Great GM Debate 2019

Published: 10 September 2019 - 7 a.m.
By: Hotelier Middle East Staff
The tenth annual Hotelier Middle East: Great GM Debate will take place on September 24, 2019 at the Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre. Successfully showcasing the state of the region’s hospitality industry for 10 years, the conference will continue to provide more than 200 general managers and corporate hoteliers with a forum to discuss their daily challenges and opportunities and network with their peers in a professional environment.

After breakfast and networking from 7:30am onwards, the conference will kick off with a presentation on the region’s market insights and forecast for the months ahead.

Panel Discussions

The first panel discussion will focus on different source markets, and how the industry is reaching out to established markets while also aiming to attract people from non-traditional and secondary tourist segments. Hoteliers should not rest on their laurels and try to attract a wider spread of tourist, in tandem with efforts from the region’s tourism authorities.

Gender diversity and equality is an important business issue, and a panel of experts will talk about this topic and provide insight on what the industry in this region needs to do to ensure that women have opportunities to rise to the top, and have both male and female allies in their journey.

Technology continues to be a talking point for hoteliers, and there’s a need more than ever before to future-proof what properties are using. However, the danger while doing this is to ensure that hotels do not alienate generations that have not grown up with new forms of tech – user-friendliness balanced with future-proofing is therefore key.

Continuing on this line of thought, the importance of social media in hospitality will be outlined. Can this platform be a revenue driver for properties? The strategy that hotels employ in their social media will be a point of discussion, as well as how it can be used to generate and retain brand loyalty among guests.

Talks & Presentations

The first Ignite Talk will be hosted by Steve Dering, who is the head of engagement with Direct Access, and he will discuss the Dubai Universal Design Code, with the aim to improve accessibility in the region. A second Ignite Talk will focus on the balance between Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) to enhance staff retention. The event will also offer a presentation on profitability in the wellness space.

The wellness travel segment has been growing continuously year-on-year, and hotels in the Middle East would be well placed to start taking advantage of travellers’ growing needs in this space. We take a look into whether this is worth the investment for the region.

Confirmed Speakers:

Rabih Feghali, director – hospitality, The Red Sea Development Project

A third-generation hotelier who was raised in Abu Dhabi, Feghali spent six years at hospitality consulting powerhouse, Ròya International, before joining The Red Sea Development Company.

Peggy Li, managing director, SPS Affinity

Li, who began her current role in January 2018, has more than two decades of experience, and has worked at a senior level controlling operations and driving performance at Michelin Star restaurants and the luxury hospitality sector.

Gonzalo Rodriguez, GM, The H Dubai

Rodriguez joined The H Dubai in January 2015 as director of operations and was promoted to his current role in 2016. He has held leadership positions in Raffles Dubai, Rotana, IHG, and Meliá Hotels International.

Bert Fol, regional director, Arabian Peninsula & Turkey, Radisson Hotel Group

A hospitality veteran with 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Fol is responsible for 17 hotels with five new hotels due to open soon in the GCC.

Steve Dering, head of engagement, Direct Access

Profoundly deaf since birth, Dering has worked in the UAE since 2018 and moved to Dubai in January 2019 advising organisations on the Dubai Universal Design Code. He has worked with architectural firms on both new and existing developments.

Laurent Voivenel, SVP, operations & development for MEIA, Swiss-Belhotel

Voivenel has more than 30 years of hotel and asset management experience with brands including Starwood and Hilton. Prior to SwissBelhotel, he was the CEO of HMH – Hospitality Management Holding.

Joanne Williams, GM, Citymax Hotels, Al Barsha

Williams is a seasoned hospitality professional with more than 30 years of international hospitality experience. She is currently a general manager for Citymax Hotels overseeing both of the brand’s properties in Al Barsha.

Dagmar Symes, general manager, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar

Symes was appointed as the GM of Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar in Oman in 2018. Prior to this, she was cluster GM at Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel and Le Vendome InterContinental Hotel.

Ian Rydin, general manager, Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai

Rydin, who has more than 30 years of experience, has previously worked as the GM and district director of four hotels in Nairobi and Kigali, Kenya in addition to holding posts with Radisson Hotel Group.

Rohit Sharma, GM, Citymax Hotel Bur Dubai

Sharma has 23 years of hospitality experience and began his current role in 2018. Prior to this, he was with hospitality brands including Leela, Marriott, Taj Hotels, and Premier Inn in India, where he led the opening of nine hotels.

Alessandro Redaelli, managing director, Ras Al Khaimah, Hilton

Redaelli oversees the management and operations for three hotels — Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Hilton Al Hamra Beach and Golf Resort and Al Hamra Residence and Village.

Richard Haddad, CEO, Jannah Hotels & Resorts

Haddad has more than 25 years of experience. Previously the director of product development in Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, he has also held positions across hotel groups in the Middle East.

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