Arabian Hotel Investment Conference

09 – 11 April 2019

AHIC Village, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

2018 Session

Leaders in the Hot Seat

Stephen Sackur photo

Stephen Sackur is presenter of HARDtalk, the current affairs interview on BBC World and the News Channel. His subjects have included the heads of NATO and OPEC, Shimon Peres, Gore Vidal and Richard Dawkins. 

For HARDtalk he has also interviewed a number of the world’s great innovators, from James Dyson to Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and the bioscientist Craig Ventor. Distilling his notes for a series of articles, Stephen identified the five qualities they all seemed to share: an indestructible will, passion (almost beyond reason), outrageous optimism, a super-sized ego and a ‘rebel yell.’

These interviews have also given him an insight into how organisations can best bring about innovation: “You need to find ways to assess individuals on their merits, and give rewards for innovative thinking rather than play-it-safe mediocrity. You should encourage insiders to get outside and bring back fresh insights. And you shouldn’t confuse seniority with creativity.” 

Away from set-piece interviews Stephen has served in Brussels, reporting on day-to-day stories from the major European institutions and across the continent. Before that he was Washington Correspondent, where his coverage and analysis of 9/11 won widespread acclaim. 

Ten years earlier it was Stephen who broke the story of the mass killing on the Basra road out of Kuwait, marking the end of the Gulf War. He was then posted to Cairo and Jerusalem as Middle East Correspondent, where he reported on the emergence of the Palestinian Authority.

Pascal Gauvin photo

Pascal Gauvin is Managing Director, India, Middle East and Africa (IMEA), responsible for driving the growth and strength of IHG and its hotels across the region.

Pascal’s previous role was Chief Operating Officer, IMEA, leading the operations and performance of more than 124 hotels as well as overseeing the strategic development of IHG’s plans, including the 74 hotels in the region’s development pipeline. Key to his role is maintaining and fostering relations with existing and new hotel owners.

Pascal has a wealth of expertise in the hospitality business, starting his career in the Food & Beverage department. Pascal held several managerial positions at Accor and Hilton Hotels before joining IHG in 1993 as a Food and Beverage Manager at InterContinental Paris. He has been with IHG for more than 25 years, and has held a number of senior managerial positions in Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Africa, Lebanon, Qatar and UAE.

A strong believer in the principles of ‘leadership by example’ as well as ‘empowerment’, he spends at least 50 percent of his time in the field to ensure that day-to-day operations and relations are in line with IHG’s standards.

Pascal is a father of two and his favourite family getaway is Nice in France. Despite Pascal’s very busy schedule, he finds time to practice golf.

Olivier Granet photo

Olivier Granet is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for AccorHotels Middle East and Africa, responsible for a portfolio of over 200 hotels consisting of 50,000 rooms across over 30 countries with plans to open another 100 hotels within the next five years.

 With almost 20 years with AccorHotels, recent career highlights include positioning AccorHotels as the number one hotel operator in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, opening the largest Mercure hotel worldwide in Dubai, introducing Swissôtel and Fairmont hotels in the UAE and Morocco respectively, as well as the first lifestyle brands to the region, including Mama Shelter, 25Hours Hotel and SO Sofitel.

Along with his development and management acumen, his focus is on the Group’s talent strategy to identify, grow and develop a robust talent pipeline with customized hospitality programs throughout the region, including the first in the KSA to also welcome Saudi women, in-line with AccorHotels’ global vision on gender equality and diversity in the workplace. 

Olivier holds a degree from the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies (Sciences-Po Grenoble) and an MBA from ESSEC Business School in Paris. A family man at heart and an adventure and travel enthusiast, in whatever spare time he has, you can find him engaged in daring sports and activities.

Alex Kyriakidis photo

Alex Kyriakidis is President and Managing Director, Middle East & Africa (MEA), for Marriott International, Inc., with responsibility for all business activities for the Middle East & Africa Region (MEA), including development, brands, sales, marketing, finance, human resources, legal and operations.


Prior to joining Marriott International in January 2012, Mr. Kyriakidis served as Global Managing Director – Travel, Hospitality & Leisure for Deloitte LLP.  In this role, Mr. Kyriakidis led the Global Travel, Hospitality & Leisure Industry team, where he was responsible for a team of 4,500 professionals that generated $700 million in revenues.


Mr. Kyriakidis has 45 years of experience providing strategic, financial, M&A, operational, asset management and integration services to the travel, hospitality and leisure sectors.  He has served clients in 25 countries, predominantly in the EMEA and Asia/Pacific regions.


As President of the MEA region for Marriott International, Mr Kyriakidis leads the growth of Marriott’s business for the region. Mr. Kyriakidis was the MEA executive sponsor for the acquisition in 2013 of the South Africa based Protea hotel. Marriott’s portfolio of brands in the MEA region has experienced substantial growth and today comprises one of the largest hotel chains with 147 hotels and 24,647 operating rooms and a construction pipeline of 88 hotels and 20,000 rooms by 2024.


Mr Kyriakidis is a fellow of the Arab Society of Certified Accountants, the British Association of Hotel Accountants and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.


Mr. Kyriakidis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and mathematics from Leeds University in the United Kingdom.  He is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Mr Kyriakidis is fluent in English, Greek and Arabic. In his spare time, Mr. Kyriakidis enjoys training in Shotokan Karate in which he was awarded a third grade black belt in 2015.

Simon Vincent photo

Vincent is President EMEA for Hilton. Based in London, Vincent is responsible for more than 450 hotels across nine brands with more than 46,000 Team Members in 57 countries. 

Since joining the company in 2007, Vincent has overseen the opening of more than 200 hotels and spearheaded growth in the multi-brand proposition, which along with core brand Hilton Hotels & resorts includes, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Curio – A Collection by Hilton and Canopy by Hilton.

A 20-year veteran of the leisure and travel industry, Vincent was previously CEO of Opodo, the pan-European online travel agency. He also spent 13 years at the Thomas Cook Group, latterly as Chief Operating Officer of the UK Travel Division. 

Vincent has extensive international experience having held a number of pan-European roles and has also worked in North America and Japan. He spent the early part of his career in International Banking with HSBC.

He sits on Hilton’s global executive committee, represents the company as co-Chair of the UK Tourism Council and is a member of the governing council for the International Tourism Partnership.

Vincent is also a non-executive director at iconic London retailer Fortnum & Mason and a Trustee of the Jigsaw School, an independent day school for children on the autistic spectrum.

In January 2015 he received an OBE for his services to the hospitality and tourism industries, having been recognized in the New Year Honours List.