Hotelier Middle East Awards: The final countdown

The Hotelier Middle East Awards judging panel convened at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management on September 10 to make the final decisions on this year’s winning nominees

The Hotelier Middle East Awards judging panel
ITP Media Group
The Hotelier Middle East Awards judging panel

It was an afternoon filled with heated discussions and passionate pleas but after five hours of deliberations, the list of highly commended and winning hospitality professionals was finalised.

Lending their expertise to the proceedings were Assia Riccio, founder of Evolvin’ Women; Michael Kitts, director of culinary arts at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management; Marianne Saulwick, co-founder Saulwick Adams providing hospitality consultancy; Gerald Lawless former president and group CEO of Jumeirah Group; Philippe Vercruysse is a senior consultant at TRI Consulting, Naim Maadad, founder of Gates Hospitality; Rabih Feghali, director of hospitality at The Red Sea Development Company; Kuwaiti luxury travel and hospitality expert, Talal al Rashed and Michelle Karam, founder of experiential travel movement Travel Junkie Diary.

Commenting on how the Awards are perceived in the hospitality sector, Robert Mclean said: “Our industry is about people and people go to work in our industry every day, they do a tough job and they need that reward. When the Hotelier Awards come through they all get excited about it. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to show what they’ve been doing and what they can do.”

Marianne Saulwick noticed that there were more female nominees this year: “We’re seeing many more women being put forward. This has been a problem for a number of years, we haven’t seen women in senior roles with the hospitality industry but now women are staring to break through.”
Michael Kitts echoed the sentiment saying: “It’s great to see more ladies getting involved with these awards. Certainly we’ll have a few surprises.

Naim Maadad said it was great to see the awards reaching a wider audience in the Middle East: “The focus is no longer UAE-centric, it’s across the Gulf region which is important because we’re showcasing the industry across the region.

Still, Rabih Feghali would like to see more inclusion going forward: “We have a diverse group of nominations but I would love to see more nationals from Oman or Saudi Arabia where I’ve recently moved. It would be nice to see more citizens of these countries being nominated for the awards.”

Speaking about the current state of the hospitality industry Gerald Lawless commented: “I think it’s resilient. In Dubai some people say it’s quite challenging but I’m really optimistic that Expo 2020 is going to have a beneficial effect on the hospitality business within the UAE and I’m very confident as Expo now comes to fruition. I’m confident that Expo 202 and the resilience overall of Dubai as a tourism destination will begin to bear fruit.”

He added: “I think the big story of the region has to be the opening up of Saudi Arabia. It’s so encouraging. It’s something that demonstrates that our industry – travel, tourism and hospitality accounts for 10% of global GDP and 120 million jobs worldwide.”

Finally, he also underlined the importance of the Awards: “I always say that no matter how junior the position is, it’s vital. Every position is a vital link in the chain of serving the customer. Just getting the recognition is so important, so satisfying and something to treasure for a long time.”

The 15th edition of the Hotelier Middle East Awards will take place on October 23 at JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai. For event enquiries, please contact Teri Dunstan –

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