Executive Power List 2022: The 50 most influential hoteliers in the Middle East

Last year, Hotelier Middle East adopted a new strategy for its Power Lists. Instead of just focusing on those leaders who head up hotel groups in the region, we shone a light on different roles within the hotel eco-system to highlight the essential work that can often go unheralded. We looked at executive chefs, marketeers, and general managers, as well as introducing a 30 Under 30 list for the first time.

However, to start 2022 with a bang, we’re reintroducing the original power list, the rebranded Hotelier Middle East Executive Power List. Below are the men and women at the very top of their hotel group’s organisational tree working in the MENA region. We wanted to include people who are based here, don’t report to anyone else in the region, and their responsibilities must lie in the Middle East and North Africa. The list is presented in A to Z fashion, based on first name.

It is not the result of multiple nominations (one was enough) but on the strength of their achievements over the past 12 months as demonstrated in their nomination. Well done to you all.

Adib Moukheiber
CEO hospitality Zaya Group, general manager, Zaya Nurai Island

Adib Moukheiber leads one of the most secluded, luxurious and private hospitality projects on this side of the planet. As head of the ultra-luxury boutique Zaya Nurai Island, Moukheiber is no stranger to welcoming the most discerning UAE residents, as well as celebrities.

The privacy his hotel affords – being accessible only by boat or helicopter – has meant it has seen a surge in interest in 2021. As people hunger for space, his resort has been at the top of the market, and maintained 100 percent occupancy, according to figures given to Hotelier Middle East.

Having been in his role for six years at the time of writing, looking ahead the GM wants to double down on his hotel’s restaurants, as well as other restaurants at the Zaya Al Barari hotel in Dubai.

Alexander Suski
Acting CEO, Ishraq Hospitality

The acting chief for one of the most hands-on hospitality owning companies in the region. Alexander Suski was promoted to acting CEO of Ishraq Hospitality in 2021, and has already used to his influence to guide some major changes to his hotel portfolio. The group has eight hotels in the region and 2,500 rooms, thanks to a master development agreement with IHG Hotels and Resorts. Suski has been at the forefront of modernising and elevating many of IHG’s midscale properties, including the successful opening of Crowne Plaza Dubai Deira, Staybridge Suites Dubai Al Maktoum Airport and Holiday Inn Dubai Al Maktoum Airport. All Holiday Inn Express hotels in the Middle East moved up to the three-star category. Suski said: “At Ishraq Hospitality we are grateful to see the support and strategic moves from the Dubai government to support industry growth and success.”

Alison Grinnell
CEO, RAK Hospitality Holding

As CEO of RAK Hospitality Holding, Alison Grinnell has been a driving force behind one of the region’s greatest hospitality success stories in 2021: Ras Al Khaimah.
The northern emirate had a triumphant year against the odds, often leading the way in the region in terms of occupancies or RevPAR.

Grinnell has four hotels in her remit, including two Hiltons, a Rixos resort and a lavish Ritz-Carlton property. Under her leadership, all four have done their bit in contributing to the Ras Al Khaimah story.

Into this year, expect to see a new hotel at the top of Jebel Jais, and the opening of the group’s landmark staff accommodation campus. Grinnell said: “Our development plans continue to ensure that we are as well placed as possible for 2022 and beyond.”

Anton Bawab
Head of operations, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)

Saudi Arabia’s The Red Sea Project is one of the most ambitious giga-projects in the world. A postcard for the Saudi Vision 2030, it is a destination primed and ready to redefine hospitality and tourism on a global stage. Anton Bawab is heading up hospitality operations, which puts him in charge of 97 employees, 50 resorts and 8,000 hotel rooms.

While 2030 is still some time away, The Red Sea Project has already started to reimagine hospitality, as the first nine properties were unveiled in 2021. Boasting the likes of SLS, Jumeirah, Six Senses, Raffles and many other international brands. Much like the announcement of the Red Sea Project hotels, Bawab has made a powerful debut onto this list.

Amir Golbarg
Senior vice president – operations, Middle East & Africa, Minor Hotels

Responsible for 8,000 staff and 34 hotels, Amir Golbarg has had a phenomenal 2021, with budgets exceeded across his region, landmark hotels opened and new properties signed for the future.

December 2021 saw the opening of Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, the first luxury resort to open on the World Islands archipelago. The resort brings something completely unique to Dubai for tourists and residents to experience.

Golbarg’s team also opened the first Avani hotel in Oman with the Avani Muscat. In terms of signings, deals were inked for NH Hotels in Dubai and Doha, as well as hotels in Bahrain and Egypt.

Under Golbarg, Minor Hotels announced plans for two lifestyle hotels along Bahrain’s new waterfront destination by 2024, Avani Bilaj Al Jazayer Bahrain Resort and Tivoli Bilaj Al Jazayer Bahrain Resort. Meanwhile, in Egypt a deal for a 527-key Oaks property was signed and a 309-key NH Collection property with beach club in Qatar. In 2022, Minor will launch two new Anantara hotels, one in Ras Al Khaimah and one in Doha, Golbarg said: “We have signed more hotels during the pandemic than the year before. The goal for 2022 is to expand into new destinations such as KSA and expand our footprint in Africa, working with key partners there and leveraging our existing partnerships in the Middle East, as well as bringing our world-renowned Anantara Vacation Club into the Middle East and expanding our food group across the region with our hotel portfolio. Minor Hotels in the MENA region has done better than ever and we will continue that trend. Key is having a successful collaboration between our company and Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism, The Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, Qatar Tourism Authority and Ministry of Heritage and Tourism of Oman, and we are thankful for the support they have given us. Having worked across numerous aspects of the industry – in luxury and upscale, operations and commercial, in addition to operator, ownership and asset management, I have had the privilege of gaining a diverse perspective on the industry and always operate with an owner’s hat.”

Baran Turkel
Regional director, Turkey & Middle East, BWH Hotel Group

According to Baran Turkel, the Best Western brand continues to break records “every month” in terms of bookings. As the regional director for BWH, he leads one of the world’s largest hotel franchising companies, currently responsible for 39 hotels in MENA and over 4,000 rooms.

He said: “BWH Hotel Group is continuously looking for new ways to enhance the customer journey and expand its global reach. Looking ahead, consumer behaviour and expectations will continue to evolve. With our caring culture, extraordinary hoteliers, executive team, and corporate staff, we believe the best is yet to come for our incredible brand.”

Bani Haddad
Founder and managing director, Aleph Hospitality

Heading up an independent hotel management company, Bani Haddad’s focus over the last 12 months has been to ensure that no owner has needed to pull from their own pocket. By keeping a very lean cost structure, Aleph has brought all owners back to break even, with some already generating profits during the pandemic. The pandemic was also the impetus for Aleph’s new Innovation Lab, designed to both identify and nurture young start-ups and resolve some of the challenges the global hospitality industry is facing. Successful applicants on the programme will be able to trial their products in Aleph’s hotels and receive potential investment opportunities, either through Aleph or third-party investment.

Caroline-Jane Houston
General manager, The Dorchester Collection

While this is a power list reserved for executives, the weight of Caroline-Jane Houston’s upcoming role cannot be ignored. She leads the only Dorchester Collection in the Middle East, holding decades of historic, luxury hotel standards on her back.
Leading a team of 600, she is responsible for the recently-unveiled The Lana, with 225 guest rooms. The Lana is a 30-storey property designed by the award-winning architects Foster + Partners. She will also lead the Beach Club at One at Palm Jumeirah, Dorchester Collection, Dubai.

