Middle East hotel industry

18 December 2012

Six hoteliers leading the development of the Middle East’s hospitality sector: Selim el-Zyr, Gerald Lawless, Rudi Jagersbacher, Guido De Wilde, Alex Kyriakidis and Christophe Landais

Selim el-Zyr

Position: Co-founder, president and chief executive officer (CEO), Rotana

Biography: Selim el-Zyr founded the UAE’s Rotana Hotel Management Corporation (Rotana) with Nasser al-Nowais in 1992. Under his leadership, the company opened its first property, the Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, in 1993, and today operates more than 70 properties in the Middle East and Africa region, with 36 more in the pipeline. After graduating from Swiss hospitality school Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in 1970, El-Zyr completed further related studies at the Cornell and Columbia universities in the US before taking his first job as chief steward at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. He then spent 12 years with Hilton International in Germany, Spain, Egypt, Canada and in the UAE, where he was promoted to regional director. Before founding Rotana, El-Zyr also established a Lebanese fast food chain in 1982 and was vice-president at Abu Dhabi National Hotels.

Contact Tel: (+971) 2 644 4412

Gerald Lawless

Position: President and group CEO, Jumeirah Group

Biography: Gerald Lawless joined the UAE’s Jumeirah Group in 1997. His appointment followed a 23-year career with the UK’s Forte Hotels, culminating in him establishing the company’s Middle East operations. Lawless has not only transformed Jumeirah Group from a small local management firm to a global hotel brand, but has helped put Dubai on the international map by developing one of the world’s most iconic properties, the Burj al-Arab. More recently, he doubled Jumeirah Group’s portfolio from 10 hotels in January 2011 to 21 hotels at the end of 2012, and has signed agreements to manage at least 12 other properties. Lawless is a graduate of Shannon College of Hotel Management in the UK and has an honorary doctorate degree in business administration specialising in hospitality management from Johnson & Wales University in the US.

Contract Tel: (+971) 4 366 5000

Rudi Jagersbacher

Position: Area president for the Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide

Biography: Rudi Jagersbacher was appointed president for the Middle East and Africa region for the US’ Hilton Worldwide in January 2011. Since assuming this role, Jagersbacher, a seasoned hotelier with 38 years’ experience in the industry, has taken Hilton’s hotel count to 41 in the Middle East including Egypt and the  Levant, with five properties unveiled in this region in the last year. There are 39 more hotels in the pipeline, 14 of which he has signed, while 13 properties will open in 2013. Jagersbacher also oversees 15 hotels in Africa and the Indian Ocean region, with 12 further properties confirmed. A graduate of Hotel School in Austria, he started his career with Hilton International in 1974. Early roles included general manager of the Langham Hilton and the London Hilton on Park Lane. He has also worked as assistant general manager at the UK’s Claridges and The Savoy.

Contact Tel: (+971) 4 391 5100

Guido De Wilde

Position: Senior vice-president and Middle East director, Starwood Hotels and Resorts

Biography: Guido De Wilde was appointed vice-president and Middle East director of the US’ Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2006, and currently oversees more than 45 properties in the region, with a further 29 in the pipeline. In the last 12 months, De Wilde has overseen the opening of three Middle East hotels including the top-end St Regis brand, which debuted in Abu Dhabi and Doha. He holds a licentiate in Germanic philology from the University of Ghent in Belgium, and has studied the Norwegian language, literature and history at the University of Oslo. De Wilde also has a degree in marketing from the Institute of Social Sciences in the Netherlands. He started his career with Starwood in 1983 and since then has held various management positions in Bahrain, Morocco, Germany, Belgium and Portugal. De Wilde speaks seven different languages including French, German and Portuguese.

Contact Tel: (+971) 4 307 9540

Alex Kyriakidis

Position: President and managing director for the Middle East and Africa, Marriott International

Biography: Alex Kyriakidis was appointed president and managing director for the Middle East and Africa at the US’ Marriott International in early 2012, following the retirement of Ed Fuller, one of the hospitality industry’s most notable veterans. Kyriakidis joined from the US’ Deloitte & Touche where he was global managing director of the travel, hospitality and leisure division. At Marriott, he oversees 32 properties, eight of which opened during the first year of his tenure. Between now and 2015, Kyriakidis will open 22 new properties. He has 38 years of experience in providing strategic, financial, operational, asset management and integration services to the travel, hospitality and leisure sectors. Kyriakidis has a degree in computer science and mathematics from Leeds University in the UK, and is a fellow of the Arab Society of Certified Accountants.

Contact Tel: (+971) 4 440 7786

Christophe Landais

Position: Managing director, Accor Middle East

Biography: Christophe Landais established the Middle East office of France’s Accor in Dubai in 2000 as managing director. He initially focused on the development of Accor’s economy brands, Ibis and Novotel, debuting both in 2003, but has since introduced other brands such as Pullman, MGallery and Adagio. Landais has expanded Accor’s regional portfolio to 59 properties, with a further 22 under construction. He has opened two hotels and signed four over the past year and will oversee the opening of 11 properties in the UAE in 2013. Saudi Arabia is also a key focus for Landais; Accor opened Ibis Yanbu, the kingdom’s first economy hotel, in December 2012 and has set a benchmark with its Saudisation policy, with Accor hotels in Mecca set to recruit 1,400 nationals by 2016. Landais has more than 30 years of experience in hotel management, with recognised expertise in hospitality operations and development.

Contact Tel: (+971) 4 377 2501

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