Spokesperson: Simon Penfold, general manager, NZMP
Mark Willis is a key industry opinion leader in the IMEA region, with over 420 hotels in the current portfolio and more than 120 hotels in the pipeline. He is undoubtably an industry heavy weight due to his leadership style, strategic decision making and extensive experience in the industry. His forward-thinking leadership and understanding have positioned this region as a key market for the company globally, both in results, as well as expansion plans. Throughout his tenure as CEO, Mark has led the team through a global crisis, while ensuring results were delivered, team members were taken care of, partners were supported, and guests were reassured.
A clear success is the way Mark lead and managed the region during the difficult period of Covid. His leadership and mentorship ensured that teams, partners, and guests were always informed on Accor strategies and activities that were implemented to support the different stakeholders. Successful activities included the opening over 20 properties per year since he has joined the Accor Dubai office (even during Covid), as well as ensuring that financial results were achieved even during the most difficult times. Another standout achievement has been the hugely successful opening and launch of lifestyle brands in the region such as SLS, 25 Hours and Hyde Dubai.
Tim Cordon has been with Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) (formerly Carlson Rezidor) for nearly two decades. He began his progressive career in the UK in 2003 as General Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Manchester Airport which, at the time, was Rezidor’s largest hotel in the UK and where he successfully positioned the hotel in the group’s top 20 performing hotels worldwide.
In 2006, Cordon was recognised with the Alpha Forum Prize – “Younger Manager” award by the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame. He then took on several leadership roles in two of the group’s key properties in London before making Dubai his home in 2015, taking on the role of Regional Director of Middle East & Africa (MEA). In 2017, Cordon was appointed Area Senior Vice President for MEA responsible for leading operations and delivering business growth and profit across the group’s largest area. Cordon has played a crucial role in Radisson Hotel Group’s expansion in the region, hitting key milestones for the group worldwide and setting in place an ambitious five-year development plan to reach 100 hotels in the Middle East by 2025. By 2019, Cordon looks after 50 properties in the Middle East with a total of 10,944 keys and 57 properties in Africa with a total of 11,373 keys.
As Area Senior Vice President for MEA, Cordon continues to contribute to the group’s regional milestones as it remains on track to reach its goal of having 100 properties in the next three years, as well as becoming one of the top three hotel groups in the world. Under Cordon’s leadership, the group continues to unleash the power of its portfolio, consisting of nine strong brands, driving significant growth across the Middle East and Africa. In fact, Cordon made the Middle East the fastest-growing region for the group and the region that recovered best during 2021, growing RevPAR to 85.6% of pre-pandemic comparable.
In the unprecedented times of COVID-19, Cordon ensured the hotel group remained resilient and on track for the rebound of the travel and tourism market. During the pandemic, he ensured all hotels followed stringent health and safety measures, including launching the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol.
As travel started to rebound in 2021, Cordon remained optimistic and encouraged partnerships with industry peers and the public sector to rebuild the hospitality industry and ensure the safety of travellers, partners, and team members.
With a mission to be recognised as one of the top three hotel groups in the world by 2025, Cordon’s visionary leadership helped secure various awards for the group including the Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2022. The group won the Innovation of the Year category and Radisson RED Dubai Silicon Oasis won the Mid-Market Hotel of The Year award. The recently opened Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah was highly commended in the Leading New Hotel category. RHG also took home an award at this year’s Sustainability Innovation Awards for its Hydroponic Farm Project, in its commitment to contributing to the Net Zero by 2050 initiative that Dubai has set out. Sustainability has always been vital, as Cordon raised awareness of environmental responsibility and implemented sustainability programmes to reduce the hotels’ carbon footprint.
Cenk Ünverdi brings 15 years of experience in the hotel industry, wonderfully spent with Rixos, one of the most prolific lifestyle hotel brands globally. Being the Regional General Manager, he currently oversees 5 hotels in UAE and gearing for upcoming hotels in the wider GCC region. Through Cenk Ünverdi’s vision, Rixos Hotels has been successfully recognised globally and continuously expanding its footprint in the region. With his leadership, the brand awareness has reached new peaks and have been visible across prestigious channels through strategic partnerships with highly-acclaimed brands such as UAE Pro League, Mubadala, RAKBANK, Aquaventure, Dubai Parks and Resorts, and Dubai Expo 2020 amongst others. Cenk Ünverdi’s passion for digital landscape and innovation plays a significant role in the success of various campaigns especially after the brink of pandemic resulting to 20% of the business. In 2021, his 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.
Rixos Hotels is a fast, young, energetic, and growing brand and Cenk Ünverdi has been leading a successful and competitive team on a relentless quest to establish the brand as the leader in setting the stage for memorable 360° guest experiences. The brand introduced revolutionary entertainment and wellness programs 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.
Hakan Ozel, the General Manager and Luxury Hotel Operator of Shangri-La Dubai has not only played an integral role in making Shangri-La what it is today but is a leading example in the broader industry due to his reputation for having a forward thinking and passionate approach coupled with robust experience. His contributions and impact across two decades of experience in a variety of locations with signature properties, has been exceptional. Some of his key accomplishments include being: highly knowledgeable in operations, renovation, refurbishment, and improvement projects; instrumental in turn-around properties, projects and crisis management by driving take-over, rebranding, and revamping efforts; a successful executive in turn-around projects and crisis management; appointed several times by corporate office for related leadership roles; vital in pre-opening many hotels.
What makes Hakan distinguished is his mindset and personality. He employs unique and highly successful strategies such as using a competitive approach to drive business results while strengthening collaborative partnerships among stakeholders. He understands that character is a differentiating element in hotels, and he brings this to life with creative and innovative ideas.
Hakan is not only highly experienced and meticulous but is also caring, compassionate, and strongly committed to the financial success of the business. His impact on the company has resulted in collective exponential growth in terms of team happiness, productivity, and goal realisation. In addition, he has been continuously developing his career and personal intellectual assets to ensure that he will assume higher responsibilities in the group in the future, while continuing to take innovative management standards and practices to places they’ve never been before in the present. He is a rarity and each and every contribution he has made has been nothing short of amazing.