She explained: “I am honoured to be managing the Dorchester Collection properties within Dubai.

“This region and market is an incredible destination and one which we are delighted to be part of as we develop and expand in hotels and private residences.”

Colin A. Baker
Regional director Middle East, StayWell Holdings

As 2021 continued, Colin A. Baker and his team, revived StayWell’s post-Covid fortunes, with Park Regis Kris Kin now seeing occupancies of around 95 percent and ADRs higher than 2019.

With four hotels in the region, Staywell looks to double its regional presence in 2022 with a hotel in Makkah and Riyadh, followed by a hotel in Dubai and Egypt.

Baker explained: “We have turned the corner from being a small hotel group to becoming a fast-growing brand. The signing of our new properties will enable us to gain greater exposure that will assist our development team in signing more properties. We are excited for them to open their doors as they will give opportunities to our colleagues to grow within StayWell.”

Cenk Unverdi
Regional Managing Director, Rixos Hotels UAE

Cenk Unverdi is a hotelier with Rixos in his heart. His entire hospitality career has been spent with the lifestyle hotel brand, and his dedication and knowledge of Rixos are clear to see.

With over 14 years’ experience under his belt, Unverdi boasts an unparalleled understanding of the brand. For the Managing Director of Rixos Hotels Middle East, 2021 was a year to solidify Rixos’ presence while also preparing for 5 upcoming hotels in the wider MENA region.

Over the past twelve months, Rixos Hotels UAE has further elevated the brand through strategic and high-profile partnerships as the main hospitality partner of UAE Pro League and, most recently, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

The brand also recently introduced added-value offerings for its valued guests through strategic partnerships with Expo 2020 Dubai, Dubai Parks and Resorts, and Aquaventure, the world’s largest waterpark, in its first hotel partnership.

In 2021, Unverdi’s initiative to diversify the brand and grow the business to overcome 2019 pre-covid levels resulted in the highest increase in all business performance metrics.

His passion for the digital landscape has played a significant role in innovative campaigns resulting in 20 percent of the business. Moreover, premium partnerships with tour operators have stirred the business towards success, especially with the addition of charter flights exclusive to Rixos Hotels properties.

Moreover, in Unverdi’s relentless quest to establish the brand as the leader in setting the stage for memorable 360-degree guest experiences, Rixos Hotels UAE introduced new entertainment programs like no other in the Middle East, from staged shows to exciting creative activities for children at Rixy Kids Club to action-packed challenges at Exclusive Sports Club.

The future is bright for Rixos in the region, with big openings in the Middle East, such as Rixos Abu Dhabi Marina, Rixos Gulf Doha, Rixos Doha Qetaifan Island North, another in Dubai with Rixos Jewel of the Creek, and in Saudi.

Leading a team of more than 2,000, Unverdi’s greatest success is with his team. In fact, during unprecedented times, he has managed to retain Rixos Hotels UAE’s diverse and talented team who are key to creating the best Rixos moments for guests. Hence, since its first opening in 2012 in the UAE, Rixos has been at the forefront of people’s minds.

Unverdi explains: “Rixos Premium Dubai in JBR is a popular lifestyle destination with a flock of celebrities, trendsetters, and influencers spotted in every corner from day to night.

“On another note, other properties have raised the bar for the All-Inclusive All-Exclusive experience, adding a level of luxury previously unheard of. Rixos The Palm Dubai Hotel & Suites has been the iconic destination and beach escape for travellers who want to experience the city’s best attractions, such as exclusive access to the world’s largest waterpark. Rixos Bab Al Bahr has been the fun hub and entertainment wonderland for families and discerning travellers from around the globe. Last, but not least, Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi successfully introduced the next level of luxury with the recent launch of Club Privé by Rixos Saadiyat Island in November 2021.

“My focus more than ever is to lead the market with innovation and pave the way for new stories in the hospitality forefront. Rixos Hotels is all about making a statement through each destination. We are excited to further expand our footprint across the MENA region starting early 2022 with a number of projects.

“We are more than a hotel, and you’ll be hearing more of this soon. ”

Chadi Farhat
Global Brand COO Delano, Mondrian, SLS, SO/ and head of Asia Pacific & Middle East, Ennismore

Global brand COO for Delano, Mondrian, SLS, SO/ and head of Asia Pacific & Middle East for Ennismore, Chadi Farhat is behind the steering wheel for many of the region’s most innovative properties. Namely, he heads up operations, sales, marketing and planning for Delano, Mondrian, SLS, SO/, putting him at the forefront of the Middle East’s flourishing lifestyle hospitality sector.

Supercharged by a merger with Accor in 2020, Ennismore has seen an astronomic rise in recognition and reputation, with SLS Dubai already one of the emirate’s most popular hotels and Mondrian Doha leading its market for close to half a decade
A prominent persona in the world of lifestyle and hospitality, Farhat also contributes to Mondrian’s reputation as a major hub for celebrities in the Middle East. Throughout 2021, Mondrian has had a chance to host an impressive line-up of famous faces from the region and the wider world, including the Lebanese singers Wael Kfoury and Nancy Ajram, celebrated Indian designer Manish Malhotra, pop-star Justin Bieber and supermodel Adriana Lima, among others.

Meanwhile in Dubai, SLS continues to smash it in terms of both rooms and F&B revenues. Echoing the cosmopolitan allure of Mondrian, the SLS in Dubai has already played host to the likes of influencers, TV personalities, models and actresses such as Victoria Lopyreva, Haifa Wehbe, Michael Morrone, and Leila Ben Khalifa, to name a few.

In November 2021, Farhat successfully opened the first Hyde Hotel outside of the US in Dubai’s Business Bay. A month later, 25Hours also opened in the emirate, marking the brand’s first step outside of Europe.

Farhat is responsible for more than 5,000 hotel keys, including 1,100 in the Middle East. That number is soon to double, thanks to a robust pipeline in the Middle East. The upcoming properties include an SLS at Saudi Arabia’s The Red Sea Project, which will bring 150 hotel rooms, including 12 suites, and 15 villas spanning over 800,000 sq ft.

He said: “Navigating the hospitality landscape in a post-pandemic world has been full of challenges and I am proud of everything that the team has accomplished over the last 12 months.

“The opening of SLS Dubai was a major highlight for me, both personally and professionally, and it is really rewarding watching the hotel go from strength to strength and establish itself as the place to be, and to be seen at, in Dubai. We’re looking forward to continuing to raise the bar in 2022.”

Claudio Capaccioli
CEO, STORY Hospitality

STORY Hospitality had a landmark year in 2021. Previously known as H’Mark Hotels, the Abu Dhabi-based company rebranded in February. Over the last 12 months there were two brands launched to fit in the four- and five-star segments. Five-star STORY Hotels & Resorts will become the flagship brand, while CUE Hotels will appeal to lifestyle-driven guests. Upcoming properties include STORY Makkah and the CUE Abu Dhabi Airport.

Capaccioli said “Our mission is to continually look for ways to preserve and protect natural resources by reducing waste and energy while providing the best of experiences and services to our guests. We understand sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations.”

