Kamel Ajami Kamel Ajami

Hilton is a hospitality giant, and while Kamel Ajami is the VP of operations for only the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Levant, his 16 hotels account for approximately 27% of Hilton’s supply in the MENA region. Even more impressive, his 32 pipeline hotels are responsible for just under half of Hilton’s pipeline of 79 hotels in MENA. Under his leadership, Hilton’s footprint in KSA and the Levant is set to triple in the region.

“To put this into perspective,” Ajami says, “according to STR data, Hilton has more rooms under construction in Saudi Arabia alone than any other company has in the entire GCC.”

He has certainly overseen many openings and signings for the region during his tenure. Last year, KSA’s first Conrad Hotels & Resorts’ property, Conrad Makkah, opened its doors, and in March this year, Hilton opened Jordan’s first Hilton Hotels & Resorts property, Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa. The operator expects to debut the Embassy by Hilton brand in the Middle East in 2020 with the opening of a property in Riyadh that will also come under Ajami’s command.

All of this translates to a growing team in this region and, in line with the mothership’s focus on human resources (HR), Ajami is keen to push the development of young talent. The company has made progress towards Saudisation and other nationalisation initiatives, and has partnered with the KSA government on HR programmes, while in Jordan, Hilton is working in partnership with the Queen of Jordan, on an initiative to establish a hospitality university and a youth job service. Like many other operators, Hilton is also working to attract more women to careers in the hospitality industry, and to help its own female team members reach leadership positions.

This year has seen personal career development for Ajami as well. In 2017, his remit was expanded to include Jordan and Lebanon (the Levant); previously, he was vice president of operations for Saudi Arabia. He has been working in the hospitality industry for 36 years, seven of which have been spent working in Middle Eastern and North African hotels. He is now based in Jeddah, with a Hilton regional office established there for the first time — at the end of last year, Hilton was named Saudi Arabia’s best workplace by the Great Places to Work organisation.

“I am proud to be a hotelier and, as a Jordanian, I am particularly proud of the tradition, status, and potential of the hospitality industry in the Middle East,” he says.

“When I talk about a vision for the future of the company, it is more a vision for how I intend Hilton to play a leading role in helping our industry to empower and enable the people and cultures of this region to thrive.”

Robert Kunkler

Chief operating officer, Minor Hotels
Minor Hotels now has 14 hotels spanning 2,678 rooms coming up in the years ahead

Kamel Ajami

Vice president operations, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Levant, Hilton
Under his leadership, Hilton’s footprint in KSA and the Levant is set to triple in the region

Amine Moukarzel

President/ partner, Louvre Hotels Group/ Golden Tulip Hotels MENA
His leadership has overseen the overhaul of the core four-star brand, Golden Tulip Hotels

Ignace Bauwens

Wyndham Hotel Group regional vice president, Middle East and Africa
Wyndham has 27 hotels and 6,167 rooms in the MENA pipeline, while already operating 49 hotels and 8,528 rooms in the region

Sami Nasser

COO luxury brands, AccorHotels Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean
More than 30 properties are under development, which will add a further 9,000 hotel rooms to the group’s luxury upscale segment by 2021

Olivier Harnisch

CEO, Emaar Hospitality Group
Emaar’s new CEO boasts an impressive total of 30 years’ hospitality industry experience

Peter Fulton

Group president – Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Southwest Asia, Hyatt International
Hyatt has a total of 13 new properties in the pipeline for the MENA region across the Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt House brands

Hussain Sajwani

Chairman of Damac Properties / Damac Hotels & Resorts
The company has five hotels and 2,000 rooms in operation, and 26 pipeline properties

Simon Casson

President – hotel operations, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Casson has led the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, and the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait at Burj Alshaya

Dr Badr Al Badr

Chief executive officer, Dur Hospitality
Dur Hospitality boasts a portfolio of more than 20 projects and properties worth SAR 2.4bn (US $640m) in the pipeline

By THE NUMBERS

  • Number of years in the role 2
  • Number of years with the company 15
  • Number of operating hotels in the region as of July 2017 16
  • Number of pipeline hotels in the region as of July 2017 32
 

Robert Kunkler

Chief operating officer, Minor Hotels
Minor Hotels now has 14 hotels spanning 2,678 rooms coming up in the years ahead

Kamel Ajami

Vice president operations, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Levant, Hilton
Under his leadership, Hilton’s footprint in KSA and the Levant is set to triple in the region

Amine Moukarzel

President/ partner, Louvre Hotels Group/ Golden Tulip Hotels MENA
His leadership has overseen the overhaul of the core four-star brand, Golden Tulip Hotels

Ignace Bauwens

Wyndham Hotel Group regional vice president, Middle East and Africa
Wyndham has 27 hotels and 6,167 rooms in the MENA pipeline, while already operating 49 hotels and 8,528 rooms in the region

Sami Nasser

COO luxury brands, AccorHotels Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean
More than 30 properties are under development, which will add a further 9,000 hotel rooms to the group’s luxury upscale segment by 2021

Olivier Harnisch

CEO, Emaar Hospitality Group
Emaar’s new CEO boasts an impressive total of 30 years’ hospitality industry experience

Peter Fulton

Group president – Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Southwest Asia, Hyatt International
Hyatt has a total of 13 new properties in the pipeline for the MENA region across the Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt House brands

Hussain Sajwani

Chairman of Damac Properties / Damac Hotels & Resorts
The company has five hotels and 2,000 rooms in operation, and 26 pipeline properties

Simon Casson

President – hotel operations, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts
Casson has led the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, and the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait at Burj Alshaya

Dr Badr Al Badr

Chief executive officer, Dur Hospitality
Dur Hospitality boasts a portfolio of more than 20 projects and properties worth SAR 2.4bn (US $640m) in the pipeline