An international hotelier of Italian and Danish descent, Thomas began his career in sales and marketing in Germany. Prior to joining Armani Hotel Dubai, he held senior management roles at Artprojekt Hospitality and Grand Hotel Heiligendamm in Germany, among others. As General Manager, Thomas is responsible for driving the commercial strategy and the all-round operations of Armani Hotel Dubai, ensuring that it sustains its status as one of Dubai’s most admired properties. He is mandated with strengthening the hotel’s brand identity as well as outreach to new international markets. He is also responsible for leading activities across operations, marketing, and administrative functions through an innovative approach and collaborative management style. Recent projects have included spearheading the 2020 launch of the UAE’s first kosher restaurant and the opening of a dedicated salon area within Armani/SPA. He is also committed to ensuring strong levels of productivity and resource use efficiency. Staff welfare and happiness is another key area of focus and Thomas maintains an open-door policy for all Armani Ambassadors as well as fostering a culture centred on team member empowerment. Thomas thrives on the fast-paced, dynamic, unique, and rewarding demands of his role and his passion for the industry and Armani Hotel Dubai is driven by its amazing team members.
Thomas is not only an innovative character by nature, but he is also committed to ensuring strong levels of productivity and resource efficiency, exemplified most clearly in the recent partnership agreement signed with Ferrari to transform Armani/Pavilion into Downtown Dubai’s most successful outdoor Ramadan venue.
It is Thomas’ overall character that exemplifies him as a leader in the hospitality industry and as a role model for many young hoteliers on the rise.
Outside of work, he makes time to enjoy the Armani Hotel Dubai experience for himself as he explains: “There are so many special corners within the hotel, however, there is something magical about our restaurant terraces. When the weather in Dubai is pleasurable, there is nothing better than having dinner al fresco on one of the terraces overlooking The Dubai Fountain show. It is truly a magical experience.
Richard Haddad has years of experience in the hospitality industry and has been the CEO of Jannah Hotels & Resorts for the last 4 years, in his reign we have seen many improvements across different fields and departments, including his strategic planning skills which impacted the increase of the group’s profits, helping to maintain and grow the reputation of each hotel. Richard’s vision for Jannah Hotels & Resorts is to expand to global market and showcase the Bedouin hospitality culture and expand halal tourism by tapping into the international market.
Richard has contributed to many achievements towards the group’s development, reputation, positive RGI results, overall improvement and much more. Since he joined Jannah Hotels & Resorts in September 2018, Richard oversaw the hotel and restaurant development including the launch of, Sahara Café an Arabic concept in Ras Al Khaimah during August 2020; Terrace at Cocina Restaurant an Arabic and International concept in Abu Dhabi during September 2020; EDGE Creekside Hotel, Dubai in January 202; Second branch of Feta Restaurant, a Mediterranean concept, in Dubai during January 2021; Halo Halo Restaurant and Asian concept in Dubai with 2 branches during January 2021; and the new cloud kitchen multi-concept that launched January this year.
In addition, he ensured the overall improvement and beautification of all the properties under Jannah Hotels & Resorts including the renovations that took place at Jannah Hotel Apartments & Villas RAAK and Jannah Marina Hotel Apartments.
Due to Richard’s outstanding business strategies and leadership, all properties within the group have seen a remarkable growth in the year-to-date numbers, looking at the “Revenue Generation Index”, we saw a 76% growth against last year at Jannah Marina Hotel Apartments, 129% growth at EDGE Creekside Hotel and 10% growth Jannah Burj Al Sarab, Abu Dhabi.
Richard understands the important of staying loyal to employees and the impact this makes on guest satisfaction, with his team’s help, he implemented a new service philosophy called “The Jannah Way – Culture and DNA”. The successful launch of the new DNA is just the foundation of how we want to celebrate our service culture. All guest service starts from within, in order for us to offer unparallel guest services, we had to focus on our people and the value they bring to the brand. Our Safir (which translates to Ambassador in English), is our most valuable asset in the organisation, and it is our mission to work as a family, not a team, in creating an environment that fosters pride, joy, and respect wherein the true spirit of Bedouin Hospitality thrives at every level.
As Chief Executive Officer, José Silva is responsible for growing the Group’s luxury portfolio through international expansion overseeing the next phase of dynamic growth whilst building on Jumeirah’s extraordinary success over the past two decades, driving the company to a new era in luxury. Currently Jumeirah Group has 25 properties across 8 countries, with 50% of the portfolio located outside of the United Arab Emirates including hotels in London, Capri, Mallorca, and then Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou in China.
He has enabled Jumeirah Group to weather the greatest economic storm of the 21st century (COVID-19) and has already broken historical performance records for Jumeirah Group throughout its 25-year history in Q1 of 2022. This has been achieved through restructuring the organisation, prioritising equal representation of women across the business, investment in talent and realignment of roles to foster a more agile business that can respond to the changing market and consumer dynamics, and identifying opportune moments to invest in product and guest experiences to expand the brand offering, delivering strong financial and reputational results
With his eyes firmly set on establishing Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts as a globally recognised luxury hotel brand operating in the pure luxury segment, José Silva continues to be the driving force behind Jumeirah Group’s growth into key cities and destinations around the world.
Yigit Sezgin has lived around the globe in 8 cities during the last 25 years and held senior executive roles in multinational companies such as Hilton, Ritz Carlton and Radisson Hotel Group. In his last role as CEO of BLG Capital he managed a portfolio of luxury and lifestyle real estate and hospitality developments such as Aman Resorts, Peninsula Hotel, Soho House, W Istanbul, Ritz Carlton & Mandarin Oriental Residences, Galata Port. He holds a wide range of successful achievements and a proven track record especially in Emerging Markets with strong experience in M&A, integrations, leadership, strategic marketing, brand management, commercial performance and business development. In his current role as the Chief Commercial Officer at Accor Hospitality, he oversees a portfolio of 42 Brands in 41 countries in charge of all Commercial Functions, Mergers & Acquisitions, lifestyle platform and Integrations.