Daniele Vastolo
General manager, Zulal Wellness Resort

One of the few GMs on this year’s list, Daniele Vastolo is included for his part in creating one of the region’s leading wellness destinations, responsible for the Thai-based Chiva-Som brand here in the Middle East.

Leading the recently-opened Zulal Wellness Retreat in Qatar, Vastolo handles around 500 staff. The resort is split into two parts: Zulal Serenity is designed exclusively for adults, while Zulal Discovery invites families to embark on a wellness-focused journey together. Vastolo said: “Our sustainability commitment and family wellness offering are aligned with Qatar National Vision and constitute major priorities for the resort. We aspire to be an actor of change and the leader of sustainable wellness in the region.”

David Thomson
vice president of TFG Hotel Management Company, The First Group

David Thomson leads a team of more than 1,000 and in 2021, spearheaded the launch of The First Collection, the new hotel management arm of The First Group.

Bringing over 25 years of experience, Thomson was previously COO for JA Resorts & Hotels. Leveraging this experience, The First Collection has entered the busy lifestyle hotel market with a bang. Repositioning his hotels to be more leisure-driven, Thomson has increased loyalty and KPIs across his four hotels.

Thomson’s team also opened The First Collection at JVC, the first hotel to run The First Collection flag. He said: “The success of the opening is a testament to everything that we have achieved at The First Collection and gives me great confidence for the series of properties that we will be opening in 2022 and beyond.”

Guy Hutchinson
President & CEO, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation

It’s two years since Guy Hutchinson took on the role of president and CEO of Rotana, a period of time that has seen his hotel group continue its tenacious expansion in the region. Hutchinson looks after 69 hotels (accounting for 18,371 rooms) and 12,000 staff, with a further 46 hotels in the pipeline.

In the past 12 months, Rotana signed seven properties, including expansions into Qatar and Egypt. Also in 2021, Hutchinson was recognised for his vision with the Leader’s Award at the Hotelier Middle East Awards. During his tenure, Hutchinson has played an instrumental role in strengthening Rotana’s leadership credentials, driving the company’s quality standards and financial performance and ensuring the scalability of its business.

Haitham Mattar
Managing director, India, Middle East and Africa, IHG Hotels & Resorts

It has been less than a year since Haitham Mattar became IHG Hotels & Resorts’ regional managing director, which puts him in charge of 170 operational hotels in IMEA and 110 properties in the pipeline, with around 22,750 staff. In this short space of time, he has been a driving force behind the group’s expansion and performance across its mainstream, upscale and luxury and lifestyle portfolio. Under the guidance of Mattar, IHG is in active discussions to bring new brands such as Regent, Kimpton and Vignette Collection (the company’s sixth new brand launch in just four years) to key cities across the region, whilst continuing to expand the footprint of established brands such as InterContinental, Hotel Indigo, voco, Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

As of December 2021, IHG had signed 22 hotels and opened six more across IMEA. Signings include several brand debuts in cities and countries, such as the first Crowne Plaza in Cairo and the first Hotel Indigo in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Next year, IHG will also expand its InterContinental brand with its resorts offer. Following the successful launch of an InterContinental Resort in Fujairah, the company will be launching InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa early in Q1 2022.

Outside of development, Mattar is leading the way for “Journey to Tomorrow” in the region, which is IHG’s 10-year action plan of clear commitments to drive change for its people, communities and planet, aligned to the hotel group’s purpose of ‘True Hospitality for Good’ and to the UN Sustainable Development Goals in partnership with government entities and other strategic partners across IMEA.

For his team, Mattar has set his sights on wellbeing in the workplace and to position IHG as a champion of diverse and inclusive culture. IHG has established a diversity, equality and inclusion board in every business unit, in addition to a wellbeing committee that ensures that colleagues are empowered to balance their professional and personal commitments.

Mattar said: “I am cautiously optimistic about the next 12 months. In 2022, all things equal, we forecast to have a better year than 2021 in terms of hotel performance, with Q1 outperforming the previous year and in some destinations ahead of 2019. In terms of growth, we can see an acceleration in terms of both signings and openings.

“We are engaged in positive discussions with owners across IMEA and we expect to announce new, relevant brands to key cities and further expansion of our existing brands in market in the coming year.”

Jaydeep Anand
Group chief financial officer & group chief operating officer, FIVE Holdings

As the indomitable spearhead of FIVE’s Group Finances, this Cornell graduate’s passion for expert financial manoeuvring is unparalleled. Anand’s wide range of virtuosity that harnesses both monetary and technical capabilities with seasoned know-how makes him an irreplaceable member of the FIVE leadership ethos that has continued to challenge traditional hospitality throughout 2021.

Using his fiscal insights and industry knowledge, Anand was a key member of the acquisition team of the upcoming FIVE LUXE on Dubai’s JBR and was able to secure the finance needed to secure the purchase, as well as that of the soon-to-open FIVE Zurich. There was also the small matter of the Fly FIVE announcement in 2021, the group’s own private jet.

Anand has been a tremendous proponent of FIVE’s participation with Great Places To Work – a global authority on building, sustaining and recognising high-trust, high-performing workplace cultures. His aim for FIVE was to put the focus firmly on the ‘FIVE Tribe’– and how best to support and encourage a thriving workplace environment.

He said: “The FIVE family of 1,500 is a collection of vibrant multi-cultural and multi-faceted colleagues. In his role, Anand oversees the forward-thinking vibe at FIVE culture that is largely responsible for FIVE’s meteoric success.”

With his own teams, Anand enhances team knowledge and operational processes that results in a superior cultural climate in which employees are self-motivated to travel an extra mile on a daily basis. He stimulates employee development by carving out a definitive, educational and promising path to be followed. By keenly focusing on the ‘right talent’ and the ‘right approach’, that is, sourcing and employing the ideal candidate for the role available and working extremely closely with the concerned individual, Anand is able to lead cost-saving and revenue generation.

FIVE (with over 918 hotel keys, 72 residences at two popular Dubai hotels, FIVE Palm Jumeirah and FIVE Jumeirah Village) was recognised as the Best Hotel Group, a Top 10 Workplace for Women and ranked number seven for Millennials across all categories in the Middle East by Great Places To Work. Anand describes the vibe at FIVE: “Team FIVE is highly-driven, highly-focused, creative and achievement-oriented. We break through conventional barriers and set trends.”

Ably moving between boardrooms and construction sites, Anand wears his CFO cap and on-site hard hat with equal aplomb. Over the next 12 months, Anand’s deft abilities and expertise in industry knowledge, growth experience and risk assessment and management, will focus on the completion of FIVE’s latest acquisition, FIVE LUXE. Opening in 2023, the prime beach property boasts 227 suites, 216 lavish serviced residences, seven culinary and nightlife venues, ReFIVE Spa, a social pool and private beach. Recently, FIVE announced the sale of FIVE LUXE’s Penthouse at AED75 million. The three-bed penthouse was sold at over AED5,000 per sq ft and was snapped up on the day FIVE LUXE was launched.

Anand is presently amidst the construction, leading the charge in front of over 22 contractors, 12 consultants and 1,500 laborers to complete FIVE’s latest exciting and promising project in Dubai.

He concluded: “FIVE debuted on the hospitality landscape in true boundary-breaking style, while constantly innovating our guest offerings. We are not simply a line of hotels but a luxury entertainment experience destination for Zillenials.

“Behind the scenes the FIVE Tribe is driven by exceptional team leaders that
are fostered in an energetic, diverse ethos, one that is unique in its operational and cultural processes.

