Moving into the top 10 this year is Emaar Hospitality Group’s Olivier Harnisch. Both Harnisch and Emaar have had an activity packed last year. Emaar has grown its pipeline exponentially from 27 hotels in the region to 38 and has expanded its footprint to the Maldives and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the last 12 months, Emaar’s focus has been to strengthen the footprint of its existing three main hotel brands – Address Hotels + Resorts, Vida Hotels and Resorts, and Rove Hotels.
Its 38 pipeline projects are in markets such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Togo and Maldives. In the last year alone, Emaar is expanding fast beyond Dubai in the UAE with five new projects in Sharjah, three in Ras al Khaimah, two in Fujairah and one in Abu Dhabi, through new management agreements.
According to Harnisch, who is responsible for a total of 4,000 employees across the group, Emaar Hospitality Group recorded an all-time high revenue of AED 1.5 billion (US$408.3mn) in 2017.
Harnisch also reveals that during the first quarter of this year, the group’s RevPar was AED 1,109 ($302), while occupancy rates were at 89%.
A year-and-a-half into his role, Harnisch’s vision for Emaar is to establish it as the Middle East’s most innovative hospitality company.
He says: “I define this as being the best at combining the power of technology with the warmth of human service. For this, we have launched three technology projects this year, geared to highly personalised service and facilities, making services as seamless as possible and decluttering hotel spaces.”
This year, Emaar also reopened the doors of Address Downtown after a New Year’s Eve fire in December 2015.
Keeping the momentum going, Emaar was revealed by Expo Dubai 2020 as the official hotel and hospitality partner in August 2018.
Harnisch, who started his career as a waiter in 1986 at the Hotel Negresco in Nice, France, says he has never regretted his decision to become a hotelier. To help young people gain a foothold in the industry, Harnisch reveals to Hotelier: “I launched an initiative, close to my heart, known as ‘the World’s Greatest Hospitality Talent’, which aims to attract the brightest and best from across the world with a focus on identifying one young talent for Emaar Hospitality Group’s three-year talent development programme.”
According to Harnisch, an equally important trend is the emphasis on developing midscale hotels, which are increasingly sought-after by a new demographic of tourists – the millennials and new generation of entrepreneurs.
According to him, Emaar has led the market with the development of Rove Hotels and innovative features in them such as a licensed cinema and a co-working concept.