|Guy Hutchinson||Kabir Mulchandani|
|Helal Saeed Al Marri||Raki Phillips|
|Jochem-Jan Sleiffer||Satya Anand|
CEO and President
In January 2020, Guy Hutchinson was appointed the CEO and president of the UAE hotel firm Rotana. He joined the hotel management company in 2014, serving as the chief operating officer, and had been the acting CEO of the firm since January of 2019.
Hutchinson has over 30 years of experience working in the hospitality industry, and he was also heavily involved in introducing a franchise model to Rotana, with five franchise agreements signed in 2019. With Hutchinson’s support, Rotana opened global sales offices in Paris, Milan, Turkey and Amsterdam in the same year.
One of the region’s most powerful hotel groups, with approximately 70 properties and 20,000 keys, Rotana boasts a workforce of over 10,000 employees.
Despite the impact of COVID-19, Rotana has achieved a number of milestones over the past 12 months, including entry to the Moroccan market with The Palmeraie Rotana Resort in Marrakech, and the opening of Centro Corniche Al Khobar by Rotana in Saudi Arabia – its seventh hotel in the kingdom.
Across the group, only three hotels in remote destinations have faced temporary closures. All other hotels have remained operational, with many trading at occupancies above 75 percent throughout.
Rotana was quick to abandon traditional work flows and structures, establishing multiple lateral initiatives which have seen employees from the properties repurposed and contributing in different ways. An example being the development of a call centre that handles the Covid-19 hotline for the UAE’s national health services.
In September, Hutchinson revealed that Rotana plans to launch its own hotel conversion brand, and is on the cusp of joining global hotel majors IHG, Wyndham and Radisson. Despite this, the group remains committed to staying regionally focussed. Hutchinson said: “Our objective is not to have 5,000 hotels or 1,000,000 rooms, our goal is to dominate in specific markets.”
Helal Saeed Al Marri
Helal Saeed Al Marri is responsible for delivering Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2025, which includes a goal to attract 25 million visitors a year by 2025, and elevating the emirate as one of the biggest tourism destinations in the world. Since taking the reins at the DTCM in 2013, Al Marri has spearheaded huge growth despite a backdrop of falling hotel revenues and global currency fluctuations.
It takes a go-getting man to deliver Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2025, but Helal Saeed Al Marri has proven he is more than up for the job, having succeeded in attracting tourists from both the GCC and Europe, largely due to extra flights, routes, competitive fares and a rising number of mid-market hotels.
The director general has also been the CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) since 2004, playing a crucial role in positioning Dubai as a global financial and commercial hub. He has also enabled Dubai to become a leading global destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).
In fact, events at the DWTC alone have totalled a record $3.4bn in retained value to Dubai’s economy, making up 3.3 percent of the emirate’s GDP in 2017, according to the latest Economic Impact Assessment report released by DWTC.
One of Al Marri’s first duties after taking the role was leading the rapid growth and development of GITEX, and expanding the show into GITEX Technology Week. It’s since become a hugely successful technology gathering that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Al Marri is spearheading the $135m, four-phase expansion of DWTC funded by export credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF) .
Earlier this year, Al Marri spoke of his hopes for the forthcoming Expo, saying, “Setting new benchmarks is engrained in our ethos, and to this end, we see Expo 2020 Dubai as a global pivot given where we all are today. No one could have anticipated how Covid-19 would alter our realities. Dubai and Expo 2020 paused, reflected and persevered.”
President Middle East, Africa and Turkey
Hilton currently operates 78 hotels in the Middle East region, comprising more than 25,000 keys between them, and as the President of the Middle-East, Africa and Turkey, Jochem-Jan ‘JJ’ Sleiffer is the man at the helm of operations in the region.
Though Sleiffer has more than 30 years of experience under his belt, he only stepped into the role at the very end of 2019. In that time, he’s been at the forefront of Hilton’s action plan against Covid-19 in the region, as well as its introduction of new brands into MENA, and success in hitting 25,000 keys.
The hotel group has a powerhouse pipeline, with 102 properties slated to enter the region, adding 27,000 more keys. This growth will come organically and without any mergers and acquisitions, doubling Hilton’s presence in the region in the next couple of years.