“FIVE’s expansion to global shores with FIVE Zurich, to a brand-new vertical with FIVE Music and quite literally taking to the skies with Fly FIVE shows that FIVE is a disruptor in the hospitality space, an entity of the future, an innovator ahead of trends.”

Jochem-Jan Sleiffer
President, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, Hilton

With 31 years of service to Hilton, Jochem-Jan Sleiffer has risen the ranks to become one of the most influential hoteliers in one of the most important regions for hospitality. In charge of Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Sleiffer leads 176 MENA hotels, 27,000 staff and 177 pipelined hotels, equating to more than 40,000 rooms.
His 2021 saw careful and considered growth, with just a handful of openings able to make a big impact in each of the destinations. Each regional opening marked a first for Hilton, with DoubleTree by Hilton in Sharjah, Hampton by Hilton Marjan Island, Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas and The WB Abu Dhabi all breaking new ground for the group.

The DoubleTree marked the brand’s debut in Sharjah; RAK’s Hampton is the largest in the world; Hilton Salwa is a major development in a new area of Qatar and Abu Dhabi’s The WB is the world’s first Warner Bros-branded hotel.

He said: “It has been a fantastic year. I took over the leadership of the MEA&T determined to maximise the incredible potential of the region and am proud to have led our team during a very successful year. In 2021, we also opened several marquee properties including the world’s first Warner Bros. property, the WB Abu Dhabi and Mango House Seychelles, LXR Hotels & Resorts.

“In 2022, we will see more exciting new openings and deals, all driven by our hardworking, exceptional team members.”

Thanks to Sleiffer’s direction, Hilton’s focus on diversity and inclusion was also evident in 2021. In the UAE, the company partnered with the SEDRA Foundation to coach and create employment opportunities for people of determination, and a number of Hilton’s UAE hotels partnered with Evolvin’ Women, a social enterprise dedicated to advancing women from developing countries.

He added: “It is an honour for us to continue to gain top rankings in Great Place to Work lists. Diversity and inclusion are a central part of our Hilton culture, and we always strive to create a workplace where each and every one of our team members feels welcome.”

John Northen
Executive director – hotel and resorts, Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU)

With over 30 years in hospitality, John Northen knows a thing or two about hotels. He’s currently the hospitality head behind one of Saudi’s most important tourism projects, AlUla. Currently, there are two hotels in the historic area, including Habitas AlUla.

The number will eventually increase to 17 hotels by 2024. Those properties will include a Banyan Tree and three Aman resorts set to redefine barefoot luxury in the region.

Northen is certainly one to watch as he helps put this historic destination on the world map with a string of hyper-exclusive hotels. In fact, within 15 years’ time, AlUla is aiming to welcome more than 2.5 million visitors annually.

Jose Silva
Chief executive officer, Jumeirah Group

The second half of 2021 was incredibly busy for Jumeirah Group, with hotel announcements here to portfolio-wide restaurant transformations and plans for global development.

Jose Silva plans to turn the company from Dubai institution into one of the world’s luxury hospitality frontrunners.

He said: “We will continue to grow our global footprint with exceptional properties in truly unique destinations that deliver our promise of Stay Different, further defining our luxury proposition to meet the ever-evolving needs of our guests, offering service beyond expectations, and ensuring we create memorable moments for everyone who walks through our doors with emotive social experiences and environments.”

JS Anand
Founder and CEO, LEVA Hotels

Since LEVA Hotels was first launched in 2018, JS Anand has been gathering momentum for his homegrown lifestyle brand. Soon that momentum will reach its terminal velocity, as LEVA hopes to have 10 operational hotels by the end of 2022.In particular, Anand is eyeing locations across MEA and Africa and confirmed plans for resort properties in the portfolio down the line. Currently, the group has five properties across MEA, including the flagship LEVA Hotel Mayaza Centre in Dubai. There are plans to add 75 new properties to its portfolio by 2032.

Anand said: “There is education and brand philosophy that needs to
be communicated to ownership as to what LEVA stands for and where it wants to be.”

Kapil Aggarwal
Co-head: Middle East, Europe, India & Americas, Shangri-La

Kapil Aggarwal was promoted to co-head; Middle East, Europe, India & Americas for Shangri-La in 2021. UAE hotels under his remit have seen revenues soar 150 percent ahead of 2020 levels and 70 percent of 2019 levels. In his new role, he focused on supporting the short-term health of the hotels, where speed, adaptability and agility were of essence supporting much-needed cash-flow and revenues. This quickly gained him the confidence and respect from owners, colleagues and customers. He also led the regional teams to support hotels so they were in a position to address the long term realities and opportunities that the ‘new normal’ represented for them.

Aggarwal will lead the group’s debut in Saudi Arabia with the Shangri-La Jeddah, a flagship hotel for the group.

Laurent A. Voivenel
Senior vice president – operations & development, EMEA & India; senior vice president – group human resources & talent development, Swiss-Belhotel International

Laurent A. Voivenel handles 10,000 staff and nine MENA specific hotels. In terms of development and expansion during the past 12 months, the company opened three new hotels in the GCC namely Swiss-Belsuites Admiral Juffair and Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront Seef in Bahrain followed by Swiss-Belinn Sharq Kuwait.
Voivenel said: “The operating environment is evolving due to the ongoing challenges and through our solid system and processes, forward-looking provisions, and disciplined management, we made great progress.

“We believe for long-term success, it is important to develop strong team members and prepare them for fresh challenges with the skills and behaviours needed in the future. Looking ahead we are seeing an excellent growth momentum across our portfolio of brands with owners increasingly wanting their hotels to be managed by an international brand which is different from large international hotel companies. In fact, we are well-positioned as the best alternative to blue-chip companies in the market offering superior returns, unbeatable value and unforgettable experiences.”

Mark Kirby
Head of Emaar Hospitality Group

In Mark Kirby’s seven years at Dubai’s Emaar Hospitality Group, 2021 was one of his most important. For the first time, it marked the group’s first steps outside of its home emirate, landing in the likes of Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, Turkey and Bahrain. It’s a bold move by Kirby and his team, but one that has paid off well, with moves into Fujairah and UAQ especially making waves in their markets.

In 2022, Kirby will focus on introducing cloud-based data systems, automation to improves efficiency and enhance the customer journey, with the realisation that investing in technology will take the group to the next level and provide a place for the more tech-savvy, next generation of guests to stay and work.

Emaar Hospitality Group says technology and innovation are critical in everything it does, with all projects designed to fulfil the guests’ needs – from health and work, to relaxation and sleep.

Mark Willis
CEO India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, Accor

As Mark Willis himself put it: “We have emerged stronger than ever.” With a merger with Ennismore, deals signed with mega-events and projects in Qatar and Saudi, and renewed focus on brands such as Raffles, Accor has spread across all corners of the market, and done so faster than almost anybody else.

In Willis’ region, SLS Dubai, Th8 Palm Jumeirah, Raffles The Palm Dubai, 25hours Dubai and Hyde Downtown Dubai have all opened, all of which reinforce Accor’s case as the leader in luxury and lifestyle. In KSA, Accor is set to be one of the first operators on The Red Sea Project with its SLS and Raffles flags, while in Qatar, the group has signed a landmark deal to operate 60,000 residential units during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

As of December 2021, Accor has 139 hotels in its MENA pipeline, adding to the 245 Willis already looks after.

