20 Great Q&As From the Middle East’s Top Hospitality Leaders

Dec 23, 2013 3:00 am

Skift Take

There’s an impressive set of wisdom in these interviews that helps illuminate the current state of hospitality worldwide.

— Jason Clampet

Sponsored by:

Evolving Strategies in Travel Ad Tech and Bookings

Over the last 12 months Hotelier Middle East has had the privilege of meeting with some of the region’s most respected hospitality professionals.

Below is a rundown of 20 (in no particular order) of the most enlightening and enjoyable on-to-ones from the last twelve months:

20. CEO INTERVIEW: RAK Tourism’s Victor Louis

In March Caterer Middle East spoke with Victor Louis, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Hospitality Group and Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, about the F&B developments taking place over the next year in the emirate.

Read the full interview here.

19. INTERVIEW: Anantara’s wildlife warrior

After successfully running the elephant protection programme at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort in Thailand, John Roberts will now implement his expertise as worldwide conservation director for Anantara.

Read the full interview here.

18. CEO interview: Minor Hotel Group

In August Hotelier spoke with Minor Hotel Group CEO Dillip Rajakarier, who outlined how he carved out an impressive career path for himself.

Read the full interview here.

17. Nightlife interview: Spencer Hartwell

In October Caterer spoke with Media One Hotel’s Spencer Hartwell about the property’s plans for Dubai most up and coming nightlife venue.

Read the full interview here.

16. VP Interview: Wyndham Hotel Group’s Bani Haddad

When Bani Haddad visited Hotelier Towers in October, he was his usual friendly, affable self — relaxed, chatty and visibly passionate about the growth potential of Wyndham Hotel Group, the company he heads up in the Middle East.

Read the full interview here.

15. Interview: Sofitel CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones

Sofitel Worldwide CEO Robert Gaymer-Jones outlines how he developed a career from working in a hotel kitchen to leading the operations of a multi-national luxury hotel chain.

Read the full interview here.

14. GM Interview: Hyatt’s Christoph Franzen

Ahead of the Hotelier Middle East Qatar GM Debate in April, Guy Wilkinson asked the venue’s GM, Christoph Franzen at Grand Hyatt Doha, to highlight issues in the market and reveal his plans for the hotel.

Read the full interview here.

13. Interview: Banyan Tree CEO Abid Butt

Banyan Tree CEO Abid Butt discusses his drive to grow the group’s portfolio, the need for the industry to adapt to a new talent base and his secret passions for law, percussion and diving.

Read the full interview here.

12. CEO INTERVIEW: Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi

The president and CEO of Millennium & Copthorne Middle East and Africa, Ali Hamad Lakhraim AlZaabi, reveals what motivates him to keep battling the big boys for those all-important contract wins.

Read the full interview here.

11. GM INTERVIEW: Emirates Palace’s Bugra Berberoglu

Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi is one of the Middle East’s most iconic hotels, yet as general manager Bugra Berberoglu reveals, it is also a “lab of creation”, where every aspect of service and product is continuously questioned in order to innovate beyond the competition.

Read the full interview here.

10. CEO Interview: Martine Balouka-Vallette

The CEO of Adagio Aparthotel, martine balouka-vallette, outlined a mission to roll out the European urban residence brand globally, but she said a great deal must be done to standardise this sector in the Middle East.

Read the full interview here.

9. GM INTERVIEW: Dana Hlavnova

Jumeirah Rotana, Dubai’s new general manager Dana Hlavnova tells Hotelier Middle East about first impressions and past experiences, and how she wants to use both to make the most of the region’s budding hospitality market in the years to come

Read the full interview here.

8. GM Interview: Patrick de Groot, The Domain Bahrain

The Domain Hotels general manager Patrick de Groot tells Louise Oakley his vision for the highly sociable hotel-members club concept opening in Bahrain later this year.

Read the full interview here.

7. SVP INTERVIEW: Guido de Wilde

Guido de Wilde, senior vice president, regional director Middle East, Starwood Hotels & Resorts outlines the company’s growth projections and strategic goals for 2013.

Read the full interview here.

6. CEO INTERVIEW: Marriott’s Arne Sorenson

President and chief executive officer Arne Sorenson explains why putting people first is the legacy he is most committed to sustaining.

Read the full interview here.

5. CEO Interview: Starwood’s Frits van Paasschen

When he’s not running marathons or entering triathlons, Frits Van Paasschen oversees Starwood’s portfolio of 1134 global hotels. But this CEO is not just a hotel operator; rather a developer of global hospitality brands, and as it turns out, there’s quite a difference.

Read the full interview here.

4. INTERVIEW: Holiday Inn’s father figure

Spence Wilson, son of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson, reflects on the evolution of the brand on a recent visit to the Middle East to celebrate its 60th year, and 35 years in the region.

Read the full interview here.

3. VP INTERVIEW: King of the castle

Fairmont vice president of food and beverage Jean Michel Offe has a bold plan to plug a gap in the global hotel restaurant business. He wants his chefs to be entrepreneurs, his F&B directors to be strategists and his restaurants to buck the trends.

Read the full interview here.

2. CEO Interview: Viceroy’s Bill Walshe

Viceroy Hotel Group CEO Bill Walshe considers himself lucky; having started his career in small Irish guesthouses he now heads up the luxury Californian brand Viceroy, which he’s set to take global. Here, Walshe reveals his inspirations, vision and why sometimes, 51% is enough.

Read the full interview here.

1. CEO INTERVIEW: Risk taker – Rotana’s Selim El Zyr

Two decades since he took on international operators with the launch of the first UAE-based hotel company, Rotana president and CEO Selim El Zyr is still taking risks. He reveals the group’s expansion plans in some of the region’s most volatile markets, but says Rotana is in safe hands of the man he has earmarked to one day continue his legacy.

Read the full interview here.

© 2013 ITP Business Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Provided by, an company

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