Over the past 3 years of him being Chief Commercial Officer, Yigit has led the commercial activities to achieve a growth of +7 points in RGI for the region, and under his leadership, PR activities have led to an overall coverage of over 10,000 features for the region which has resulted in more than 6.9 Billion views YTD 2022, especially leading in the Middle East & Africa against its main competitors.
He has also led a number of projects namely: The integration of Turkey and India into the Middle East and Africa region in 2021 adding more than 100 properties to the existing portfolio; the integration of Rixos brand global management under his leadership into the Dubai IMEA office; launch of ALL – Accor Live Limitless; creation and launch of Kitch In in 2021; and the launch of the All Inclusive Platform following the success of the Rixos Brand.
Yigit holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, from Bosphorus University in Istanbul.
Over the last years, 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 2021/2022.
July 2022 set a milestone for the businessman, who launched Palazzo Hospitality, a new management company for luxury hotels, residential buildings and lifestyle brands that aims to reinvent the world of personalised luxury. Leveraging on the trusted expertise of a team of hospitality experts, Palazzo Hospitality will bring to the market a diverse range hotel brands, from ultra-luxury beach resorts to business and art properties. Founded by Monther Darwish, the company is dedicated to building world-class hospitality products.
The launch of Palazzo Hospitality comes after the success of the ultra-luxury hotel in Jaddaf Waterfront, which has witnessed an immense success due to the market positioning through different campaigns and new business products, like the e-commerce platform aimed to offer guests the ease to purchase an experience at Palazzo Versace Dubai.
The hotel’s e-commerce platform has generated millions in revenue. Darwish says: “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”.
Palazzo Versace Dubai was also the first property to introduce a bidding platform for stays, while the F&B segment continued to be a focus for the property. 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 revisited its strategies and formulated new ones to continue to bring in guests and stay above its competitors.
David has an ability to inspire and lead his team while continuing to fight at the forefront and his capability to communicate and comfort the owners and external stakeholders are only some of the traits where David differs distinctly from many of his contemporaries. Despite the challenging times, the hotels have been able to sustain a retention rate of over 90%, demonstrating the loyalty to his team and their commitment to each other. Everyone in the team has been a big part of supporting the wellbeing of others amidst the social distancing. From keeping the team healthy and fit by organising isolated fitness regimes, fun runs, or simply coming up with new ways of entertainment such as stay-home hobbies, story sharing, or cooking ideas, David was committed to supporting everyone’s mental wellbeing. Looking back, the teams have not only made it through 2020 with a smile, but they have also been able to achieve budget and forecast on the second half of 2020, a remarkable achievement given the circumstances. Looking at the financials for 2021, the hotels are in line with their forecast and ahead of budget for the first 6 months. His colleagues and team members will assure you; David is not only someone who lives and breathes hospitality, he is a true leader that does not only take care of business continuity but also understands what is required to meet the expectations of stakeholders, employees, and communities. “David is a highly gifted and very experienced General Manager who has not only coped with the arduous challenges of opening three full service hotels in three years, whilst continuing to manage all of them, but has successfully navigated a way through the pandemic growing market share, maintaining high levels of guest satisfaction and exceeding financial expectations. Whilst David has numerous achievements to be proud of, including being the first hotel to organise a vaccination day with DHA, he is most proud of not making any employees redundant despite the challenges of the pandemic, speaks volumes about his character”, said Bert Fol, Regional Director Arabian Peninsula & East Africa, Radisson Hotel Group.
Taking the lead for three hotel openings with total 1046 rooms within 4 years, in a competitive market, wasn’t tough enough, the biggest challenge has been the uncertainty of the past 16 months. Throughout the past year, the tourism and hospitality industry has very evidently been impacted by the crisis, leading to most hotels across the globe choosing to temporarily close due to low occupancy or restrictions. There is no doubt that this has been a difficult time for everyone, but no matter the circumstances, David would always try to emit calmness, underlining his commitment to his team, ensuring everyone’s wellbeing comes first while refusing to compromise on anyone’s job security. David did not only manage to retain all 369 team members across the three hotels, despite the very difficult cash flow situation that the hotels went through during the pandemic, he also secured business during the hard-hit period of the strict lockdowns and travel restrictions, by working closely with the Dubai Healthcare departments and offering support. Whilst many hesitated, David, recognised early that this new kind of business would help them to survive and get through the most difficult months. While the first weeks of lockdown and COVID-19 landscape and more than 700 repatriate stays, the teams had to learn to fully adapt. Between PPE equipment, strict hygiene measures, and self-isolating repatriates, David made sure to stay close to his team, while supporting and supervising them on this honourable journey. From controlling expenses, repurposing the hotel for essential service use, and temporary closure of another, David has had many factors to consider, but never forgot his responsibility towards his team members. Throughout the lockdown, David didn’t step foot out of the hotel, ensuring that his teams were looked after and never shied from questions. He made it a point to address all concerns as much as possible through personal interactions at the hotel as well as weekly newsletters. On the top of the agenda; transparency and support. Although the hospitality industry has had one of its most difficult years in terms of cash flow, David had made it his priority to support those with financial concerns be it rent or other commitments, through temporary accommodation in one of the hotels or financial support where possible. In terms of revenue results the grou had a record breaking profit conversion of 19.7 Million, a great achievement which could only be realised by a great team working under an exceptional leader.
Artashes Avetisyan is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry. Skilled in business planning, management, hospitality management, customer service, and strategic planning. He is a strong business development professional graduated from Yerevan State University and Public Administration Academy.
The Golden Group has become one of the leading groups in hospitality in Armenia. It was established in 2000 and now owns 2 hotels in the Republic of Armenia; Golden Palace Hotel Yerevan, with 36 luxury suites; and Radisson Blu Hotel Yerevan, with 142 rooms and suites. Both hotels have a 5-star classification according to the international classification standards.
In addition to the luxurious outlets, exceptional design, and two exceptional locations, the welcoming service completes the picture. The group staff do their best to provide excellent service and meet guests’ expectations, making their stay memorable and delightful under the leadership of Artashes.
