Mark Willis Mark Willis Mark Willis Mark Willis

What’s really impressive about the last 12 months for the Rezidor Hotel Group is the 50 properties it reportedly has in its pipeline for the Middle East and North Africa, up from 21 in the Middle East last year. With 39 operating properties and 8,751 rooms, Mark Willis (who in the last year was promoted to a senior role and added Africa to his portfolio), says that in Saudi Arabia, the company is “one of the fastest-growing hotel groups”, with expansion in both primary and secondary cities.

Willis has been focused on many initiatives that centre around diversity, inclusion, and equal rights last year. The operator was the first in hospitality worldwide to appoint a Saudi female general manager, in March 2017. The appointment complements Saudi Vision 2030, which emphasises the Saudi women’s role in leading the development of both social and professional growth in the Kingdom.

Staff development is enormously important, says Willis: “I truly believe what motivates talent to excel is when they have a sense of purpose and when they are recognised for great work. I am pleased that I can demonstrate many examples of this, like our mentee programme, which has seen multiple Rezidorians progress to general manager level in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa region.”

The operator also spearheads a development programme called STEPS, designed to accelerate the careers of talented females across the group. It was also the first hospitality company to introduce an enhanced maternity leave policy in the Middle East region, offering 60 days’ maternity leave in the UAE and Oman, and 70 days in Kuwait and Lebanon — an increase on the respective countries’ statutory levels for private-sector companies.

The owner-operator relationship is key to Rezidor’s success. And while the group is no longer managing what was earlier flagged as the Radisson Blu Downtown hotel, during an interview with a Rezidor spokesperson earlier this year Hotelier was told that this was a mutual and amicable decision.

Willis emphasises the importance of working well with owners: “The success in establishing relationships with new — and strengthening relationships with existing — owners is evidenced in the continued growth within the region, with more than 180 hotels in operation or under development in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. Our strong pipeline is now coming to fruition and we are pleased that we will have more than 25 hotels opening across the region in this year alone. And we set a new record when we signed the largest Radisson Blu and Park Inn by Radisson hotels in the world in Makkah this year.”

Pascal Gauvin

Chief operating officer, India, Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Since coming to power, Gauvin has signed and launched brands like Staybridge Suites and Hotel Indigo in the region

Mark Willis

Area senior vice president Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group
Willis has been focused on many initiatives that centre around diversity, inclusion, and equal rights last year

Andreas Mattmüller

Chief operating officer, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Middle East and Africa
Mattmüller's aim is to operate 125 upscale and upper-upscale hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia by 2020

Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi

Founder, president, and CEO, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, Middle East and Africa
Under Alzaabi’s leadership, development and acquisitions at the company have raced ahead, with 40 new contracts signed in the last 12 months

Omer Kaddouri

President and CEO, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation Ltd
Rotana celebrated its 25th anniversary this year

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

By THE NUMBERS

  • Number of years in the role 5

  • Number of years with the company 16

  • Number of operating hotels in the region as of July 2017 39

  • Number of pipeline hotels in the region as of July 2017 50

 

Pascal Gauvin

Chief operating officer, India, Middle East and Africa, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Since coming to power, Gauvin has signed and launched brands like Staybridge Suites and Hotel Indigo in the region

Mark Willis

Area senior vice president Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group
Willis has been focused on many initiatives that centre around diversity, inclusion, and equal rights last year

Andreas Mattmüller

Chief operating officer, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Middle East and Africa
Mattmüller's aim is to operate 125 upscale and upper-upscale hotels in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia by 2020

Ali Hamad Lakhraim Alzaabi

Founder, president, and CEO, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, Middle East and Africa
Under Alzaabi’s leadership, development and acquisitions at the company have raced ahead, with 40 new contracts signed in the last 12 months

Omer Kaddouri

President and CEO, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation Ltd
Rotana celebrated its 25th anniversary this year

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