The Hotelier Express Power List 2017: Who's in the top five?

AccorHotels managing director & chief operating officer Middle East & Africa Olivier Granet retains the top spot for the second consecutive year in Hotelier Express' rankings of the most influential hoteliers in the mid-market sector

AccorHotels managing director and chief operating officer Middle East and Africa Olivier Granet.
AccorHotels managing director and chief operating officer Middle East and Africa Olivier Granet.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) chief operating officer Pascal Gauvin.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) chief operating officer Pascal Gauvin.
Marriott International president and managing director,Middle East & Africa Alex Kyriakidis.
Marriott International president and managing director,Middle East & Africa Alex Kyriakidis.
Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group area senior vice president, Middle East, Turkey and Africa Mark Willis.
Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group area senior vice president, Middle East, Turkey and Africa Mark Willis.
Wyndham Hotel Group regional vice president, Middle East and Africa Ignace Bauwens.
Wyndham Hotel Group regional vice president, Middle East and Africa Ignace Bauwens.

1. Olivier Granet

Managing director and chief operating officer, AccorHotels Middle East and Africa

“AccorHotels is recognised as a worldwide leader in the economy and mid-scale segments – a title we have upheld here in the Middle East since we entered the market over a decade ago,” managing director and chief operating officer Middle East and Africa Olivier Granet tells Hotelier Express.

With the establishment of AccorHotels’ new lifestyle division in February 2017, the group followed up by unveiling its first lifestyle hotel in the region, signing the 201-room and 80-residence Mama Shelter in Business Bay, Dubai. The group celebrated the opening of four economy and mid-scale segment hotels in March 2017 alone. Brand highlights include the reflagging of a Sheikh Zayed Road landmark in Dubai, which elevated the profile of the group’s Mercure brand, as the 1,015-key Mercure Dubai Barsha Heights & Apartments marks the largest Mercure hotel in AccorHotels’ global network. The group’s economy ibis Style brand achieved milestones with debut openings in Bahrain and Makkah. Not to be outdone, the group’s signature mid-scale brand, Novotel, was responsible for securing the largest footprint for AccorHotels in the region, surpassing 30 operational and pipeline properties in 2017. These included the signing of signature Novotel projects in Egypt and in Dubai, with locations at Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah, the latter being the first  mid-scale project to have direct beach access at the Palm.

2. Pascal Gauvin

Chief operating officer, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Since ascending to his present role in 2012, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) chief operating officer Pascal Gauvin has launched new brands such as extended stay Staybridge Suites and managing chief  in the Middle East.

Meantime, the group’s powerhouse mid-scale Holiday Inn brand continues to be its growth engine in the MENA region. And it is looking unstoppable.

“We are continuing to focus on the mid-market segment, given the current gap in the availability of mid-market pricing in branded hotels in the region,” Gauvin says.

Notable properties opened in the last year include the Holiday Inn Mutare in Zimbabwe, which is the third Holiday Inn-franchised property with the African Sun Limited, and the Staybridge Suites Jeddah Alandalus Mall in Jeddah, which is IHG’s first Staybridge Suites hotel in Saudi Arabia. In addition, with  the IHG signing of the 5,154-room Hotel Abraaj Al Kiswah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Gauvin confirms that the conversion of the first of the five towers, a 1,250-key Holiday Inn, is on track to be completed by April 2018.

IHG expects to strengthen its mid-market stronghold in the region, with 10 hotels (five of which were signed during the past 12 months alone) adding 2,745 rooms to the pipeline. Highlights will include Holiday Inn Dubai Festival City, Holiday Inn Dubai World Central, Staybridge Suites Dubai World Central, Holiday Inn Dubai Science Park, Holiday Inn Dubai Business Bay and Holiday Inn Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

3. Alex Kyriakidis

President and managing director, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International

With the acquistion of Starwood Hotels completed, Marriott International has defined its brands and distinct offerings under luxury, premium, select and extended stay. Falling under the group’s select and extended stay umbrella in the region are some of its mid-scale and upper mid-scale brands: Courtyard Hotels, Residence Inn by Marriott, Four Points, AC Hotels, Aloft Hotels and Element.

