Hilton’s footprint in the Middle East is massive and while Kamel Ajami is responsible only for Saudi Arabia & Levant, it’s no small feat as the 15 operating hotels he heads counts for approximately 25% of the Hilton’s supply of 59 hotels in the Middle and North Africa region. More impressive is that under Ajami’s leadership, the pipeline he’s accountable for has expanded rapidly in the time he’s been in position to 37 hotels — which is roughly 41% of Hilton’s MENA pipeline of 88 hotels.
Over the last year, Saudi Arabia has been a key area of focus for Hilton as it is its largest developmental market in the in the region and the company expects to grow from 10 to 40 properties in the country within the next five years.
Earlier this year, Ajami oversaw the opening of the 203-key Hilton Garden Inn Al Khobar and under his command, the Hilton Riyadh will open later this year and the region will also see the debut of the Embassy by Hilton brand in Saudi Arabia with 250 room Embassy by Hilton Riyadh King Fahd Road by 2019.
Ahead of AHIC, the hotel giant revealed an additional four new signings in Saudi Arabia, all of which are expected to open by 2021. This included: DoubleTree by Hilton Jubail Dareen Corniche, Hilton Garden Inn Al Jubail Fanateer Corniche, Hampton by Hilton Al Khobar King Fahd Causeway, and Hampton by Hilton King Abdullah Economic City.
But with being at the helm of such a massive pipeline, the Jordanian hotelier’s vision for the area he oversees includes nurturing the local talent to ensure the success and longevity of the company within the rapidly evolving region.
“My current role within Hilton encompasses Saudi Arabia and the Levant, and when I talk about a vision for the future of the company, it is more a vision for how I intend Hilton to play a lead role in helping our industry empower and enable the people and cultures of this region to thrive. This is not only something I feel is an obligation but also what can become our strongest competitive advantage as we seek to grow as a company,” he tells Hotelier.
Ajami is also at the forefront of employee empowerment, especially for female employees in Saudi Arabia, who are now allowed to drive since late June, 2018. Hilton will provide paid time-off for female team members to attend driving lessons and even reimburse licence issuance fee. The support package will be available until the end of December 2019.
In Jordan, Ajami notes that Hilton is working with the Queen of Jordan to establish a hospitality university and youth job service to encourage young talent.
Undoubtedly, Ajami’s vision, passion and commitment for the region is paying off as Hilton took home the title of number one 'Great Place to Work' in Saudi Arabia for the second year in a row.
“I want to see the Hilton name synonymous with the beating heart of true Saudi and Levantine hospitality and nothing else I could achieve would make me prouder,” he says.