Paul French unveils this year's biggest movers and shakers in hotel industry.
Antonio Perez Navarro, Founder and CEO, Hospes
Big year because: With Hospes Infinite Places slated to double the company's room portfolio within the next two years, Navarro's challenge will be overseeing growth whilst maintaining the high standards for which the hotels have won numerous design awards. The group currently has nine boutique hotels in Spain and France and will become the first luxury hotelier to enter the Middle East market in 2012.
He says: "We are growing, but in a very controlled manner. We are looking at an international portfolio of up to 30 properties – no more. We would not want success to mean we lose our soul. Too many hotel brands forget we operate in the world of hospitality, not just the worlds of finance and profitability."
Alex Calderwood, Partner, Ace
Big year because: After successfully moving into New York last year, the man whose business card proclaims him to be a cultural engineer must decide on his next Ace move.
He says: "LA and Vancouver would be great places to build, but there's nothing specific on the board that we're aggressively looking to move forward with. We are bringing a lot of new and interesting features to our hotels. Custom-designed interfaces on our TVs, movies on demand – the system that we're designing allows us to programme and bring movies to our hotels, like quintessential New York movies in our New York hotel, and so on. We also want to offer a lot of independent films, with more choice than you might see on a typical setup."
Michael Levie, CEO, citizenM
Big year because: Levie must make sure his Amsterdam project lives up to its billing as TripAdvisor's trendiest hotel in the world for 2010, whilst guiding the company through a period of rapid expansion, including the opening of citizenM in Glasgow this summer.
He says: "citizenM offers a new type of hotel experience for sophisticated travellers who value personal choice, contemporary design, friendly technology and the proximity to a city – for an astonishing price. We're opening in Glasgow this year and planning to build two new citzenMs in London and one in Berlin."
Carlos Couturier and Moisés Micha, Co-Owners, Habita
Big year because: Fresh from scooping Wallpaper's best new hotel 2010 design award for their Monterey offering, Coutrier and Micha are set to try and repeat that success by going loco in Acapulco this year. Hotel Boca Chica has 36 rooms and looks like the set of a 1950s movie, according to Expedia.
They say: "Our mission is to impose a certain philosophy on society. We are not here only to create hotels, we are here to make people understand that creativity is good for society. We don't only build hotels. We build experiences."
Jason Pomeranc and Stephen Brandman, Co-Owners, Thompson
Big year because: After building a reputation for luxury at their nine US hotels, Pomeranc and Brandman will open their first overseas venture in May. Thompson Toronto will feature 102 guestrooms spread over 16 floors, but will it retain the famous pizzazz?
They say: "The success of the Thompson Hotel brand in the US proves we have a concept that appeals to a chic, urban clientele. Toronto shares many of the same attributes as our most successful markets and this development fits Thompson perfectly."
Frank Fiskers, President and CEO, Scandic
Big year because: Scandic will become the first Nordic chain to open in Berlin when the Potsdamer Platz launches later this year. Whilst making sure that runs smoothly, Fiskers will oversee construction on new projects in Oslo, Stockholm and Finland.
He says: "We currently have 12 new hotels, with a total of 3,270 rooms, in the pipeline. During 2010 we will be continuing with new product launches, including a brand new product for sports teams and clubs, Jamie Oliver will be developing a new menu for meeting guests in connection with a new inspiring meeting concept, as well as a new product for weekend guests."
Gordon Campbell Gray, Owner, Campbell Gray
Big year because: With pet project Le Gray now up and running in Beirut, all eyes will be on the Save the Children vice-president to see what he does next in his day job. Construction is sure to begin on the eco-hotel in the south of France, but what of the rumours about a new Campbell Gray castle in Ayrshire? Or the Morocco properties? Or the secret stately home project?
He says: "We've got no master plan saying we must have x number of hotels and we're going to sell in five years. We're not doing that. So if we did no more, hey, life's fine. I'm definitely from the principle that big is never beautiful so I've no desire to make Campbell Gray Hotels a big company. But I think we'll end up with between ten and 15, and to me that would be just fabulous."
Ho Kwon Ping, Founder and CEO, Banyan Tree
Big year because: Having announced aggressive expansion plans that will see Banyan Tree increase its presence to over 80 locations in 30 countries by 2012, this will be a very busy year for top man Ho Kwon Ping. The group's first Indian venture, Banyan Tree Kerala, and a new Acapulco offering are two of the chain's most exciting launches of 2010.
He says: "Banyan Tree Cabo Marques in Acapulco will complement the Mayakoba resort when it opens later in the year. We will also deepen our presence in existing territories like China and Thailand with resort openings in Hangzhou and Koh Samui. Going forward, we will focus on several regions, including Mexico, North Africa, China and South-East Asia. We have made good progress in all these regions having secured development projects in all regions. In the past, we have focused our resources in the resort market, but in the long run, as a sustainable hotel chain, we believe city hotels to be a vital component of our strategy."
Adrian Zecha, Founder and Chairman, Aman Resorts
Big year because: Aman began the year with the launch of Amanfayun in China and has the second phase of Sveti Stefan in Montenegro due to open mid year but, at 76 years old, does the famously stringent Zecha have the appetite to carry on finding new locations? And what about the side issue of business partners DLF trying to sell their half of the business?
He says: "Retirement involves finding a chair and sitting down to die – I don't see that as an attractive proposition. When I finally exit the stage, I think my successors have every chance of maintaining and expanding. The top end of the market will always be there. Intellectually you have to say there is a saturation point, but practically speaking, there is not. My target audience for Aman is growing faster than I can put properties into the market."