Marriott International Middle East & Africa president and managing director Alex Kyriakidis has, after the launch of the Aloft Hotels brand in the region with Aloft Abu Dhabi in 2009, followed it up with twin openings in Riyadh and Dhahran (2016). In April 2017, Aloft made an appearance in Al Ain while the next few years will see a blossoming of the brand within the UAE, with openings expected for Aloft Dubai The Palm, Aloft Dubai Airport, Aloft Dubai City Centre Deira, Aloft Dubai South, Aloft Dubiotech Dubai, Aloft IMPZ Dubai, Aloft Studio City Dubai and Aloft Dubai Raffa. Also in Dubai, Aloft Me’ aisem and Element Me’aisem are both due to come online by end-2017, which will mark the debut of eco-label Element in the region. Meantime, Courtyard and Residence Inn will also add to the pipeline  with two hotels in Dubai’s Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC) opening by 2020.

Kyriakidis says: “My vision in the Middle East and Africa is to make Marriott International the favourite travel company in the region.”

4. Mark Willis

Area senior vice president, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

What is remarkable about Carlson Rezidor during the past year is how the operator has made a strategic pivot, shifting its MENA development pipeline of mid-market brand Park Inn by Radisson, from comprising less than 20% of the group’s portfolio to almost 50% today for hotels in operation and under development.

Mark Willis, who in the last year was promoted to a senior role and added Africa to his portfolio, states that the brand will continue to gain more momentum. “Our vision is to continue the fantastic growth in the region of our mid-market brand, Park Inn by Radisson across hotels, resorts and serviced apartments,” he says, adding: “This is a brand and product that offers a real estate efficient, mid-scale product to cater to, not only mid-market demand, but also the new and evolving generation of millennial travellers looking for affordable accommodation.”

A significant milestone this past year was the opening of the 459-room Park Inn by Radisson Makkah Al Naseem in Saudi Arabia, the brand’s debut in the Holy City,. As for deals, the most notable this past year was the group’s signing of what will be the world’s largest Park Inn by Radisson, at 1,600 rooms in Al Hajla, also in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. In March 2017, under Willis’ watch, the group was the first operator worldwide to appoint a Saudi Arabian female hotel general manager, when Maram Kokandi was promoted to general manager of Park Inn by Radisson Jeddah.

5. Ignace Bauwens

Regional vice president, Middle East and Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group

Since assuming the role of regional  vice president, Middle East and Africa, for Wyndham Hotel Group 10 months back, Ignace Bauwens has been spearheading the beefing up of Wyndham’s mid-scale presence in the region.

The group currently has 38 mid-market hotels and 7,399 rooms operating across MENA under the Ramada, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, Tryp by Wyndham and Howard Johnson brands. Its latest mid-scale hotel openings in  the region include Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Abu Dhabi City Centre in the UAE; Ramada Encore Al Khobar Olaya in Saudi Arabia; Ramada Hotel & Suites Sharjah in the UAE; as well as Tryp by Wyndham  Dubai, also in the UAE, which is the world’s largest Tryp by Wyndham at 650 rooms.

Wyndham has 13 mid-scale hotels in a solid MENA pipeline across these brands, which will bring travellers an additional 2,739 rooms. As part of this supply pipeline, Bauwens is introducing the  Wyndham Garden brand to the Middle East for the first time, with openings earmarked in three countries: two in Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Dammam) and one apiece in the UAE (Ajman) and Bahrain. Wyndham Garden Manama, with 441 rooms, is slated to be the largest Wyndham  Garden hotel in the world when it opens in Bahrain.

In an April 2017 Hotelier Express interview, Bauwens mentioned that Wyndham has regional plans for economy brands Days Inn and Super 8 motels.

“We have one [Super 8] in Saudi Arabia and we will announce a Days Inn and Super 8 for the UAE very soon.”

He says: “We want to be the region’s leading player in the mid-market hotel segment, striving to elevate the experience of the everyday traveller. We want to expand the footprint of existing brands and bring additional brands to the region.”

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