10 industry figures to watch for 2016

Boutique Hotel News editor George Sell picks 10 industry figures who will be making the headlines over the next 12 months.

Debrah Dhugga, Dukes
How do you translate the ethos and atmosphere of one of the most quintessentially British hotels to the brash and glitzy world of Dubai? That is the task facing Debrah Dhugga, managing director of Dukes London. Dukes has teamed up with Dubai developer Seven Tidesto launch the Dukes Oceana hotel and residences, located on the Palm Jumeirah. It will be the first international property for the Dukes Collection brand, whose flagship hotel Dukes London is a popular destination for GCC travellers. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to bring the Dukes brand to an exciting city like Dubai, which is rich in culture, art, and sophistication. There is a missing piece in the Dubai hotel market for something quintessentially British and Dukes is a British gem which will certainly fill this gap,” says Dhugga.

Javier Egipciaco, tommie Hudson Square
Javier Egipciaco has been appointed general manager for tommie Hudson Square, the first opening under the hotly anticipated new “micro lifestyle hotel” brand from Commune Hotels & Resorts. With 18 years of experience in New York’s hospitality industry, including roles with Hersha Hospitality, GEM Hotel Group and Hyatt, Egipciaco will oversee day-to-day operations of the 325-room hotel. “I am excited to be overseeing the debut property for such an innovative and thought-provoking new brand. With a focus on genuine interactions and collaborations, travelers and locals alike will soon be able to experience a new, inventive approach to hospitality at tommie Hudson Square,” says Egipciaco.

Cristiano Ronaldo
The latest in a long line of celebrity hoteliers, the Real Madrid star has teamed up with hotel operator Grupo Pestana to develop four boutique hotels. Ronaldo will own 50 per cent of the joint venture and will invest €75 million in the properties, which will be in Maderia, Lisbon, New York City and Madrid. The Portuguese hotels will open next year, with Madrid and New York City scheduled for 2017. “This is the biggest project of my life. It’s an investment in a completely different area, but as you can imagine the goal is to take care of my future and the future of my son. I’m and ambitious person and a fighter,” Ronaldo says. “Obviously this is a completely different world. My world is playing soccer but we all know that life won’t always be like this,” said Ronaldo. Grupo Pestana is Portugal’s biggest hotel operator. It is based in Madeira, where Ronaldo was born.

Nick Turner, Bespoke Hotels International
Nick Turner is the man charged with spearheading Bespoke Hotels’ expansion in to international markets. With more than 20 years industry experience, including roles at Malmaison, Le Meridien, Wyndham, Ramada and Holiday Inn, Turner has already hit the ground running, signing Bespoke’s inaugural overseas partnership with India’s Peppermint Hotels and its Play Stay Love collection, with more than 70 properties. Since taking the role, Turner has been spotted at industry events in Dubai and Singapore, and has plans to take the Hotel Gotham brand international, as well as developing branded residence products for an international market. “I am delighted to be joining Bespoke at such a critical juncture. I have watched with admiration the company’s growth over the last decade to become the UK’s largest independent hotel group, and I am relishing the challenge of continuing this upward trend,” says Turner.

Roeland Vos, Belmond
Vos found himself in the hot seat at Belmond – formerly Orient-Express Hotels – rather abruptly last year after the company’s board “lost confidence” in former CEO John Scott’s ability to “take us to the next level”. So Vos must steady the ship in 2016 under intense scrutiny, as well as continuing to bed in a rebrand which did not receive universal industry acclaim. What Starwood veteran Vos does have up his sleeve are some of Europe’s most iconic properties – the Manor Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, Hotel Cipriano in Venice and Reid’s Palace in Madeira – and will focus on signing management contracts to add more stellar names to this list. “In keeping with Belmond’s long-term strategy, together we will focus on disciplined capital allocation, reinvesting in our properties, increasing the number of third party management contracts, and developing the Belmond brand as we drive top-line growth and profitability,” said Vos.