Artashes’ main mission for the group was to put hospitality service at the highest level in Armenia in order to provide guests with exceptional customer service and memorable experiences, that results in welcoming the guests back on another wonderful occasion, which he has been able to successful achieve in a short space of time.
In addition, Artashes has also founded 3A Hotel Management Company, which handles the entire operational management of the hotel, starting from pre-opening and beyond.
The ideology of his vision is to continue to apply and set the highest standards of service quality and, in that way, justify and uphold the reputation that he has among guests, partners, competitors, and the wider community. Artashes looks forward to embracing the changes that modern life brings and become more attractive in the market and more interesting to guests and partners. It’s no coincidence that the group has been repeatedly recognised as the regions guest’s choice. The Golden Group is continually growing and doing its best to make the hospitality industry in Armenia even more fascinating.
Bill Keffer is the Cluster General Manager of Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites and the iconic JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, a flagship of the JW Marriott Brand that opened in 2012 as the world’s tallest hotel. Bill is leading the hotel team of over 1,000 associates and more than 50 nationalities and is responsible for every aspect of this 1,608-room landmark, having already led the team to significant operational success.
Hailing from the Southern state of Tennessee in the US, Keffer has held managerial positions with Marriott International for over 25 years. Beginning his career in the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Keffer joined Marriott International in his home state of Tennessee sometime later, followed by positions in Florida and New York. In 2000, Keffer decided on a move to Asia and spent two years in Japan as the Food and Beverage Director of the Renaissance Hotel, Sapporo, followed by three years in South Korea as Director of Operations in the JW Marriott, Seoul. 2005 he saw a move to Europe taking on the role of Area Director of Operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland until 2009, when he came to the UAE as General Manager of Marriott Dubai Harbour Hotel and Suites. Throughout his career, Keffer has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including Continent General Manager of the Year 2012, Continent Hotel of the Year 2011, Global Hotel of the Year for 2011, three individual recognitions for Leadership and Engagement Excellence between 2010 and 2012, Food and Beverage Excellence in 2011, Operational Excellence in Asia Pacific Region 2005 and a special award for ‘Investor in People’ in Middle East and Africa, 2011. In his past assignments he was actively engaged in local community projects and business councils, winning a “Contribution to Culture” award in the Marriott Business Council and “Spirit to Serve” Community award in Dubai. With career spanned over 2.5 decades and counting, served in three continents for multiple owners and at the iconic properties backed with numerous awards and accolades, Bill’s committed and dedication to the industry is truly legendary.
Bill’s wealth of experience in the industry allowed him to lead the iconic 1,608 key hotel through the pandemic without having to close the hotel doors, a feat which was unachievable by many hotels across the globe, especially one of this size. Regarding revenue generation, Bill and his team adapted the hotel’s sales strategy during the pandemic, diversifying into long stay business for the hotel as well as reaching out to new markets, such as Israel. These new strategies helped maintain and support the business during the tough times and into 2021 helped drive more demand leading the hotel to achieve budget year to date. His kind and friendly demeanour combined with charismatic personality makes him approachable and well-trusted by his team which is reflected in the Associate Engagement results in 2021 where the hotel achieved 90% Engagement. And like a true mentor, Bill was overjoyed when promoting Nick Patmore (ex. Food & Beverages Director) to Hotel Manager last year. Nick’s promotion was a result of F&B exceeding its budget by 5 % in 2021, a huge achievement following a year where the hospitality and F&B industry were badly hit, helping for a speedy recovery for the hotel. If you were to ask Bill to pinpoint his favourite achievements, the avid animal lover would shout out the cat shelter project he has been part of lately. Teaming up with associates from the hotel, the group is facilitating over 25 stray cats at the staff accommodation in Ras Al Khor where our furry friends are well looked after.
Christophe Schnyder is a seasoned leader within the hospitality industry, with over 30 years of experience that spans across several iconic hotels around the globe, spending the last 20 years in Dubai, UAE. His personality exudes passion and drive to deliver results through his team. Christophe is well recognised in the industry for his innate ability to develop strong performing teams through empowerment and deep trust, with several of his direct reports moving on to become senior leaders and general managers within the industry. During his illustrious career, Christophe spearheaded several high-profile openings including the iconic Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Al Qasr & Dar Al Masyaf, and more recently Sofitel Dubai The Palm. His eye for detail and drive for success is acutely tangible in the success story each of these hotels have been since day one. Under Christophe’s leadership, Sofitel Dubai The Palm has established itself as the flagship Dubai property for the Sofitel brand and Accor, which continues to shine as an exceptionally profitable asset since its opening in 2013. He is a true reflection of the brand, which radiates modern luxury celebrating the most sophisticated living. Hard work and passion have led Christophe to where he is today, but he translated it with being personable towards his team, individually recognising and rewarding his team members for excellence.
With a keen on eye on customer experience Christophe worked closely with the owning company to drive profitable long-term investment into the hotel that will continue to enhance the guest experience in an ever evolving Dubai hospitality scene.
Christophe is a visionary leader that understands the importance technology plays in the future of hospitality and in the customer journey. He quickly embraced the digital transformation of the hospitality industry and enabled the hotel to swiftly integrate two technologies that helped drive incremental revenue and improve customer journey.
A hospitality veteran of more than 20 years, Slim Zaiane’s career path has taken him from Geneva to London to Dubai in senior management roles with several luxury hotel brands. In order of keeping this exciting and challenging, his day-to-day role involves being around guests and overseeing the hotel’s operations, logistics, management, and team. He thrives in achieving excellence in both guest and employee satisfaction and enjoys being extremely hands-on in all areas of the hotel to achieve the highest level of service. The most challenging part of this role is to make sure all my colleagues are appreciated in the same manner and to constantly improve and provide a healthy work environment while maintaining a work-life balance.
Slim’s leadership is responsible for launching of the newly open SPA and other hotel outlets. As well as the strong CSR activities which include: supporting constantly the local community by generating funds during the stollen event to be donated; the funds raised to support the Red Crescent and Senses residential care; supporting the medical hospital crew during Covid by extending free meals for the them to support them during the peak time of the pandemic; and supporting various local school charities.
