The Hotelier Express Power 20: 11-20

The second installment revealing the most influential hoteliers in the Middle East's budget and mid-market hospitality sector

Millennium & Copthorne, Founder, President & CEO, Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi
Millennium & Copthorne, Founder, President & CEO, Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi
Hyatt Group, President, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South West Asia, Peter Fulton
Hyatt Group, President, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South West Asia, Peter Fulton
Emaar Hospitality Group, Chief Operating Officer, Chris Newman
Emaar Hospitality Group, Chief Operating Officer, Chris Newman
Kerten Capital International Hospitality, Chief Executive Officer, Marloes Knippenberg
Kerten Capital International Hospitality, Chief Executive Officer, Marloes Knippenberg
R Hotels, Managing Director, Sumair Tariq
R Hotels, Managing Director, Sumair Tariq
Time Hotels, Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Awadalla
Time Hotels, Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Awadalla
Dunes Hospitality Group, General Manager, Faisal Abdul Rahman
Dunes Hospitality Group, General Manager, Faisal Abdul Rahman
Al Bustan Centre & Residence, Cheif Operating Officer, Moussa El Hayek
Al Bustan Centre & Residence, Cheif Operating Officer, Moussa El Hayek
Action Hotels, Founder and Chairman, Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah
Action Hotels, Founder and Chairman, Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah
Swiss-Belhotel Internaional, Vice President Operations and Development Middle East, Noel Massoud
Swiss-Belhotel Internaional, Vice President Operations and Development Middle East, Noel Massoud

11. Millennium & Copthorne, Founder, President & CEO, Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi

Studio M is the new mid-market offering arriving soon in the Middle East by Millennium & Copthorne. The company has a development objective to have a total of 100 hotels operational by 2020. Currently the pipeline in the Middle East for its mid-market brand Studio M stands at seven properties, with a target for the Middle East region to have a total of 15 to 20 properties.

Studio M has been developed as the Millennium & Copthorne mid-maret brand for the millennial generation. Described as ‘budget boutique’, it is a standardised brand design focussing on operational efficiency with affordable price points. Additionally, the concept features strong design aesthetic and is technology focused.

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Millennium & Copthorne founder, president and CEO Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi is responsible for the successful development and introduction of new brands into the region, including Studio M. He began his career in 1992 when he joined the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, before joining Abu Dhabi National Hotels in 1996 as a general manager.

Alzaabi’s involvement in the MEA hospitality sector extends beyond the brand, with a number of investment companies operating across spectrum of market segments.

12. Hyatt Group, President, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South West Asia, Peter Fulton

The Hyatt pipeline that has grown one-and-a-half times in the last 12 months, and the US hotelier is looking to introduce more properties under its newly launched brands, including its young, millennial-friendly brand, Hyatt Place.

Just 12 months after opening its first Hyatt Place in the region – Hyatt Place Al Rigga in Deira – Hyatt Hotels launched another property under the brand, just a 12 minute drive away from the site of the original property.

Hyatt Place Dubai/ Baniyas Square is focused on both the business and leisure segments, offering 126 guest rooms, embracing technology and design that meets 24/7 lifestyle requirements of millennials.

The group, under the guidance of Fulton, has also managed to add to four new operational properties – up from 10 last year to 14. Fulton says employees are at the core of its goals, he comments: “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 every one of our hotels and helped them to understand how to embed our purpose into every guest
experience, every partnership deal and every colleague interaction.”

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

With 18 upcoming hotels in the UAE and in international markets, including six under the Rove Hotels brand, Emaar Hospitality Group chief operating officer Emaar Hospitality Group Chris Newman takes 13th position in the power 20.

Emaar has rolled out its first mid-market lifestyle brand, Rove Downtown Dubai – under Rove Hotels, contributing to Dubai’s tourism sector by ‘transcending typical value-hotel norms’. Rove Downtown Dubai is the first of 10 planned hotels operational in the city by 2020, adding over 2,660 rooms. “We evaluate the market to understand trends and identify opportunities. Today, Dubai has become a hub for business and leisure but there is a significant shortage of value lifestyle hotels. We are addressing that niche with our new hotel brand Rove Hotels,” said Newman. As CEO at Emaar Hospitality Group, Newman is responsible for overseeing an expanding team of more than 4,000 professionals globally. Emaar’s hospitality and leisure business recorded first-half (January to June) 2016 revenue of AED 1.29 billion (US$ 353 million).