Tina Edmundsen, Marriott International
Marriott International’s global officer for luxury and lifestyle brands is certainly going to have a busy 2016. With the Marriott/Starwood merger taking place, Tina Edmundsen, who oversees the Ritz-Carlton, Bulgari, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Autograph, AC, and Moxy brands, will soon have a raft of new properties under her remit. What is unknown at this stage is which brands will survive and which will be axed, but it’s a fair bet that W and possibly St Regis will come Edmundsen’s way. It is also likely that properties enrolled in Starwood’s Luxury Collection and Tribute Portfolio will be absorbed in to Marriott’s Autograph Collection, another of Edmundsen’s brands. And who’s to say there might not be further brand launches in this fast moving sector of the market? “There’s always the opportunity. We’re always looking to see if there are gaps or if there is a segment of population that we’re not reaching currently. We’re always interested,” says Edmundsen.

Analjit Singh’s Leeu Collection
Indian healthcare, telecoms and insurance tycoon Analjit Singh is chairman of the $1.7 billion turnover Max India Group. Aside from his numerous business interests in India, he is assembling a very nice collection of high-end boutique properties in South Africa. The Leeu Collection – Leeu is the Afrikaans word for lion, as is Singh in Sanskrit – has so far added three properties: Leeu House, Leeu Estate and the legendary Le Quartier Francais, all in Franschhoek, in South Africa’s Cape Winelands. Expect more acquisitions to follow as Singh has clearly fallen in love with South Africa and is immersing himself in the region’s hotel and wine businesses: “What started off as a retreat has now become a proper business. I believe it’s the biggest investment in the Western Cape. But I’ve been advised not to talk numbers. I’ve stepped outside an busy international business life to find succour in this part of the world, to renew myself in this time of my life,” says Singh. “I have succeeded in a succession plan to fire myself from my own company as CEO, to make time for what I’m doing here.”

Sharan Pasricha, Ennismore Capital
Ennismore Capital raised a few eyebrows in July 2015 when it bought the iconic Gleneagles Hotel from drinks giant Diageo. But it is with its Hoxton brand that Ennismore, and CEO Sharan Pasricha, are making a splash in the boutique hotel sector. Having opened its second London property, in Holborn, last year, a third – in Southwark – is in the pipeline, and a move across the pond to the US is in the offing for 2016. A New York property, in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn is due to open this year, and Ennismore has recently spent $30 million on a building in downtown LA for conversion to a Hoxton hotel. “We are looking for opportunities in the kind of cities that we like to hang out in, such as Berlin, Stockholm, Barcelona, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. We’ve certainly no ambitions to build a big chain of 50 to 100 hotels. That wouldn’t be possible anyway, as I’m too involved in all the elements myself – whether it is choosing a sofa or deciding on a new concept within the hotels,” says Pasricha.

Susanne Traudt, South Place Hotel
In an industry which at first glance appears to have a strong female presence, there still aren’t enough female general managers in the boutique hotel sector. With the honourable exception of Firmdale, this is as true of London as anywhere. So all power to D&D London, and to the hotel manager of its South Place Hotel, Susanne Traudt. She joined South Place from the Royal Exchange, where as operations manager she oversaw all-day dining in the Grand Café, fine dining in Sauterelle restaurant, and corporate events for up to 800 people. Prior to that, Susanne worked at the Connaught Hotel, having arrived in London from her native Germany in 2006. At South Place, Susanne oversees all of the operations in the hotel, restaurants and bars, including room service, private dining and events. The hotel is in a unique position, straddling the business clientele of the Square Mile, and the hip crowds from Shoreditch – Traudt has an interesting balancing act to continue keeping them both happy.

Paul Roberts, Malmaison Hotel du Vin
The £363.4 million acquisition of Malmaison Hotel du Vin (MHDV) by Singapore-based serviced apartment specialist Frasers Hospitality was one of the surprise deals of 2015, and it leaves MHDV CEO Paul Roberts with a strong hand to play, as Frasers is in a hurry to expand its global portfolio to 30,000 keys by 2019. The MHDV deal effectively doubled its European offering to 4,000 keys, and Frasers wasted little time in consolidating its position, spending a further £36 million on four hotels in the south and west of England, acquired from Swire Properties. MHDV now has 33 hotels and 2,347 keys, with further acquisitions highly likely. “Our platform is set up that we can actually deliver 50 hotels in the UK very easily.The next phase is Europe and beyond,” said Roberts.

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