Marloes Knippenberg
CEO, Kerten Hospitality

If Marloes Knippenberg’s direction for Kerten Hospitality could be summed up, it would be ‘collaboration’. As a mixed-use operations leader, collaboration is at the core of the company, and has brought the CEO a lot of wins in 2021. Under her leadership, Kerten has grown from grown brand in one country to a footprint of 35-plus projects across more than 12 countries and a portfolio of 11 lifestyle brands.

In September, Kerten opened its flagship lifestyle destination property in Jeddah – The House Hotel Jeddah City Yard – a hotel with a collaborative business hub and 14 food and beverage outlets that is today a community hub in Jeddah.

Kerten marked the second half of 2021 with three mixed-use project openings in KSA and Turkey, signed five new deals in new markets like Morocco and Italy and has further expanded its footprint across five new projects in the GCC that combined have added over 1,000 keys to the pipeline.

Mohamed Awadalla
Chief executive officer, TIME Hotels Management

Under Mohamed Awadalla’s leadership, TIME Hotels has continued its mission of delivering international standards of hospitality service throughout the region.

In early 2021, TIME Hotels launched its mobile app and contactless guest services, in partnership with Neorcha. According to Awadalla, the implementation of innovative technology was crucial to recovery post- Covid-19, as well as future growth within the tourism industry. The deployment of the app ensures seamless interactions at every step of the customer journey. TIME Hotels has undertaken a range of new technology upgrades to appeal to guests and are planning to go full-digital in the coming years. This includes everything from digital menus and digital in-room collaterals, in addition to the mobile app.

During the pandemic, Awadalla also launched, two new properties. TIME Asma Hotel, which is made up of 232 rooms and has 80 percent female staff, including the hotel manager, and TIME Onyx Hotel Apartments, which is made up of 176 apartments and 42 stylish studios, perfect for the build-up to Expo 2020.

The group has also launched a series of high-profile sustainability and environmental initiatives, which have been the foundation for TIME’s success today. As a result, 2021 saw TIME Hotels being awarded a CSR Label from Dubai Chamber for the seventh consecutive year.

The hotel group will mark its 10th anniversary in 2022 and expand to Fujairah, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

As Awadalla aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, TIME Hotels has recently taken over the management of TIME Al Muruj Hotel Apartments in Riyadh, which will open in 2022. TIME Express Olaya Hotel, located in the Saudi capital’s upmarket Olaya district, TIME CORAL Nuweiba Resort, located in South Sinai Egypt, TIME Ahlan Hotel Apartments, located in Sudan, TIME Marina Hotel, located in North Coast Egypt, will follow by the end of 2022.

Awadalla said: “We have built our success by providing exceptional service through our friendly and dedicated teams and a unique collection of market-relevant properties providing outstanding value.

This will ensure the effectiveness of TIME Hotels’ strategy as the Middle East success story.”

Monther Darwish
Managing director, Palazzo Versace Dubai and founder, Palazzo Hospitality

Over the last year, Palazzo Versace Dubai’s managing director Monther Darwish put the property on the map, coming up with innovative campaigns aimed at increasing occupancy and revenue. As a result, the property had one of the highest occupancies amongst city resorts in 2021.

During the pandemic, Palazzo Versace didn’t close its doors as Darwish steered operations towards the domestic and staycation market. In August 2021, 2,700 people came through the hotel and amid a hospitality job crisis, Darwish did not make any redundancies nor did he do any restructuring, instead, he was able to hire people.

Darwish said: “We launched UAE’s first Hotel eCommerce platform which was received very well. This included contactless guest experience from F&B orders to online check-in and so on.”

The hotel’s e-commerce platform has since generated over AED6million in revenue. Darwish added: “Being an independent property gives you the freedom to experiment and that’s the beauty of Palazzo Versace Dubai. We’re free to throw into the market any crazy idea and our audience just likes how unique we are. We’ve been thinking outside the hospitality box for a while, bringing in new initiatives and projects that haven’t been implemented anywhere else in the industry. Our ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ idea was a tactic to attract younger guests, the new generation who like to experience luxury with ease of purchase.

“Health and hygiene remained our priority while we focused on enhancing the guest experience. The hotel’s key focus was to capture local staycation demand which was well achieved with a very extensive marketing plan on social media, influencer marketing, radio and others.

“We have worked very hard over the last year to stay well connected with our audience with curated packages. Besides focusing on our rooms, there has been a number of F&B experiences which were launched during the pandemic,” he added.

F&B revenue increased, too, as Palazzo Versace Dubai came up with unique concepts that proved to be successful among UAE residents. The ‘Into the Jungle brunch’ at Giardino, Palazzo Versace Dubai’s all-day dining restaurant, was a concept focused on child-friendly activities and a great F&B offering. It has been fully booked every Friday since it launched in July 2020.

In 2022, the hotel will revisit its strategies and formulate new ones to continue to bring in guests.

Mike Fraser
Senior director, hotel development, Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA)

Mike Fraser leads the hospitality side of the colossal Diriyah Gate project, which revealed 14 of its eventual 38 hotel brands in 2021. They include the likes of Raffles, Park Hyatt, Fauchon, Oberoi and Rosewood. He said: “2021 was an incredibly exciting year, with the unveiling of the first of our partners in DGDA’s prestigious hotel collection. We are proud to welcome these carefully selected and globally revered, five-star hotel brands to be part of our story. This will be the first giga project in the world to simultaneously open, ground-break and announce world-class assets every year from 2022 until completion and we look forward to announcing the remainder of our hospitality partner brands and working with them over the next 12 months.”

Mohamed Soussan
Group general manager, Ayla Hotels & Resorts

Mohamed Soussan oversees Ayla Civic Hotel, Ayla Badwadi Hotel and Ayla Grand Hotel, all located in Al Ain, UAE. In the last 12 months, Soussan managed to keep providing top quality services to all guests while also following all precautionary measures. Soussan also successfully launched the anticipated Ayla Ibri Hotel in Oman. The group GM also managed to revive theme nights at the property’s restaurants. Soussan always represents Ayla Hotels & Resorts in any domestic as well as international events. He participates in stakeholder conferences to meet the clients and is involved with the supplier negotiation deals.

Noelle Homsy & Chris Nader
Co-founders, ENVI Lodges

ENVI Lodges is the first experiential eco-lodge brand to launch from the GCC. Since being announced in September 2021 it has attracted interest from owners, investors, government authorities and the hospitality community. ENVI has also signed a partnership with Beyond Green, an alliance of sustainable hotels, resorts and lodges that was created by the renowned Preferred Hotels and Resorts group, and that will give all ENVI Lodges access to the I-Prefer loyalty programme. In less than three months from launching, ENVI is already in discussions to operate more than 18 lodges across the Middle East and Africa region and will announce the first signing soon. ENVI is also in discussions for projects outside the MENA region, specifically in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Panos Loupasis
VP development, Middle East, Eurasia & Africa, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

With Panos Loupasis at the helm, Wyndham saw significant growth across the MEA market in 2021. This included the signing of six hotels with a total of 1,050 rooms and the launch of seven hotels with 1,092 rooms. Loupasis also debuted the brands’ leading upper-midscale La Quinta brand in the UAE.

He said: “As our region’s hospitality market continues to mature, and preferences of guests continue to evolve, we too must adapt as an industry to match the commercial and operational challenges which will inevitably come our way.

