Hozpitalitys Best 30 Hospitality and Tourism Leaders in the Middle East: Shaping the Future of Hospitality Industry
Hozpitality's Best 30 Hospitality and Tourism Leaders in the Middle East are industry pioneers shaping the future of hospitality. With innovation and dedication, they are transforming the sector, ensuring a vibrant and sustainable landscape.
The Middle East, a region known for its opulence, luxury, and warm hospitality, is home to a cadre of exceptional leaders redefining the standards of excellence in the hospitality industry. Hozpitality, the authority in the field, annually honors the crème de la crème of hospitality with its Best 30 Hospitality and Tourism Leaders accolade.
In the ever-evolving Middle Eastern hospitality industry landscape, a select group of visionaries stands tall, steering the course of luxury, innovation, and unparalleled guest experiences. This illustrious list of the Best 30 Leaders celebrates not just titles but the passion, resilience, and transformative leadership that define Middle Eastern hospitality.
In this article, we celebrate the remarkable individuals on this coveted list, delving into their journeys, innovations, and enduring commitment to elevating the guest experience. Every leader featured on this distinguished list is not just an achiever but also a source of immense inspiration. Those who aspire to reach similar heights should delve into their journeys, studying their paths meticulously—from their educational backgrounds to the steps they took to climb the professional ladder. Emulating their strategies and learning from their experiences can pave the way for aspiring individuals to achieve their own remarkable successes.
At the helm of renowned hotels and hospitality groups, these leaders epitomize the spirit of entrepreneurship and enterprise. Their vision extends beyond profit margins; they are the architects of employment, community development, and cultural exchange.
These leaders are not confined to boardrooms; they are found at the frontlines, leading by example. They inspire their teams not through authority alone but through dedication and a relentless pursuit of excellence. In a world where leadership is often synonymous with power, these individuals redefine it as service, humility, and the ability to empower others.
Innovation is the lifeblood of the hospitality industry, and the Best 30 Leaders are its torchbearers. Their establishments are living laboratories where traditional practices merge seamlessly with cutting-edge technology. From AI-driven customer service to sustainable practices that redefine eco-friendly hospitality, these leaders are at the forefront of transforming mere stays into unforgettable experiences.
The Middle East is a melting pot of cultures, religions, and languages. The Best 30 Hospitality and Tourism Leaders recognize this diversity as an asset, not a challenge. They build bridges between cultures, fostering an environment where guests feel welcome.
In a world where hospitality is often seen as a transaction, these Best 30 Leaders remind us that it is a sacred art. They prove that a hotel is not just a building but a haven of experiences, emotions, and memories. As we celebrate their achievements, we honor their success and acknowledge the transformative power of genuine hospitality. They are not just leaders but the custodians of an ancient tradition, ensuring its legacy continues to thrive in the modern world.
Join us in celebrating the "Hozpitality's Best 30 Hospitality and Tourism Leaders in the Middle East" as we honor their invaluable contributions to the hospitality industry. Their stories of success, resilience, and passion are sure to inspire and motivate others in the pursuit of excellence in the world of hospitality.
Here is the list of 30 Best Most Popular Hospitality and Tourism Leader Winners (in alphabetical order):
- Alexander Suski
- Bani Haddad
- Candice D'Cruz
- Dimitris Manikis
- Naim Maadad
- Emma Banks
- George Kunnappally
- Haitham Mattar
- Jeff Strachan
- Jennifer Pettinger-Haines
- Jonathan Worsley
- Katerina Giannouka
- Khadija Turki
- Marc Dardenne
- Mark Kirby
- Matthew Weihs
- Mohamed Awadalla
- Noelle Homsy
- Patrick Antaki
- Pawan Kachroo
- Philip Jones
- Raki Phillips
- Salem Al Shahrani
- Sandeep Walia
- Siegfried Nierhaus
- Steve Reynolds
- Sultan Al-Otaibi
- Sunjeh Raja
- Yahia Kotub
Chief Hospitality Officer
SBK Hospitality Group
Alexander Suski, Chief Hospitality Officer of SBK Hospitality, part of SBK Holding & The Private Office of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, oversees the overall asset management and developments of the three iconic Fairmont properties: Dubai, Ajman, and Fujairah. He will also spearhead the reopening and exciting development of Moon Island in Abu Dhabi while outlining the strategy for the company's further expansion.