The hotel saw a RevPAR growth of 79% in 2021 despite the difficult market conditions, enhanced quality scores are at the highest for the last 10 years. He has also successfully positioned the hotel as one of the top luxurious leisure destinations in Dubai, winning different hotel and general manager international awards. Achieving LEED platinum accreditation for the hotel and supporting ALUMNIs from different international hotel management schools to integrate the hotel industry once newly graduated is one of Slim’s priorities, along with ongoing mentoring and development plans to the senior management team resulting in reducing turnover.
With over 39 years in the hospitality world across Australia, Asia, & the Middle East in various senior management roles, Naim has launched and operated some of the world’s best Hotels, Resorts, Spas & Lifestyle Food & Beverage Concepts. Naim’s career has exposed him to some of the best properties around the world and he has been fortunate to partake and orchestrate several amazing openings and operations. In 2010, Naim established “Gates Hospitality” a homegrown Hospitality Company representing handpicked Concepts catering for the affluent life-stylers. Gates Hospitality, the owning company of well-known homegrown brands such as Ultra Brasserie, the internationally acclaimed concept; Reform Social & Grill Dubai, Folly, as well as Publique, Dubai’s premier “Apres Ski chalet”, Bistro Des Arts, Six Senses Zighy Bay and Red Farm London at Covent Garden London.
Covering a wide spectrum of positions within senior leadership, including the role of Managing Director for both Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas and The Anantara Group respectively. During his time with these exclusive properties, Naim was instrumental in nurturing sound relationships with owners, securing the best possible locations, negotiating, and formalising contractual agreements, and appointing teams to infuse and reflect the ethos of the brands. Being based in the Middle East over the past 20 years, Naim has witnessed tremendous industry growth, gained a deep cultural understanding and has been endorsed by principals and organisations alike. He has also achieved a selection of awards from reputable publications and organizations recently including ‘Hospitality Entrepreneur of the year’ at the Leaders in Hospitality Awards by Hotel & Catering in March 2022, a Gold ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in December 2021 as well as ‘F&B Heavyweight’ at the Leaders in Hospitality Awards by Hotel & Catering in November 2021.
2021 has been a grand year for 7 Management with CEO Rabih Fakhreddine firmly at the helm, leveraging every possible opportunity and fearlessly taking the year by storm. A key player in the industry, Fakhreddine has amplified the nightlife landscape in the region with 7 phenomenal launches under his belt. While many were proceeding with caution, Fakhreddine was trailblazing with perseverance, determination, and unparalleled enthusiasm. Fakhreddine was the visionary behind several concepts that helped cement Dubai’s global dining and nightlife reputation, by introducing famous Beirut exports such as Seven Sisters, Antika Bar, BO18 DXB, February 30, and Cafe Beirut to the UAE market. Additionally homegrown concepts such as The Theater and Lucia’s that have already proved ground-breaking players within the regional landscape. Recognised as an entertainment leader in the region, 2021 has honed and elevated Fakhreddine’s ability to envision, conceptualise, and create aspirational brands that strike the balance of experiential excellence, thrilling entertainment, and a quality culinary offering. 2021 was the year that Fakhreddine kept his finger firmly on the pulse of this ever-evolving city, whilst also setting his sights further afield. Fakhreddine enhanced the nightlife scene in both KSA and Qatar with the successful launch of Antika Bar. Hailing from Lebanon, Fakhreddine has always been a visionary at heart. Working for many years in the corporate world he knew that his true passion lay on the other side of his comfort zone. With an absolute passion for the hospitality industry, he created 7 Management that has gone from strength to strength in 2021, with plenty of robust expansion plans on the horizon. 7 Management has tapped into the explosive power of this sector, resulting in a new payment option, where clients can pay with cryptocurrencies at all the Food and Beverages outlets.
Timothy Kelly, the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Atlantis Resorts and Residences has grown the business from strength to strength after coming on board in November 2017. Although he has seen many successes over the years, these are a few of the most recent achievements to date: He successfully navigated Atlantis, The Palm through some of the most challenging years in hospitality history, not only to survive but to thrive, resulting in 2021 being the best year financially for the company since opening in 2008 (whilst also caring for over 3,000 colleagues).
Tim is not only leading the way for resorts in the Middle East but creating a product that is game changing on a global scale. During the pandemic, Tim took the move to embark on the world’s largest waterpark expansion and increased the waterpark by a third, so that with an additional tower and 28 new rides and attractions, we’re now home to the largest waterpark in the world offering over 105 different experiences to our guests. He also shook up the entertainment sector by bringing a slice of Ibiza to Dubai with Palmarama at WHITE Beach – a first of its kind partnership that had never happened before in the region that brought world class entertainment to the city in the middle of the pandemic in a responsible way.
2020 was a wonderful opportunity for Atlantis to give back to the community from a social standpoint and had the opportunity to do so in the partnership with the world-renowned artist Sacha Jafri. For over six months, Tim donated the space for Sacha to create the world’s largest canvas which was sold at a glittering auction at the resort for a staggering $62 million, raising money for children in need across the globe. This also achieved the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest painting.
In June 2021, Atlantis, The Palm announced its commitment to do business in ways that are good for both people and the planet with the resort’s first sustainability initiative Atlantis Atlas Project.
Tim is considered a hospitality heavyweight not only for his achievements, but mostly for his visionary leadership to helm not only one of Dubai’s, but one of the world’s leading entertainment destination resorts.
Strategic, engaged and result driven, Guy Hutchinson is responsible for developing and executing the strategic direction of Rotana and devising and implementing short- and long-term strategies to help the company realise its expansion plans. In addition, he provides executive oversight of all aspects of Rotana’s day-to-day operations. Spearheading the company’s expansion, Hutchinson led the introduction of 28 new hotels across 13 markets, launched a franchise model for the Group and oversaw the opening of new Global Sales offices in Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, and Istanbul to drive business from these key markets. Furthermore, he spearheaded the launch of a new brand at the recent ATM, Edge by Rotana, to complement our existing portfolio of products.
Hutchinson joined Rotana’s feted executive team with prestigious recognition of his own. The international hotelier’s career is notable for its creative leadership and his success in change management, repositioning, and building high performing teams.