“The last 12 months have been a strong reflection of the resilience of our industry, and I look forward to continuing this momentum across MEA and beyond.”

Paul Bridger
COO of Rove Hotels

Since launching in 2016, Rove has opened nine hotels, with 3,472 keys and more than 900 staff. This immense growth has been thanks to a string of clever and innovative business decisions. In the past 12 months, the group has opened Rove La Mer Beach, Rove City Walk and Rove Expo 2020 (Expo’s only on-site hotel).

After ending 2020 with all hotels in the portfolio EBITDA profitable, the brand exceeded its profits budget by over 100 percent in 2021 and has grown market share to be 54 percent over its STR competitive set. Next is expansion into Egypt and KSA, taking the group’s key count to over 5,000. Bridger said: “I am so proud of how the Rove Hotels team is exiting a tough period for hospitality and bounced back so quickly.”

Prateek Kumar
Regional vice president EMEA, Dusit International

Under Prateek Kumar’s leadership,Dusit launched dusitD2 Naseem Resort Jabal Akhdar in 2021, the first Dusit-branded mountain resort in Oman. He also drove the launch of six new restaurants and bars. This year looks like an exciting year for Kumar as he focuses on the group’s positive impact through environmental sustainability, engaging and connecting with local communities and has a renewed charge on wellness. Dusit plans to launch a dusitD2 City Center Bahrain, as well as eight new restaurants and bars. Kumar said: “We take great pride in our Thai heritage and seek to translate it in a new era of connectivity. We make guests feel truly special with a highly individualised approach to service.”

Raj Rana
Chief executive officer, Citymax Hotels and Foodmark

Heading up eight hotels in the MENA region, Raj Rana leads 460 members of staff. The Citymax Hotels brand had a strong year in 2021. Hotels in the UAE averaged 85 percent occupancy over the last 12 months, with the latest Citymax hotel in Business Bay doing particularly well. This hotel marked the first four-star Citymax and introduced the brand’s new focus on F&B. Outlets within the hotel were nominated during the Time Out Dubai Nightlife Awards.

Rana said: “In the midst of a travel challenged world, the UAE is indeed an oasis. It is a thrill and pleasure to be part of a world-class destination that is so vibrant and resilient, and we truly look forward to a bright future.”

Sanjiv Malhotra
Executive vice president, Shaza Hotels

The Pandemic gave rise to local travel and as a result, Sanjiv Malhotra’s Mysk Retreats has had a successful year. Malhotra is responsible for nurturing the concept and development of the brand as well as making it an operational reality. Malhotra is a seasoned hotelier and has guided Shaza Hotels to its next stage. He is focused on creating memorable guest experiences, enhanced by empowering and motivating team members. He said: “Retreats have become more in demand because people want to use fewer resources and because they want to be closer to nature and beloved ones.”

Looking ahead, Shaza Hotels plans on opening Shaza Salalah, Shaza Doha, Mysk Dubai, and more in KSA and UAE in 2022. Moreover, Shaza will soon announce its growth outside of GCC to the US, Asia and Europe.

Ranjit Phillipose
Area Director, Middle East and General Manager, Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm, Dubai

Despite the continued pandemic, Ranjit Phillipose’s hotels increased revenues by almost 50 percent on the previous year and achieved approximately 90 percent of the 2019 revenues in 2021.

By minimising expenses and costs, and exploring new revenue streams, Phillipose ensured his hotels’ long-term profitability. He also inspired the teams to achieve positive and award-winning results in areas of customer experience, satisfaction and operational excellence.

Phillipose thrives on bringing out the best in people for the benefit of both the individual and the hotels. His recruitment strategy focuses on increasing the percentage of female leadership at both hotels, and as a result, 26 percent of associates at both hotels are female, which is higher than the average for the market.
The area director also took advantage of the international focus of EXPO 2020 and established a pop-up of Taj Dubai’s Bombay Brasserie at the India Pavilion, showcasing Taj’s award-winning restaurant and its cuisine. Over the past 12 months, Phillipose has creatively crafted strategies for both hotels that were in sync with the times while compassionately uplifting the morale and spirit of the associates. Additionally, through his agile management style, he found ways to protect the livelihoods of associates and not a single associate was made redundant during the peak of the pandemic.

Phillipose continuously engages with potential owners, seeking development opportunities to grow Taj in the region. Aside from two more pre-openings in Dubai, he will also oversee the brand’s first hotel in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, bringing the region’s total inventory to over 1,300 rooms.

Phillipose said: “Innovation, hygiene, and social distancing are the hallmarks of the ‘new normal’, with technology playing a greater role in how business is conducted. We managed to create contactless experiences without sacrificing personalisation. It’s more important now than ever to balance value for guests and profitability for our business.”

Richard Haddad
Chief executive officer, Jannah Hotels & Resorts

Throughout 2021, Richard Haddad has redefined what it means to operate a hotel group. He created a new ‘Jannah DNA’, reimagining the desired guest and employee experience, service commitments, and various rituals that stimulate the purpose of how the brand engages, enriches and evolves.

Haddad said: “The last 12 months have been uncertain for most hoteliers as we all tried to recover from Covid-19 and plan for recovery.

“Now that we are very much in the recovery phase, my focus for the next 12 months will be stability, since we have also seen a steep rise in the occupancy and room rates. The defining factor of a successful business is its ability to withstand temporary problems and overcome these.

“For us, 2022 will be focused on continuing to grow the Jannah portfolio and expand our current offerings across the properties.”

Haddad takes pride in developing a safe and healthy environment for employees and helping them in the best way possible. As a result, Jannah Hotels & Resorts did not have any terminations related to Covid-19, such as management restructuring and manning reductions. Haddad believed that supporting employees during the challenging times would not only strengthen operational stability but also foster mental fortitude.

Instead, he partnered with various leading training platforms that enhance not only the personal and professional development of his team but also focus on the safety procedures and innovative practices to help the brand thrive. The courses include body language training, communication skills, Ramadan etiquette, leadership training, and Covid-19 precaution and awareness training.

For Haddad, the future sees the launch of a new global product that will be added to the hospitality brand, creating a space of well-being as well as discovery of Bedouin culture. His vision is to tap into the international market and to expand halal tourism around the globe. As a brand that was born and inspired in Abu Dhabi, the objectives of the country and the Jannah brand complement each other’s growth.

Sandeep Walia
Chief operating officer, Middle East, Marriott International

One of the most influential hoteliers in the region, Sandeep Walia became chief operating officer Middle East for Marriott International in June 2021, in the process taking on 40,000 associates, 50,000 rooms and almost 200 hotels.

With Walia at the helm, in the past year, Marriott has opened more than 20 properties in the region, adding more than 4,000 rooms. Milestones include the opening of four St. Regis properties: The St. Regis Dubai, The Palm, The St. Regis Downtown Dubai, The St. Regis Cairo and The St. Regis Al Masa, both in Egypt.

The Residence Inn brand also made its debut in the UAE, Dubai welcomed The Dubai EDITION, as well as two new Aloft and Element properties, and Marriott Executive Apartments City Center Doha marked the brand’s becut in Qatar.

