Kempinski is celebrating its 15th anniversary in the UAE this year and its achievements must be credited to the man who set the ball rolling back in Ajman in 1997, Ulrich T. Eckhardt.
This has been recognised by Kempinski’s head office, with Eckhardt being awarded the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual General Manager’s meeting in July.
Since opening Kempinski Hotel Ajman, which Eckhardt still manages, he has grown the portfolio to 11 hotels in the Middle East across UAE — including Emirates Palace — Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt.
There were no new properties added this year, however, three hotels opened in Africa and India, also under Eckhardt’s remit, where he is focused on emulating the success achieved in the Middle East. One hotel in the Middle East and five in Africa were also signed in the past 12 months.
In 2014, expansion is set to pick up pace, with five scheduled openings in the Middle East; Kempinski Hotel Royal Maxim in New Cairo, Kempinski Hotel Summerland in Beirut, Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski in Riyadh, Kempinski Al-Othman Hotel in Al Khobar, and Kempinski Hotel Marsa Malaz in Doha — which will be the first five-star hotel to open on The Pearl, Qatar.
Expanding the portfolio is a key priority for Eckhardt, who recently promoted Bugra Berberoglu to regional senior VP of operations to enable himself to focus on signing more new hotels. “We now have hotels in every key destination in the Middle East so our focus has turned to Africa and South America where we see a lot of potential for growth,” he says.