Rotana has achieved a number of milestones as it continued its tenacious expansion over the past 12 months. The leading hospitality group has signed seven hotels last year, which include its expansion in Qatar and signings in Egypt.
In 2021 Guy Hutchinson continued to spearhead the management of the pandemic across the Rotana portfolio, swiftly instigating several successful measures, some of which include the Rotana Safe Space Program that remains today. His quick thinking and bold efforts in the initial stages of the pandemic mitigated the impact on the overall business and his team, and soon pushed the hotels into a commercial recovery phase
Panos Panagis is a highly creative, detail oriented leader with a strong work ethic and passion for his job, he likes to challenge himself daily, whether it be cultivating his skills or developing talent in the Industry. He is dedicated, committed, compassionate and, more importantly, a man with vision and wealth of knowledge. His innovative strategies demonstrate his commitment to ensure high levels of productivity and resource efficiency. He continues to priorities health and safety of guests and staff. His’ primary focus is to deliver a personalised and engaging luxury experience by combining distinctive characters of Oman’s local culture with his international experience. He has implemented various organisational changes to make business agile and adaptive to the current market trends, while maintaining and creating long-lasting relationships with partners and guests. Panos’ overall character makes him a role model for young hoteliers and a leader in the hospitality industry. One of his greatest passions is mentoring young leaders; empowering them within his team and across the company so that they can grow professionally and achieve their goals.
His passion and expertise in the hospitality industry is unmatched; he is truly a one-of-a-kind leader. In the hospitality industry, Panos demonstrated excellent leadership, robust resilience, and unwavering determination to deliver results during the most challenging market conditions. In addition to working as GM at Hormuz Grand Muscat, A Radisson Collection Hotel, one of the most iconic properties in the capital, Panos Panagis’ contributions to Radisson Hotel Group extend far beyond one five-star luxury hotel with 231 rooms. During his tenure at Hormuz Grand Muscat, Panos led his team to achieve several awards, including World Luxury Hotel & Restaurant Awards for ‘Luxury Hotel in Oman & Luxury Restaurant in Oman’. During the pandemic, Panos and his team adapted the hotel’s sales strategy, diversifying into long-stay business and targeting the domestic market with staycation and food and beverage offers, which helped maintain business. Captains led by example, so he ensured that no job was too small, ensuring support for all departments.
Adib Moukheiber is best known for his time leading one of the region’s most private and luxurious hospitality projects in the world, Zaya Nurai Island. As the former head of the ultra-luxury boutique Zaya Nurai Island, Moukheiber is no stranger to welcoming the most discerning UAE residents, as well as celebrities.
With a BA in Hotel and Tourism Management from Notre Dame University, Adib joined Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi in 2016 as the General Manager prior to this he was the Director of Sales for the Middle East and GCC at Hotel President Wilson (Starwood Luxury Collection) Geneva, Switzerland. During his time at Zaya Nurai Island he achieved great success in terms of revenue and worldwide recognition and managed to generate strong performance during COVID in 2020 and 2021 before assuming his current role as CEO of Zaya Hospitality where he leads the organisation to new heights with his vast experience and leadership skills.
Aloki Batra has been aptly referred to as ‘Mr Brightside’ for his perennially optimistic approach to leadership at the world-famous FIVE Hotels and Resorts, (which includes the iconic FIVE Palm Jumeirah and Instagram favourite FIVE Jumeirah Village, FIVE Zurich and FIVE LUXE, JBR). With an innovative spin on traditionally relied upon approaches and an out of the box philosophy that has yielded stratospheric results – including rapidly selling out all of FIVE Palm Jumeirah’s luxury residences for approximately US$400mn, Aloki has helped create a brand value for FIVE Hotels and Resorts that enjoys over 60% of all its bookings coming in directly through FIVE’s very own proprietary website/reservations teams. All-in-all Aloki’s marketing prowess has resulted in FIVE Hotels and Resorts in Dubai successfully welcoming over 3.79mn guests of over 192 nationalities to FIVE’s award-winning F&B venues and over 4000 events with over 360 top DJs in 1,784 days. Two FIVE Hotels have been ranked #1 with occupancy rates of over 95% and a TrevPAR that is 253% higher than its competitive set. FIVE Jumeirah Village is the most reviewed hotel on Booking.com with over 30,000 reviews with a rating of 9.
The imaginative powerhouse behind hugely successful homegrown concepts such Dubai’s iconic rooftop nightlife destination, The Penthouse, chic Italian luxury haute spot, Cinque and gourmet MSG-free Chinese favourite, Maiden Shanghai at FIVE Palm Jumeirah along with award-winning immersive street-food dining experience serving all your food-cart favourites from every delicious corner of the world, Soul Street. He has completely conceptualised and executed in-house, FIVE’s award-winning array of venues – each of which enhances the seductive appeal of the FIVE Vibe.
Looking ahead, Aloki plans to continue to evolve and encourage pioneering strategies at FIVE Zurich and capitalise on its’ already established key markets. He continues to lead FIVE’s portfolio, focusing on dynamic growth and bringing even more luxury lifestyle concepts to life.
Sunset Hospitality Group was founded in 2011 by Antonio Gonzalez with a vision to create unique experiences around the world through a diverse mix of hospitality concepts.
Under Antonio Gonzalez’s leadership, Sunset Hospitality Group (SHG) achieved excellent results, with overall business growing massively, making it one of the UAE’s most reputable hospitality investment and management companies. For the last 13 years, he has worked tirelessly to introduce new hospitality concepts that bring people together to create memorable experiences. As a result, the Group is now present in 9 countries across 26 brands with a proven record in delivering a blend of high-quality services at exceptional locations.
In 2021, Sunset introduced ten new brands, including SUSHISAMBA, Aura Skypool Lounge, METT Hotels and Resorts, Isola Ristorante Italiano, Folie Restaurant & Sea, and RAISE Fitness & Wellness, taking its portfolio to over 30 venues. The Group received 25 awards and nominations from the industry’s award-giving bodies. Sunset welcomed the year 2022 with the opening of DREAM, a dinner and show concept that received amazing reviews from guests and the media worldwide. It was followed by L’Amo Bistro Del Mare, which was rated One Toque by Gault&Millau Guide.