There were also more than 20 new signings in 2021, including landmark deals to bring a St. Regis and EDITION to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project, a partnership with SELA to open a St. Regis in Riyadh, and an EDITION in Jeddah, and an agreement with KSA’s Diriyah Gate to open a Ritz-Carlton and Luxury Collection. Also in the Kingdom, a multi-project agreement with Al Saedan Group includes the country’s first Renaissance Hotel, the world’s largest Aloft Hotel, with 1,000 rooms, and a Courtyard by Marriott in the Holy City of Makkah. In Dubai, a deal was struck with Wasl to open the W Dubai – Mina Seyahi.

Walia has also focused on empowering youth. In Saudi Arabia, Marriott International launched the third edition of its Tahseen programme. It saw 50 candidates sign up, almost half of them women, which marks the highest enrollment of females since its launch in 2018.

Also in 2021, Marriott associates in the region have put in over 50,000 volunteer hours for fundraising, charity and other community outreach activities. Highlights include the ongoing partnership with the Al Jalila Foundation in the UAE, which saw Marriott take part in multiple initiatives across the year. In Qatar, the company also continued its support for Education Above All, with a number of fundraising events including multiple triathlons.

Marriott is also taking care of the environment. Projects include Riyadh Marriott Hotel’s Solar Project, which will supply usable solar power, reducing its CO2 emissions annually by 99 percent. In the UAE, 16 hotels use Winnow AI technology to track food waste and provide data to support buying decisions. Using the system, Grosvenor House, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Dubai has saved the equivalent of 50,000 meals a year, reducing food waste by 72 percent.

When it comes to loyalty, Marriott sponsored the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, putting on a memorable event for Elite members, behind the scenes tours, and creating an activation that gave Marriott Bonvoy members the chance to win one million Marriott Bonvoy points. The company’s new F&B earn and redeem strategy expanded to 240 venues in the UAE and Qatar, too. In fact, F&B was a huge priority in 2021. There was a new dine and stay initiative through MORE CRAVINGS, two of the group’s most popular restaurants, Fish and Bussola, are at Expo 2020 Dubai, and Aloft Abu Dhabi launched a kosher catering operation with Elli’s Kosher Kitchen.

Walia said: “Many of the key markets in this region have remained resilient thanks to the forward-looking approach to managing the pandemic. 100 percent of our hotels in the region are open and our teams have done an incredible job to ensure we capture market share.

“With global trends improving, we believe we are well-positioned for growth as recovery continues. Even though we still face challenges such as new variants and unpredictable travel restrictions, we remain optimistic that we will overcome this, and our industry will continue to show resiliency. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on what we do best, serving our guests and taking care of our people. Our teams will continue to adapt and maintain an innovative spirit, which will put us in a greater position to succeed and support our vision of being the region’s favourite travel company.”

Siegfried Nierhaus
Vice president, Middle East, Deutsche Hospitality

Under the leadership of Siegfried Nierhaus, the leading German hotel operator has globally achieved a number of milestones and continued its expansion over the past 12 months. Deutsche Hospitality’s regional office held strong by retaining all its employees, as the hospitality brand believes in its team and great growth potential in the Middle East. All GCC operating hotels are now cash flow positive. In 2021 Deutsche Hospitality and the Porsche Design Group partnered to introduce the Steigenberger Porsche Design Hotels brand to the GCC region. For the next year, Deutsche Hospitality will focus its expansion, potentially fuelled by acquisitions as well as organic growth.

Simon Casson
President of hotel operations, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

In the past 12 months, Simon Casson has opened the doors of three new properties and helped launch the new Four Seasons Private Jet. Casson said: “I am so proud of how we utilised our Lead with Care programs throughout the pandemic to ensure a safe environment for our team and guests.”

Over the next 12 months, Four Seasons will welcome new properties to its portfolio, including Four Seasons Private Residences Dubai at Jumeirah, and renovate Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet in Turkey and Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre in Saudi Arabia.

Simon Leigh
Managing director, Premier Inn Hotels Middle East

The past 12 months have seen Premier Inn emerge with a renewed focus and plans to grow the brand in the Middle East. Simon Leigh helped launch a 222-room extension at Premier Inn Ibn Battuta Mall, as well as keeping all 10 hotels open and trading.

Under Leigh’s leadership, hotels in Qatar delivered over 20 per cent better RevPAR than the country’s Qatar mid-market sector. This year, Leigh plans to open an 11th property in the region, Premier Inn Dubai Barsha Heights. He is passionate about the end to end guest proposition and has identified ways to enhance the guest experience by improving the room product, enriching the social spaces and improving F&B.

Stuart Deeson
Area vice president, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and general manager, Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

In November 2021, Hyatt completed its acquisition of Apple Leisure Group, a leading luxury resort-management services, travel and hospitality group which doubled Hyatt’s global resorts footprint. Hyatt now offers one of the largest collections of luxury all-inclusive resorts in the world. In October 2021, Hyatt announced plans for Grand Hyatt The Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, an anchor hotel at the world’s most ambitious tourism project. Hyatt also signed plans for Park Hyatt Riyadh Diriyah Gate. Deeson said: “Over the last few months we have seen demand returning for our hotels in the region across all segments. We believe in the resilience of our industry and are optimistic of further growth.”

Sultan Al Otaibi
Chief Executive Officer, Dur Hospitality

Under the leadership of Sultan Al Otaibi, Dur Hospitality left the pandemic behind by utilising a full-funnel of vital strategies and management frameworks to continue to enhance and support the hospitality and tourism sector across Saudi Arabia.

Dur has announced several plans to ramp up the recovery process and offset the effects of the pandemic of the past two years. Pursuing the Saudi Vision 2030 plans to diversify the economy, Dur has reaffirmed its commitment through a portfolio of enterprises that include 31 properties and 17 new properties under development. Through dedication to the expansion plan and demonstrating a commitment to driving the growth of the Saudi hospitality industry, Dur has endeavoured to inaugurate new properties and expand or renovate existing ones.

The award-winning Makarem hotel brand known for serving the visitors of the holy cities is being upgraded. Dur has fully revamped Makarem Ajyad Hotel in Makkah with modern designs and the latest technology and, as a commitment to creating affordable hospitality, Al Otaibi has unveiled Nur by Makarem, a new three-star brand inspired by Makarem Hotels’ values.

He also widened Dur’s scope by renovating the five-star Crowne Plaza Palace Hotel in Riyadh. Additionally, the brand has developed the residential sector with a well-balanced mix of expertise and innovation through the new brand of serviced apartments, Dara. Dara Hotel Qurtubah and Dara Al Rayan in Riyadh were launched in 2021 attracting a younger demographic, as well as families.

Dur Hospitality has worked persistently to promote the global positioning of Saudi hospitality tapping into high-level projects to make the biggest impact within a short time. With its resilience and successive achievements, Dur is better-positioned to lead the sector and inspire others to join in opening up to domestic and international tourism, supporting Saudi Vision 2030 to diversify the economy and improve the quality of life.

He said: “In the last year, Dur Hospitality has capitalised on its rich repertoire of innovative projects and developments, as well as its global partnerships to drive growth in the Saudi hospitality sector.

“Focusing on both operational and staff aspects, we have succeeded to face the pandemic challenges with minimal implication on our productivity. We focused on training our staff during the pandemic with more than 550 training programs.

“On the operational side, we have provided a diverse portfolio of properties and hospitality offerings that live up to the different needs and preferences of guests over the coming phase.”