At the height of the pandemic, Sleiffer played an active role in consultation with the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
Local authorities partnered with industry experts in the development of protocols such as RAK’s Bureau Veritas certification. Hilton’s CleanStay and Event Ready standards are the only ones to be endorsed by scientific experts in the fields of cleanliness. The programme became an immediate brand standard at more than 6,000 properties globally.
Sleiffer said: “Having got through this period, we are gearing up for the next phase of the challenge, rebuilding our business and the tourism industry. I hope to be able to do this in the way that I had envisaged and fits my leadership style, getting out and about, exploring this magnificent region and building those valuable personal relationships on the ground.”
Despite his seniority, Sleiffer is hailed as one of the most personable bosses in hospitality, always making the effort to celebrate everyone in his team – even if it is made up of more than 17,500 people.
As the CEO of Jumeirah Group, Jose Silva was entrusted with overseeing and expanding Jumeirah Group’s impressive portfolio of over 25 hotels across destinations ranging from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt and Shanghai.
A 25-year veteran of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in Europe, Silva has worked in the hotel industry for more than 35 years, with posts off over Europe. Before taking the role with Jumeirah, Silva has worked at the Four Seasons Hotel George V (dubbed one of the world’s top hotels) in Paris as the Regional Vice President in charge of France, Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal as well as the hotel’s General Manager.
Originally from Portugal, Silva holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from HEC Montréal. He began his career in hospitality by opening up his own restaurant when he was aged just 22 years old. Shortly after, he began working for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts in Quebec, Canada. His roles included Beverage Director and Assistant Director for Catering before he moved to Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
Jumeirah was founded in 2007, and has grown to become a market leader, with 24 properties in eight countries around the world and 100 restaurants in the UAE alone, and employing more than 13,500 colleagues from 140 different nationalities. Shortly after Silva was appointed, it added an impressive location to its portfolio with the Jumeirah Nanjing, a hotel designed by Zaha Hadid on the banks of the Yangtze River in China, its second hotel in the country.
Since 2018, the brand has entered a phase of unprecedented growth, identifying new markets for expansion all over the globe. It aims to make the brand truly global, while ensuring that each property is uniquely stamped with the Jumeirah signature. One of the brand’s next hotels is set to be in Makkah, in Saudi Arabia.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced Jumeirah to put some of its plans on hold. During that time, it concentrated on its properties in Dubai, refurbishing hotels and opening up new restaurants such as Kayto, French Riviera and Sal.
Silva believes a successful vaccination programme is vital to the resurgence of the industry, and has called on everyone to play their part in what he described as the “grand solution” to the virus. In the UAE, the Jumeirah Group has seen at least 85 percent of its staff vaccinated.
Mulchandani is an Indian-born, Dubai-based businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the chairman of FIVE Holdings, with interests in real estate, restructuring, investment and hospitality.
One of Dubai’s most renowned leaders, the man behind the iconic FIVE Hotels & Resorts in Dubai, is vividly reimagining and reshaping the hospitality landscape.
The FIVE Holdings’ Hotels and Resorts portfolio currently includes FIVE Palm Jumeirah, with 476 hotel rooms and apartments, 221 luxury residences with 11 culinary and nightlife venues; FIVE Jumeirah Village, with 234 hotel rooms, 267 luxury serviced apartments and five culinary and nightlife venues in Dubai; and FIVE Zurich, with 149 hotel rooms and eight culinary and nightlife venues in Switzerland. Its latest acquisition in Dubai, FIVE Beach, is a prime beach property boasts of 231 hotel rooms and 152 residences, multiple culinary and nightlife venues, ReFIVE Spa, an iconic social pool and private beach.
The entire property boasts uninterrupted sweeping sunset sea views and evenings filled with the glittering lights of the Dubai Eye. Opening in 2023, the property will truly imbibe the authentic and unique Vibe at FIVE, globally famous for its bespoke entertainment and culinary offerings.
An exciting new, boundary-breaking launch under the FIVE Hotels and Resorts umbrella is FIVE Music, its own Music Label – that aims to showcase the Sound of FIVE, which lies at the heart of its entertainment offerings, to a global audience.