In 2015, Bani Haddad established Aleph Hospitality, offering a tailored, results-oriented alternative to conventional hotel management models for hotel owners in the Middle East and Africa. With 28 years of experience in the hospitality sector, including 17 dedicated to the Middle East and Africa, Bani brings extensive expertise to his role.
Vice President - Luxury Brands - Europe, Middle East & Africa
Candice D'Cruz is Vice President of brand Marketing and management for Marriott International Luxury Brands across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In this role, Candice is responsible for the company's eight distinct luxury brands, including The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bulgari Hotels, St. Regis, W Hotels, EDITION, The Luxury Collection, and JW Marriott.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Dimitris Manikis assumed the pivotal role of President and Managing Director for EMEA in April 2018, marking a significant milestone in his illustrious career. As the esteemed President of EMEA at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, he shoulders the responsibility for the holistic development of all Wyndham brands within the EMEA region. His expertise lies in optimizing the performance of both new and existing franchise and managed hotels, a task he approaches with steadfast dedication and strategic prowess.
Dr. Naim Maadad
Chief Executive & Founder - Gates Hospitality
Chairman - Australian Business Council
With a Professional Doctorate in Tourism and Hospitality and an extensive three-decade journey in the dynamic hospitality landscape spanning Australia, Asia, and the Middle East, Dr. Naim Maadad stands as a luminary figure in the industry. As the astute Chief Executive and Founder of Gates Hospitality, a UAE-based hospitality powerhouse, he has cultivated a legacy of excellence, spearheading award-winning ventures including folly, Bistro Des Arts, and Reform Social & Grill.
Emma Banks, as the Vice President of F&B Strategy and Development EMEA at Hilton, plays a pivotal role based in Hilton's MEA Regional Office in Dubai. With a career spanning from independent ventures to large global hospitality corporations, Emma joined Hilton in 2019 with a clear mission: to establish the company as a frontrunner in the realm of food and beverage. In a remarkably short period, she has made a significant impact by bringing exceptional F&B talent into the business and actively participating in Hilton's diverse initiatives.
Commencing his professional journey with Taj Hotels in India, George Kunnappally has ascended to senior management roles within major conglomerates based in Dubai, each with a significant footprint across the MENA region. He has held pivotal positions such as General Manager at Al Madani Group and General Manager and Board Member at BinHendi Enterprises, both in Dubai. Additionally, he served as a Senior Franchise Strategy & Business Development Specialist at ADNOC Distribution in Abu Dhabi.
Managing Director MEA & Southwest Asia
IHG Hotels & Resorts
Haitham Mattar, Managing Director for India, Middle East, and Africa (IMEA) at IHG Hotels & Resorts, is entrusted with spearheading the growth and fortification of IHG and its extensive portfolio of hotels throughout the region. His responsibilities include overseeing the operations and performance of a remarkable 180+ hotels and strategically developing IHG's plans, boasting a robust pipeline of over 130 hotels. A critical aspect of his position entails nurturing relationships with government stakeholders, tourism bodies, and the owner community across various markets.
Business Development Director
Dubai College of Tourism
In September 2015, Jeff Strachan joined the Dubai College of Tourism, a unique initiative from the Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism, designed as the conduit to bring the Dubai brand to life through several grass-roots human capital enablement initiatives, including the online self-paced learning platforms Dubai Way and Dubai Expert and the campus-based vocational curriculum including Tourism, Hospitality, Events and Culinary Arts. The platforms created by Dubai College of Tourism have now welcomed over 150,000 students.