Tim Cordon
Area senior vice president, Middle East, and Africa, Radisson Hotel Group

Tim Cordon has a five-year goal to help Radisson Hotel Group be one of the top hotel groups in the world, making sure it is the brand of choice for owners, guests and partners in the region. All the while, he plans to continue to strengthen Radisson’s portfolio, with 167 hotels in operation and under development in the Middle East and Africa.

Cordon plans to reach 100 hotels in the Middle East by 2025, reaching 115,000 rooms and doubling Radisson Hotel Group’s presence in the region.

Since the start of 2021, Radisson has signed more than 50 hotels in EMEA, which includes luxury brand Radisson Collection properties, the Radisson brand itself and the introduction of Radisson Individuals, the new affiliation brand that brings together hotels that meet the group’s high standards of quality and service, yet have their own characteristics.

In 2021, Cordon helped Radisson Hotel Group open its fourth brand in the UAE with the Radisson Hotel Dubai DAMAC Hills, as well as opening Radisson Hotel Group’s first resort in the region, Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah Marjan Island. The group has also announced its first Radisson resort property in Dubai, set to open on Palm Jumeirah in Q1 2022; Radisson Resort Dubai Palm Jumeirah Also in 2021, Radisson announced the signing of five new hotels and 1,000 keys in Riyadh and Jeddah, in line with KSA’s Vision 2030 to enhance tourism and hospitality in the Kingdom.

Speaking about Radisson’s achievements over the past year, Cordon said: “Throughout the past 12 months, our teams have been working tirelessly to keep the momentum of hotel signings and openings on track, and I am very proud of what we have achieved this year.

“With over 75 hotels in operation and under development, the Middle East remains a key focus for Radisson Hotel Group’s global strategy as it is set to reinforce its position as a global leader across the region.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of sustainability and responsible business, as well as the need for the hospitality industry to work together. In its latest corporate responsibility report, the group outlined its targets, which include the reduction of the company’s carbon and water footprint by 30 percent by 2025. Radisson Hotel Group is aligning with science-based emissions reduction targets, removing single-use plastics, and continuing to drive best practices in water stewardship and responsible consumption behaviour in line with Think People, Think Community and Think Planet.

As a member of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, Radisson helps drive wider climate action, water stewardship, responsible consumption, and the development of youth employment and human rights projects.

Radisson Hotel Group has already embraced sustainability with its carbon-negative meetings and is the only hotel group that automatically offsets the carbon footprint for every single meeting and event worldwide, at no cost to delegates or organisers. It recently went one step further to offer Carbon Negative Meetings until March, where it will offset double the carbon footprint to ensure every meeting has a positive impact on the environment.

Looking after his staff is also a big priority for Cordon. He has a strong focus on the talent within the company and, as a result, under his leadership, the organisation has invested significantly in digital learning and development to achieve consistency, speed and a widespread impact by upskilling its team members.

Looking towards the future, Saudi Arabia and UAE will continue to play a key role for Radisson Hotel Group’s global expansion plans, with Cordon leading the way.

Timothy Kelly
Executive vice president and managing director, Atlantis Resorts and Residences

A conscientious and passionate leader, Timothy Kelly is the driving force behind Atlantis Dubai’s people-over-profit business philosophy, while also having the ability to produce results. In October 2021, Atlantis, The Palm achieved the highest room revenue and highest resort total revenue in its13-year history. The resorts’ food and beverage operation also outperformed pre-pandemic figures. Indeed, Atlantis, The Palm has remained the culinary destination in the region, with Kelly and the leadership team implementing many projects and events that resulted in the successful numbers.

Always looking to improve the guest experience, in March 2021, Atlantis increased the size of Aquaventure by a third, adding a total of 28 new record-breaking waterslides and attractions to what is now, the world’s biggest waterpark.

After reopening 90 percent of the food and beverage operation post-pandemic, Atlantis welcomed over two million diners in 2021 alone. In addition, June 2021 saw the launch of the Atlantis Atlas Project, which introduced sustainable, locally sourced menus to the resort, as well as various marine conservation, research and education projects in the region.

In 2022, Atlantis The Royal will open with 795 rooms and 44 suites. There will also be 18 restaurants, including eight by celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Jose Andres as well as a world-first beach and pool club by Nobu.

Kelly explained: “I am extremely proud of the entire Atlantis team and what we’ve managed to achieve this year. The results have surpassed anything we expected, which is down to passion for the brand, teamwork and a consistent and shared vision that helped to drive the business forward. Our aim for 2021, was to embrace the opportunities posed by the pandemic and transform the resort and the guest experience to ensure that as each market returned, there is something extraordinary to experience at every turn, and I think we really achieved this.

“I know that with the team we have in place right now, Dubai can expect even greater things from Atlantis and 2022 will be the biggest year for us to date.”

Sumair Tariq
Managing director, Ramada Hotel & Suites by Wyndham Ajman

Sumair Tariq’s efforts from 2020 paid off, as 2021 was a great year for the group. Tariq used 2020 and 2021 to revamp Ramada Hotel & Suites by Wyndham Ajman, Ramada by Wyndham Beach Hotel Ajman, Ramada Hotel & Suites by Wyndham Dubai JBR, and ibis Styles Jumeira. R Hotels’ decision to invest in infrastructure and keep the hotels open created a positive impact, as the group achieved impressive occupancies, tapped new channels and generated revenues from various campaigns. Another achievement was The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery by Sofitel being named as the first five-star wellness resort in the UAE by DTCM.

Tommy Lai
Chief executive officer, General Hotel Management Ltd (GHM)

Tommy Lai’s GHM Hotels signed some big openings in the region in 2021. The Chedi El Gouna along the pristine shoreline of the Red Sea in Egypt marks the expansion of GHM’s footprint in North Africa. For Lai, the biggest news for 2022 will be the planned opening of The Chedi Katara Hotel & Resort in Doha which will be unveiled in time for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Lai said: “As we mark our pearl anniversary, we look forward to building on both our past and present successes, especially with the impending emergence of our upcoming properties in Doha, Ras Al Hadd and El Gouna. We are confident GHM will become a major player in the Middle East and North Africa regions and beyond.”

Vincent Miccolis
Managing director, Middle East, Africa, Turkey and India, The Ascott Limited

Vincent Miccolis believes the pandemic gave Ascott reassurance of its resilient business model. In the last year, new revenue-boosting ideas such as ‘Work in Residence’ and ‘Space-as-a-Service’ were initiated, generating more revenue. In June 2021, the brand announced a global partnership with health and security services company, International SOS, becoming the first hospitality brand to offer guests global access to a suite of telehealth and travel security advisory.

Miccolis said: “2021 has been a year of adaptation, determination and perseverance. At Ascott, on a group level, we rapidly adapted our business model to meet the needs of our global audience by providing a unique blend of convenience and affordability.

Vinicio Alberelli
Head of global operations, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts

Vinicio Alberelli, head of global operations, Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts has had an excellent year. Under Alberelli’s leadership, the hotel group strengthened the Dubai resort’s operations and F&B. Alberelli also helped launch a new hotel in Montenegro as well as enhancing and innovating the brand’s existing concepts.

He said: “2021 was a great year and very important for us as a company. We have a healthy pipeline of new projects in MENA and in the rest of the world that will be announced very soon. We are very careful with our expansion strategy as we have a clearly defined brand that is extremely niche, and this enables us to stay ahead of mainstream hospitality concepts.”

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