Speaking about his role in spearheading industry trends Newman said: “We plan to operate 10 Rove Hotels in all by 2020 across different locations in the city, which will also support the hosting of the Expo 2020 Dubai that will welcome over 25 million visitors from around the world.”

14. Kerten Capital International Hospitality, Chief Executive Officer, Marloes Knippenberg

Knippenberg is responsible for the positioning and expansion all of Kerten’s hospitality brands internationally. These brands include two hotel groups, The House Hotel Collection, a portfolio of boutique hotels, and Kerten’s first mid-market hotel brand, Cloud7 Hotels, a new concept for the next-generation traveller where you can ‘be as young as you feel’.

Knippenberg started her career with Hilton’s fast track programme, after which she held senior operational & commercial management positions for Hilton in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East. In 2013, Knippenberg left to become an entrepreneur. Today, Knippenberg leads 25 employees and is also responsible for Kerten’s mixed-use developments combining hotels, residential, serviced offices and new-generation co-working spaces in both the luxury and mid-market segments.

Kerten Capital, which includes: Cloud7 Hotels, The House Hotel Collection and The House Residence and Ouspace, currently operates one Cloud7, six House Hotels and one House Residence and Ouspace opening soon, all located in Turkey. The number of Middle East hotels in the pipeline includes: “five projects with owners and business partners who have a long term vision, and long term potential to create a portfolio of hotels in some incredible and authentic locations,” says Knippenberg.

15. R Hotels, Managing Director, Sumair Tariq

R Hotels aims to be one of the top performing hospitality groups in the Middle East and to be recognised as one of the best hospitality companies to work for in the region. In addition to growing its portfolio in the UAE and growing its team, R Hotels seeks to expand its presence in other foreign cities including Jeddah and Makkah. The number of hotels it’s operating in the Middle East currently stands at five, with the number of hotels in pipeline in the Middle East at four (two are under construction and two are under review for acquisition).

R Hotels capped off 2015 with an average occupancy of 86% for all five properties. The group’s revenue was up by 6% from 2014, with almost 300,000 room nights sold, and for the first half of 2016, the occupancy figures were at 85%. In August 2015, R Hotels opened the first ibis Styles in the UAE under a franchise agreement with AccorHotels. “Similar to our other hotels which capitalise on location, the hotel is strategically situated along the intersection of Al Mina Road and 2nd December Street in Jumeirah,” says managing director Sumair Tariq.

The group now operates more than 1,100 rooms in the UAE, and has achieved this level of growth “organically and through acquisition”.

16. Time Hotels, Chief Executive Officer, Mohamed Awadalla

At present Time Hotels is operating 11 properties in the Middle East, with a pipeline featuring an additional seven hotels. Since coming into office Time Hotels Management chief executive officer Mohamed Awadalla has also overseen expansion into new markets including Qatar, KSA and Egypt.

Awadalla’s accomplishments in his current role include increasing revenue by AED 40 million (US $10.9 million), while overseeing Time Hotels portfolio expansion from four properties to 11, over a period of four years. He has also sustained employee satisfaction above 80% for the past three years.

As one of the founders of Time Hotels Management in 2007, Awadalla started as the area vice president, then in 2012 he moved to the position of CEO with overall responsibility for the company’s 10 hotels, hotel apartments and residence with a remit to spearhead the future development and drive the commercial success of Time’s rapidly expanding portfolio of Middle East and Northern Africa based properties.

Awadalla is an international hotelier with over 30 years’ experience and has worked with some of the leading global hospitality companies including Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Hilton International, Rotana Hotels.

After completing his studies at the German Academic Institute for Hotel Management in 1985, Awadalla began his career with Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts in Luxor, Egypt. He then joined Hilton International in Luxor and was tasked with running the travel trade division out of the Cairo area sales office, with the responsibility of 12 properties.

In 1996 Awadalla relocated to the UAE, where he held numerous positons with various international chains, including Hilton Corniche Residence Abu Dhabi rooms division manager, Hilton Hotel Al Ain director of business development and Al Maha Rotana Abu Dhabi general manager.

His contribution to achieving sustainability initiatives at Time Hotels includes certifying all properties by the Green Key certification scheme, in addition to developing a carbon offset programme, which was a first in the region to have facilitated and aided many poor developing countries in Africa through guests’ donations.

“For the second year in a row we are CSR label certified by Dubai Chamber. In 2016 we have achieved 5% higher than the previous year score and we are now 10% higher than all the applicants,” he added.