Global Restaurant Investment Forum
Jennifer Pettinger-Haines is the powerhouse behind the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF). With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry in the Middle East Jennifer has made a name for herself as a savvy businesswoman with an eye for growth and expansion. She introduced the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) Regional Briefings Series, expanding AHIC's presence throughout the region.
Chairman & Founder - The Bench
Advisory Board - Emirates Academy
Jonathan Worsley, a forward-thinking leader renowned for his significant contributions to the hospitality and events industry, co-founded and organized prominent international conferences such as AHIC (Arabian Hotel Investment Conference), FHS Saudi Arabia, AHIF (Africa Hospitality Investment Forum), IDEEA Hospitality Investment Summit, AviaDev, and GRIF (Global Restaurant Investment Forum). He also serves as a partner in South America's SAHIC.
Katerina is a fervent intrapreneur, CEO, perpetual adventurer, and seeker, deeply dedicated to guiding hotel companies toward growth, crafting tangible value, and motivating both herself and others to accomplish the extraordinary.
As a dynamic and passionate individual, Katerina achieves remarkable outcomes by articulating her vision, constructing robust teams, and effectively mobilizing resources. With over two decades of experience in hospitality leadership, operations, hotel development, advisory, mergers and acquisitions, and asset management, she has worked across 35 countries.
Director - Tourism Development and Marketing
Ajman Department of Tourism Development
Khadija Mohamed Turki assumed the role of Tourism Expert at the Ajman Department of Tourism Development (ADTD) in September 2023, bringing with her an extensive background spanning over 25 years in the fields of tourism, retail, events, and aviation. With a wealth of experience under her belt, Khadija is deeply committed to collaborating with Ajman's stakeholders. Together, they aim to strategically position Ajman as one of the world's premier tourist destinations, crafting innovative and bold plans that will reshape the future of the emirate's tourism sector.
Chief Operating Officer
After graduating from the prestigious Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, Marc embarked on a successful global career in the hospitality industry. He currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer at the PIF Group in Riyadh. Marc's expertise in hotel operations spans renowned establishments like Grand Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Chief Operating Officer - Head of Hospitality
Emaar Hospitality Group
Mark Kirby, an esteemed figure in the hospitality sector, currently serves as the Head of Emaar Hospitality Group, where he upholds a consistent standard of excellence across all managed hotels. Holding a BA (Hons) in Hospitality Management from the University of Central England, Mark boasts over 15 years of experience in prestigious London hotels. His professional journey includes pivotal roles at renowned Dubai establishments like Grosvenor House and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, leading to his appointment at Emaar Hospitality Group in 2014.
Group Managing Director
Matthew Weihs serves as the Managing Director of Bench, where he focuses on cultivating new business opportunities and sales for Bench and its partners. In his role, he not only supports the overall direction of the business but also provides essential commercial assistance for new product launches.
Chief Executive Officer
Mohamed Awadalla, a seasoned international hotelier with a wealth of experience spanning over four decades, serves as the CEO and co-founder of TIME Hotels. With a visionary approach, he has played a pivotal role in steering TIME management to unparalleled success. Under his leadership, TIME Hotels has not only witnessed significant growth but has also achieved remarkable milestones in future development, commercial success, and brand positioning, establishing itself as a success story in the Middle East.
Noelle's journey is truly inspiring. She embarked on a unique path that eventually led her to make a significant impact in the hospitality and tourism industry. Starting with a dream of designing her own hotel and retiring on a Greek Island, she pursued a career in architecture. Her professional journey transitioned from architectural design and construction project management to overseeing claims, risk management, and arbitration cases related to real estate projects in the Middle East.
Chief Operating Officer
Hospitality Management Holding
Patrick Antaki is a highly experienced hospitality professional with a remarkable career spanning more than 35 years in the industry. Presently holding the position of Chief Operating Officer at Hospitality Management Holding (HMH), he is renowned for his proactive leadership approach, inspiring his team to successfully accomplish their business goals.