The Group is expanding regionally and internationally, with the Black Tap burger joint entering Riyadh in June of 2022, while METT Hotels & Resorts, with its first hotel in Bodrum, is eyeing new locations in other parts of the globe. New concepts opening in the next few months are Mott 32, a luxury Chinese restaurant originally from Hong Kong, in Address Beach Resort, and ATTIKO, a signature outlet for guests looking to unwind and celebrate, opening in W Hotel Mina Seyahi.
Celebrating its first ten years in 2022, SHG aims to reach over 50 operating venues in 14 countries and will continue to expand with a robust pipeline of new openings for 2023 and beyond, not only in the Middle East but also in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Morocco, to name a few, confirming its status as the leader in hospitality management in the UAE.
Paul Bridger, a British National is a proven hospitality leader with more than two decades of diverse experience across Europe, Middle East and Asia, Paul Bridger is the Chief Operating Officer of Rove Hotels, the smart, new value hospitality brand created as a joint venture between Emaar Hospitality Group and Meraas Holding. His journey with Rove Hotels started in 2016 at the brands first opening and he has been overseeing the initiation, planning, and achievement of the brands objectives since.
Paul Bridger has led Rove hotels since its first opening in Downtown Dubai. The brand has carved out a new niche in the region’s hospitality scene for its fuss free service, unique approach, and quick growth. In the past 12 months the group has continued to go from strength to strength, with new openings and signings in prime locations and further unique twists on the region’s hospitality scene.
As the Head Rovester, Paul has always laid a keen focus on guest satisfaction. A testament to all these efforts is shown via a quick search on one of the OTA sites or TripAdvisor, with the Rove Hotels consistently occupying the top spots in their category. TripAdvisor recognised some of the brand’s hotels as ‘best of the best’ (TOP 1% Worldwide), and Hotels.com have recognised them through the ‘Loved by Guests’ Awards 2021. Other recognition has been in the Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2021’s and LIV Hospitality Design Awards ‘Interior Design Hotel’, to name a few.
In his current role, Jochem-Jan is responsible for Hilton’s portfolio of hotels in the Middle East, Africa & Türkiye, where Hilton has more than 170 hotels across eight market-leading brands and more than 29,000 Team Members. Under his leadership, Hilton’s portfolio in the region will more than double in the coming 3-5 years, with 180 hotels in its development pipeline across luxury, full-service and the mid-market brands.
Under Jochem-Jan Sleiffer’s leadership, Hilton is ushering in a new golden age of travel in the region – as the industry recovery continues to gather pace around the world. With a proven strategy focused on workplace culture, ESG and growth, achievements include: Team Members voted Hilton in the top 4 Best Workplaces in the UAE and KSA in 2022 – making it the top-ranked hospitality company in both markets. Hilton will continue to focus on creating a fantastic workplace culture for its teams – and be a welcoming place to work for all. In June 2022, Hilton partnered with Bunyan for Training, a local affiliate of Swiss hospitality management school Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, to train young Saudi talent willing to enter the industry. Hilton has partnered with organisations such as the SEDRA Foundation in the UAE – and such partnerships will continue to grow under the leadership of Jochem-Jan with a major part of his leadership focused on creating opportunity for People of Determination. Jochem-Jan works closely with the Dubai Executive Council – acting as a representative of the hospitality sector to advise on and promote inclusion of People of Determination in the industry.
For the last 6 years and even during the most challenging year of recent times, the pandemic during 2020, Giacomo has managed to deliver a profit year after year through leading by example and always pushing boundaries to achieve the impossible. Giacomo’s engagement with guests and team members alike are unique and personal. The term “engagement” has somewhat staled, but here it means showing genuine interest in the success of the organisation and for each individual team member. Giacomo’s leadership style prides itself on the notion that, interested and engaged people do not multitask, fidget with their smartphones, or otherwise dilute their attention and participation during interactions and meetings. Giacomo actively listens, proactively comments on other contributions and offers constructive feedback or insights to other queries. Giacomo is solution-focused with those relying on him. Giacomo gracefully frames his contributions and feedback in a constructive and supportive manner, which typically has a positive effect on others. For Giacomo, leadership charisma does not mean being “larger than life,” a “dynamic speaker,” or having a strong “executive presence.” Rather, Giacomo fundamentally stands out in his ability to focus on others and not on himself. This “service to others” is at the core of his genuine charisma, it is inspirational in his messages and his ability to bring people together to realise a common goal and share in that success. Giacomo’s charisma coupled with substance and empathy makes him a very powerful asset to the organisation. He has over 26 years of experience. Inspired by his passion for wines and food from the start of his career, his priority has always been to ensure that his team and his customers are always satisfied.
Over the years Giacomo has increased profitability for the hotel and his latest achievement is the successful opening of the only resort located in The World Islands archipelago, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, on 18th December 202.
As the Vice President of Development, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Panos Loupasis has overseen a number of important developments in the region for the brand. In particular, Panos was at the forefront for the significant growth across the MEA market over 2021, including the signing of eight hotels with a total of 1,279 rooms as well as the opening of five hotels and 809 rooms.
As a key member of the Wyndham’s leadership team, Panos supports the brand’s focus on the recovery and growth in a new era of travel post pandemic. At the forefront of development for the hotel group, Panos has personally signed up to 60 opportunities over his time at Wyndham, with the latest including the largest Tryp hotel with 672 rooms when signed and Wyndham Dubai Marina at 497 rooms.
Professionally, Panos is passionate about advancing the GCC tourism sector and has contributed his expertise, as a member of the advisory board for the AHIC (Arabian Hotel Investment Conference) and the AHIF (African Hotel Investment Forum). By working with partners – from governments to airlines, tour operators to franchisees – Panos, alongside the Wyndham team, continue to rebuild confidence in tourism, as people begin to explore once again in this new era of travel.
