The Power List 2017: Top 11 to 15 in the rankings

Hotelier Express compiles the annual rankings of the most influential hoteliers in the mid-market sector

Hotelier express, Executive interviews, Operators
Hotelier express, Executive interviews, Operators
Hotelier express, Executive interviews, Operators
Hotelier express, Executive interviews, Operators
Hotelier express, Executive interviews, Operators

11. Olivier Harnisch

Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Hospitality Group

Mid-scale brand Rove Hotels has taken Dubai’s hospitality industry by storm during the past couple of years, with four hotels opening in dizzying succession: Rove Downtown, Rove City Centre, Rove Healthcare City and the latest, Rove Trade Centre.

A deep understanding of the regional travel industry zeitgeist, coupled with the ability to deliver on that comprehension, is key to the success of Emaar Hospitality Group’s mid-scale hotel invasion, according to CEO Olivier Harnisch.

“We have brought in a contemporary mid-scale hotel and residences brand that reflects the pulse of the region. With over 200 million youth in the region, it is important to deliver an experience that meets their aspirations. That is what we deliver with Rove Hotels,” he says.

He further reveals: “Our four Rove hotels occupy the four top spots on TripAdvisor among mid-scale hotels in Dubai. No other mid-scale brand has delivered what we have accomplished in such a short span of time by opening four hotels in quick succession.”

The plan is for Rove Hotels to add a total of over 3,700 rooms by 2020, to support Dubai Expo 2020 and to complement the Dubai Tourism Vision 2020. The number of hotel rooms in the pipeline currently is at 1,322, in addition to a 157-unit serviced residence through Rove Home Satwa. To add to Harnisch’s goal of 10 operational Rove Hotels in Dubai by 2020, Rove Dubai Marina, Rove At The Park and Rove Satwa are already all in  the group’s active pipeline.

12. Russel Sharpe

Chief Operating Officer, Citymax Hotels

In his six years since assuming the role of chief operating officer at Citymax Hotels, four-decade hospitality industry Russel Sharpe has championed the mid-market sector from the start, creating a strong brand profile with a firm focus on cost structure and operational efficiencies. Sharpe is also one of the few mid-market hotel operators who places a tremendous emphasis on operating proprietary food & beverage concepts.

“My winning strategy, to provide best shareholder returns and added value to guests, has been to have our own award-winning F&B brands. Unlike other competitors, we own the end-to-end customer experience of providing best in class stay with a variety of dining and entertainment options,” Sharpe shares with Hotelier Express.

With three operational properties and 1,306 rooms in the UAE, Citymax is set to go overseas with openings to include Egypt.

Sharpe is a proponent of enhancing guest experience and employee engagement in the mid-market space, launching the ‘Go Beyond’ service culture across all Citymax properties. Citymax employees, dubbed ‘Delighters’, are encouraged to adopt an attitude for creating memorable guest experiences. As a result, employee and customer satisfaction scores have soared.

13. Baran Turkel

Managing Director, Turkey, Middle East and Central Asia, Best Western

Baran Turkel has been associated with Best Western Hotels and Resorts for two-and-a-half years, and is responsible for 16 hotels in the MENA region and 15 in Turkey. The operator currently has 1,826 hotels rooms in MENA and 1,385 in Turkey.

Best Western plans to expand with nine more hotels which includes 1,238 more rooms in the region. It plans to further its expansion in the UAE, according to Turkel.

In the past year, the hotel operator has witnessed rampant growth in the region with the opening of five hotels in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria. These openings include Best Western Plus Pearl Creek, Dubai, UAE; Best Western Premier Al Ahsa Grand, Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia; Best Western Plus Buraidah, Saudi Arabia; Best Western Plus Fursan, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Best Western Plus Hotel Setif, Setif, Algeria.

Under Turkel’s leadership, the group’s newest brand, urban boutique hotel concept Vib, is being introduced for the first time in Turkey and is poised for  growth.

Turkel tells Hotelier Express: “Vib is a new hip, chic, and boutique concept and lifestyle brand. It re-imagines the Best Western hotel experience for today’s traveller who is seeking innovation, technology integration, and style with an authentic, local flavour.”

Turkel’s vision for Best Western Hotels and Resorts’ future in the region involves ramping up growth.

“We have a continued dedication to enhancing the brand’s portfolio throughout the Middle East. We already have a pipeline of exciting projects which signifies our focus concerning our future footprint in the region,” he says.

14. Fadi Mazkour

Co-Founder and Regional Director. MENA Hotels

MENA Hotels, founded in 2008 under the corporate umbrella of Saudi Arabian hospitality and entertainment group Al Hokair specialises in hotel management services that encompass acquisition, development, technical services, sales and marketing, including a global distribution system in international markets and serviced hotel and resort operations.

Aside from its newly opened Al Barsha property in Dubai, the group currently operates MENA Hotel Riyadh and MENA Airport Hotel Jeddah. MENA Hotels co-founder and regional director, branding and business development Fadi Mazkour essentially confirms that the UAE is very much within the group’s scope of development targets.

“By the end of 2018, we expect to reach 18 hotels with over 2,000 rooms. This incredible growth is supported by the massive demand for quality mid-market hotels in the region and we are ideally placed to capitalise on the opportunity,” Mazkour says.

He elaborates further: “We definitely have a number of hotels planned in the pipeline but cannot put a number to it yet. Most of these hotels will be located within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia such as Al Khobar, Jeddah, Riyadh, Hail, Jubail, Tabuk. We have just inaugurated a hotel at Jeddah Airport Executive Area and soon this shall be followed by few other hotel openings.”

“One more MENA Hotel shall be announced shortly in Dubai followed by another one in the Kingdom of Jordan,” Mazkour continues. “The MENA Hotels & Resorts development team is currently negotiating other hotel management contracts that will be announced once these are signed.”

15. Antoine El Sayegh

President, Gloria Hotels & Resorts

As founder of Gloria Hotels & Resorts, the hotel group’s president Antoine Sayegh remains firmly committed to his vision, that of continuing with its value-for-money philosophy of “offering five-star hotel facilities and services at four-star prices”. Under Sayegh’s steady hand, the group also remains focused on growth in the Middle East by continuing to operate affordable, family-oriented, alcohol-free properties.

To this end, the past year saw Sayegh and his team secure a number of hotel deals for the Gloria Hotel brand pipeline, including three in Dubai alone, properties coming up in Business Bay, Jumeirah Village Circle and Al Nahda, one in Mafraq, Abu Dhabi and one in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

While the group lost a Dubai property to AccorHotels, sustainability has moved to the forefront under El Sayegh’s leadeshership. The group has applied Green Globe principles in improving environmental stability, contributed to Green Initiatives, and witnessed major improvements in a number of key indicators including carbon footprint per occupied room, and food and waste reduction through modification of the hotels’ recycling programmes. In 2017, Gloria Hotels & Resorts was awarded with a Green Globe certification for a second consecutive time, after generating savings of AED 2.2 million (US$590,000) on electricity and water  bills.

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