Dr. Pawan Kachroo, a distinguished Managing Director and seasoned hotel management professional, has been overseeing the Khamas Hospitality Division for over two decades. With a wealth of experience exceeding 30 years in the hospitality industry, he has played a pivotal role in the remarkable growth of the Khamas Group. Under his adept leadership, the Hotels Division has flourished, strengthening its existing portfolio and advancing swiftly with projects in various stages of development.
Senior Vice President Operations, Middle East & Africa
Philip Jones, the Senior Vice President of Operations for the Middle East & Africa in the Premium, Midscale, and Economy Division, is a highly experienced and motivated hospitality leader with a remarkable career spanning over 30 years in hotel operations. In his current role, Philip is responsible for overseeing operations during a period of rapid growth in the Premium, Midscale, and Economy Division.
Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority
Raki Phillips, the CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), is a visionary leader entrusted with the task of expanding the destination’s tourism infrastructure and sustainability investments. With a bold vision to position Ras Al Khaimah as the ‘Destination of the Future’, Phillips is dedicated to elevating the emirate’s tourism contribution from 5% to one-third of its economy by 2030, with a goal to attract over 3 million visitors.
Salem Al Shahrani
FRSS Hotels Makkah at Accor
Salem Al Shahrani is a renowned hospitality veteran and esteemed luxury hotelier, boasting an impressive career spanning over 25 years in the hospitality and tourism industry. Throughout his journey, Salem has held various senior roles in iconic organizations, amassing a remarkable track record of achievements and establishing a vast network of connections in both local and international markets.
Chief Operating Officer - Middle East
Sandeep Walia, a highly accomplished hospitality professional, serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Marriott International in the Middle East. With a wealth of experience exceeding 25 years in the international hotel industry, Sandeep plays a pivotal role in overseeing the operations of Marriott's properties in the Middle East, covering regions such as Egypt and Turkey. Under his guidance, the Marriott portfolio includes over 230 operational properties and an impressive portfolio of more than 100 properties in various stages of development.
Vice President Middle East
Siegfried Nierhaus is a highly regarded figure in the Middle Eastern hospitality industry, celebrated for his unwavering passion and commitment to his work and team. Growing up in a family deeply rooted in the hospitality business in Germany and Austria, Siegfried inherited his love for the industry from an early age, entertaining guests at his family's establishment since he was just four years old.
Senior Vice President
Steve joined Discover Qatar, the destination management company (DMC) wing of Qatar Airways, in November 2019. His primary responsibility was to enhance Qatar's tourism presence through strategic partnerships and collaborations with Qatar Tourism, Qatar Airways, and local stakeholders. Despite the challenges posed by the onset of COVID-19, Steve, under his leadership, played a pivotal role in supporting the Qatari Government's COVID-19 response by managing the Quarantine program.
Mr. Sultan Bader Al-Otaibi, the Chief Executive Officer of Dur Hospitality, is a visionary and influential leader in the Middle East's hospitality industry. He possesses a proven track record of excellence in finance and asset management, making him an inspirational figure within the sector.
Director & CEO
Sunjeh Raja is an international award-winning educator with an ardent passion for the development of Technical Vocational Training (TVET) programs. For over 18 years, as the Director and CEO of the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA), a world-class culinary training center, where he has persistently worked to redefine TVET in Culinary Arts and make it relevant to the emerging needs of the industry.
Chief Executive Officer
Abu Dhabi Tourism Investment Co. ADTIC
Yahia Kotub, as the Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Tourism Investment Company (ADTIC), spearheads the organization with a primary focus on driving growth, profitability, and enhancing the company's market standing. With an impressive track record spanning over 30 years in the hospitality industry, Yahia brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise, positioning ADTIC as a leading player in the market.