In 2015, Bani Haddad founded Aleph Hospitality, a leading independent hotel management company, working for hotel owners in the Middle East and Africa to maximise their assets. In contrast to traditional hotel management models in the region, Aleph Hospitality manages hotels directly for owners, either on a franchise basis for branded properties or as a white label operator for independently branded hotels.
Introducing the 3rd party management model to the region was quite a pioneering move by Bani seven years ago and it remains his legacy to hospitality in this part of the world. In seven short years, Bani Haddad has taken the hotel management portfolio to 12 operating hotels, 947 keys, and 12 signed hotels in the pipeline, 2,000 keys, in the following countries: UAE, Lebanon , Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Monrovia, Cameroon, and Ghana. In addition, Bani has established preferred partner status with leading hotel brands, including Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. Aleph Hospitality has earmarked a portfolio of 50 hotels in the Middle East and Africa by 2026. Bani’s hands-on and human leadership style has remained consistent, and Aleph’s company culture of empowerment has made it an attractive employer, with a hotel employee turnover below 5%.
Prior to founding Aleph, Bani successfully developed, launched and managed several major international hotel brands. As Regional Vice President Middle East & Africa for Wyndham Hotel Group, Bani grew the portfolio from six hotels to 49 operational hotels and 20+ under development, developed five new brands and expanded the company’s portfolio to the African continent. From fundraising and developing 40 Holiday Inn Express hotels in the GCC at Hospitality Management Services and setting up HMS as an independent hotel management company to pre- and post-opening operations at Starwood and Disneyland Resort Paris, Bani has first-hand experience in virtually every aspect of hotel management. Under Ban Haddad’s visionary guidance, Aleph Hospitality almost doubled its revenues over the past 12 months driven by the group’s portfolio expansion.
In January 2006, Fathi Khogaly became the Resident Manager at the Galleria complex at Hyatt Regency Dubai, where his main goal was to rejuvenate the residence and the shops at the Galleria. This was successfully done, where the outcomes were quite remarkable. These steppingstones simply laid the foundations, and later brought him to being appointed as the Hotel Manager in 2007 and 2009, and later General Manager in 2013 and 2016 of each property respectively.
By 2022, Fathi Khogaly added to Grand Hyatt Dubai’s extensive fleet of facilities. This included an Entertainment-plex, known as the Megaplex, which consists of Tiger Jax, a sports bar with an arcade and bowling alley; Primi by Panini, an extension to the hotel’s flagship delicatessen, Panini, and Roli Poli, a brand-new Kids Playground for all the little ones. Another key addition was orchestrating the opening of Grand Hyatt Dubai’s latest MICE venue – The Grand Hyatt Dubai Conference & Exhibition Centre. This blockbuster expansion project has added over 5000 sqm of state-of-the-art events space, and features a new exhibition hall, a pre-function area, a VIP majlis, and 2 levels of exclusive parking. Built in record time, Grand Hyatt Dubai’s Conference & Exhibition Centre was designed specifically to become one of the most renowned events, conference and exhibition venues within the destination.
Fathi Khogaly and Hyatt Hotels proved to be the complete match with their genuine common ideologies and beliefs, primarily being about care, which was also the epitome of Hyatt’s purpose– we care for people so they can be their best.
During his tenure, he continues to demonstrate in many ways how he cares for people, most notably how he cares for the associates that work with him.
Mark Kirby began his journey with Emaar Hospitality Group in 2014 as Hotel Manager of the prestigious Armani Hotel Dubai and subsequently rose to the position of General Manager. Under his leadership, the hotel achieved widespread global awards including 27 service-related accolades in 2018. Moving forward with an appointment as Area General Manager, he managed the Group’s iconic flagship hotel, Address Downtown, as well as other Downtown Hotels in the Group’s portfolio, such as Address Fountain Views, Address Sky View, Palace Downtown and Vida Downtown Residences, before assuming his current role as the Head of Emaar Hospitality Group. While being a resilient force behind the success of Emaar Hospitality Group, he has been successfully expanding the group’s portfolio to key gateway cities and tourist markets internationally.
Mark pioneered the international expansion of Emaar Hospitality Group within the UAE including Address Beach Resort Fujairah and Vida Beach Resort Umm Al Quwain. He also led the successful debut of Vida Beach Resort Marassi Al-Bahrain, the first extension of Vida Hotels outside of the UAE and Address Istanbul, a hotel situated in the heart of the luxury Emaar Square on the Asian side of the city, Address Istanbul is a destination unto itself with unlimited possibilities. Mark’s involvement was instrumental in the signing of Diriyah Gate Development Authority to launch Address Hotels + Resorts within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has allowed Emaar Hospitality Group to make its mark as one of the leading developments in the region.
He leads his team with true passion to allow growth and evolution within the industry. Popular for his approachability and willingness to mentor staff at all levels with the little details as well as critical matters, he has mentored many protégés over the years, from junior levels to those in middle management positions.
Sandeep Walia is the Chief Operating Officer for Marriott International in the Middle East. With over 25 years of international experience in the hotel industry, Sandeep is currently responsible for leading the operations of Marriott’s properties in the Middle East (including Egypt and Turkey) which features over 200 operational properties and more than 100 properties in its pipeline. The company has more than 40,000 employees across its portfolio.
Sandeep took on his role as Chief Operating Officer for the Middle East mid-2021. In the last 12 months, Marriott has grown its portfolio in the region with the addition of more than 25 properties. Highlights include: Introduction of Ritz-Carlton in Jordan with The Ritz-Carlton, Amman; debut of Le Meridien in Qatar with Le Royal Meridien Doha, Residence Inn in the UAE, MEA in Qatar with Marriott Executive Apartments City Center Doha; and openings of The St. Regis Dubai, The Palm and The St. Regis Downtown Dubai and W Dubai – Mina Seyahi in the UAE.
Sandeep is passionate about the opportunity to develop the future leaders of this region’s industry. The company is committed to investing in young local talent to ensure the success of the region’s travel and tourism sector is unwavering. One of the ways the company is empowering youth is by developing the next generation of hospitality professionals through its Tahseen program – a hospitality training program that was developed by Marriott to specifically focus on fast tracking local hospitality leaders.