17. Dunes Hospitality Group, General Manager, Faisal Abdul Rahman

Dunes Hotel Apartments is the hospitality division of Al Harbi Real Estate. Its journey began in 2007 with its first property – Dunes Hotel Apartments, Muhaisnah, before expanding to include two additional hotel apartments in Al Barsha (2008) and Oud Metha (2011). Rahman, who is responsible for 165 employees, says his vision for the company is to add five more properties to the portfolio in the next three years.

The company is looking for new properties on a management basis, rebranding them as Dunes. There are no dates confirmed yet, but the brand is looking to capitalise on the growing mid-market in the United Arab Emirates. Rahman notes the influx of mid-market properties coming to the region has led him to strengthen his commitment to quality as he makes progress towards these goals.

Commenting on his leadership style, Rahman said: “I believe that people are our number one asset and my leadership style is one that is participatory and focuses on a shared vision. I have always been in the forefront when it comes to implementing initiatives and innovations and leading by example.”

His actions have made an impact on company profits too, he commented on the joint actions during 2015 having resulted in an increase in revenue by 10%. “Despite the challenging market environment, through our various ongoing sales and customer service initiatives, we have managed to maintain an occupancy of 80-90% across our properties.”

18. Al Bustan Centre & Residence, Cheif Operating Officer, Moussa El Hayek

Established in 1997, Al Bustan Centre and Residence has closely witnessed the rise of Dubai as a hub for tourism. It offers 640 rooms and suites to its business and leisure guests, making a name for itself among travellers in the MICE Industry.

A veteran of the hospitality industry, Moussa El Hayek has a 40 year career in hospitality, with more than 35 of those years working in Middle East hotels. Over the past 20 years he has worked to establish Al Bustan Centre and Residence as a family leisure destination for local & GCC markets in addition to the tourist segment from CIS countries.

Speaking of his accomplishments in this current role, El Hayek said he worked hard to establish a reasonable market share of business travellers and airline crew members, in order to create a balance of market segment that is in demand all year round. His vision for the future of the company is to provide the highest level of hospitality and make guests feel like they are experiencing a home away from home, by giving them value for money, personalised services, while continuously improving product.

El Hayek commented on the opening year of operations, noting that from the very beginning he visited exhibitions held across different countries every month to promote Al Bustan Centre & Residence and UAE tourism. He added that from its first year of operations the property recorded very reasonable occupancy rates, which were beyond expectations and made the owners proud.

19. Action Hotels, Founder and Chairman, Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah

Action Hotels is an owner, developer and asset manager of branded three- and four-star hotels in the Middle East and Australia. Established in 2005, it currently operates eleven hotels with a pipeline which will see its portfolio increase to 18 hotels providing over 3,198 rooms by 2018. The company’s vision is to be ‘the leading developer, owner and manager of branded economy and midscale hotels in the Middle East and Australia’.

Action Hotels founder and chairman Sheikh Mubarak A M Al Sabah is committed to sustained growth, both by investing in owned estate and by developing strategic relationships with carefully-chosen partners.

Without raising any further equity, Action Hotels has outperformed management’s expectations set out at IPO, with regards to the number of rooms in operating and pipeline hotels by 29%, with total rooms totalling 3,257 vs. 2,516. Action Hotels focuses on the development of a portfolio of high quality hotels, offering ‘excellent service and value’ while ‘delivering superior returns’ to its owners and shareholders.

Action Hotels current development pipeline contains properties which are aimed to ‘significantly enhance’ its portfolio and expand its presence in existing markets as well as growing new markets. Looking at the numbers, Action Hotels currently has eight hotels operational in the Middle East, with a further six hotels in the Middle East pipeline.

20. Swiss-Belhotel Internaional, Vice President Operations and Development Middle East, Noel Massoud

The pipeline of new openings in the Middle East by Swiss-Belhotel International is set to include a new two-star brand called Zest. The company also plans to open two hotels in Riyadh, and one property in the holy city of Makkah by the end of this year.

Massoud said his vision for the future is for Swiss-Belhotel International to “become the preferred mid-scale operator in the Middle East”.

Swiss-Belhotel International’s Middle East office has seen a rapid expansion in his tenure. The company’s operating hotels have increased by 100% and the hotel projects have increased by 180%. “The company has entered into three new countries and four new brands have been launched.”

He said: “As a leader in the current role, with my experience from IHG and Emirates Palace, it is constant endeavour to bring in the five-star quality into a midscale operation which is my recipe for a winning philosophy.”

Since taking office, Swiss-Belhotel International expansion into new markets include Egypt, Georgia and Turkey, and there have been four new brands signed or opened in the Middle East in the past 12 months.

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