated by Paramount Hotels & Resorts with a Hollywood theme, again another first-of-its-kind in the industry in the Middle East. Damac Hotels & Resorts is one of the fastest growing, home-grown hospitality operators in the region. We opened five hotel properties within only 14 months, with 2,000 keys between hotel rooms and hotel apartments. We are also hard at work to develop more than 20 properties, with 13,000 keys to be added to the existing portfolio to reach 15,000 keys by 2021.”

By the numbers

5 Number of years in role
11 Number of years with company
5 Number of Middle East operating hotels
22 Number of Middle East pipeline hotels

20. Chris Newman, Chief Operating Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group

Dubai-born company sets its sights on a MENA-wide empire, with an impressive pipeline ahead

While Newman is relatively new to the Middle East, with just four years in the region under his belt, Emaar’s new COO packs an impressive total of 17 years’ hospitality industry experience.

Newman, who took on his current role in the midst of the Address Downtown Dubai fire incident, tells Hotelier that management of this situation was a “significant challenge”. “During the days that followed, I had to work closely with the chairman and senior management, as well as with government authorities on various aspects of the incident. The dedicated efforts of the team was instrumental in managing the situation efficiently, ensuring that we extended all assistance to our guests and residents,” Newman added.

According to Newman, who is responsible for a total of 4,000 employees across the group, Emaar’s Dubai hotels have achieved an average occupancy of 86% in the last year (even despite the Address Downtown Dubai being out of action). Newman also adds that Emaar’s hospitality and leisure business recorded a revenue of US $353 million (AED 1.298 billion) in the first half of 2016.

Emaar’s total pipeline includes 34 upcoming properties, representing 18 hotels and 16 serviced residences across three brands. While the three brands, Rove, Vida, and The Address Hotels & Resorts, continue to grow within Dubai (with plans to add 2,660 rooms by 2020), the pipeline also sees expansion within the Emirates (The Address Fujairah Resort + Spa), and a number of international debuts for the Emaar Hospitality Group.

Commenting on this international growth for Emaar, Newman tells Hotelier: “This marks the evolution of a Dubai-based home-grown brand into an international hospitality provider.” Upcoming hotel properties outside of the UAE will include The Address Marassi Golf Resort & Spa in Egypt, The Address Istanbul, The Address Marassi Al Bahrain, Vida Jeddah Gate and Vida Marassi Al Bahrain.

By the numbers

1 Number of years in role
2 Number of years with company
10 Number of Middle East operating hotels as of July 2016
34 Number of hotels in pipeline in the Middle East as of July 2016

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