Currently, FIVE has succeeded in achieving an earnings growth of 196 percent in the 1st half of 2021 as compared to 2019.
Both hotels are running at an impressive occupancy of 94 percent, and are ranked number one on occupancy, ADR and RevPAR generate more than 214 percent more on total revenue per available room than both respective luxury competitor sets.
What makes Mulchandani very proud is that 60 percent of all room bookings come directly through the FIVE website – a true testament to the strength of the brand.
Mulchandani is also a keen philanthropist – he launched Project Udaan with the aim of saving a life a day in India. The project is funded by FIVE Hotels and Resorts and provides daily life-saving surgery to cure children who are born with congenital heart defects.
Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority
In June 2019, Raki Phillips, a hospitality veteran, was named the new CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA).
Phillips had previously worked for some of the world’s most renowned global brands, including Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and Universal Studios Orlando. He took over from Haitham Mattar, whose four-year tenure as CEO of RAKTDA is credited with repositioning Ras Al Khaimah to become one of the fastest growing destinations in the world and exceeding the target of 1 million visitors in the first three years.
Some of the projects that have been launched since Phillips took on the role include the Jebel Jais Zipline Tour – the latest adventure tourism offering housed on the UAE’s highest mountain peak. The Jebel Jais Zipline Tour features seven ziplines flying over the grand cliffs and canyons of Jebel Jais, which are connected by nine platforms; the cluster of seven ziplines covers a total distance of 5km with an average speed of 60kmph.
In 2021, RAKTDA announced a high-impact investment programme, which aims to position the emirate as one of the most preferred tourism destinations in affordable luxury. Endorsed by the government of Ras Al Khaimah, the new initiative, SelectRAK, is rolled out in partnership with Arton Capital, a government advisory company that focusses on promoting public-private partnerships that energise economies around the world. Phillips said the new programme will deliver a demonstrable positive impact by welcoming global enterprises, investments, and talent to the Emirate.
He explained: “Our goal to promote Ras Al Khaimah as a wonderful tourism destination, and to help energise all economic sectors, is aligned with the long-term vision of the leadership to establish the Emirate as one of the preferred places to live and work.”
Home to more than 13,000 companies, Ras Al Khaimah offers 100 percent ownership of firms and zero income tax.
President for Europe, Middle East and Africa
Satya Anand is the President for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Marriott International. He took up the position in September of 2020, and has worked for the company for more than 32 years, working in roles such as area vice president for Central Europe, as well as chief financial officer for Europe.
In his role, Anand is responsible for all business functions across the EMEA region, and provides leadership to more than 998 hotels across 75 countries and territories.
He joined Marriott International back in 1988, as a Night Auditor at the Vienna Marriott Hotel, and has risen up through the ranks ever since.
Originally from India, Anand studied accounting at the Bangalore MES College of Commerce. In 1988, he moved to Austria, where he completed his diploma in Hotel and Tourism Management at the International College of Tourism and Management, located in Semmering.
Earlier this year, Marriott International signed an agreement with the Al Saedan Group to open three hotels across Saudi Arabia. The multi-project agreement includes the country and territory’s first Renaissance Hotel, the world’s largest Aloft Hotel and a Courtyard by Marriott in the holy city of Makkah. All three properties are projected to open by 2025. Marriott International’s portfolio in Saudi Arabia currently includes more than 30 properties with over 9,000 rooms across 10 brands and nine cities.
“We are pleased to build on our fantastic relationship with Al Saedan Group and further expand our portfolio across Saudi Arabia with these milestone signings,” said Anand, speaking to Arabian Business about the announcement.
Renaissance Hotels will make its debut in Saudi Arabia with the opening of Renaissance Riyadh Hotel, which is expected to feature 266 suites. The Aloft Makkah Taysir is anticipated to be the brand’s largest hotel in the world with plans for 1,000 guest rooms and will be located close to the Grand Mosque entrance. Courtyard by Marriott Makkah Kudai will offer 438 rooms, its signature Grab n’ Go market and a fitness centre.