After some 37 years as a consultant and listing Marriott International as his biggest client, Deloitte LLP’s most familiar face to the hotel industry, Alex Kyriakidis, has decided to join Marriott as president and managing director for the Middle East and Africa, effective January 1, 2012, in Dubai.
“It is a great opportunity,” Kyriakidis told HOTELS. “I have served Marriott for 30 years and know the organization as well as anyone. “In 1979 I was auditing the Marriott in Cairo. Since then, I have done a lot of M&A work for them and know many of the people inside very well.”
Once he opens his Dubai office in January, Kyriakidis says his first charge will be to meet and get to know all the people who belong to the Marriott family in the region. “I will get to know the owners better and the governments in the region,” he says. “Then I think it is working with the team in place to drive growth.”
Currently, Marriott has 33 hotels in 10 countries in the region with 40 hotels at various stages of the pipeline due to come on stream through 2015-2016. Kyriakidis says quite a big chunk of the pipeline is coming in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over next few years.
“I see three macro markets in the region,” Kyriakidis adds. “First, the GCC, which has massive potential yet for growth — some markets maturing but some remain wide open. Saudi, for example, is witnessing growth in religious tourism with 25 million people and massive investment in infrastructure. Qatar’s economy is on steroids and the UAE itself continues to absorb product like there is no tomorrow. The GCC will continue to be region of opportunity.”
Next, Kyriakidis cites Iraq and Libya, saying, “Once they stabilized, those countries will be rebuilding and hospitality industry will need to respond. Egypt, until the uprising, was one of the most successful emerging countries in tourism in the region (14% of GDP). Once it stabilizes, hospitality will kick back in and help the country get back on its feet.”
Then there is Africa, which Kyriakidis says represents “a blank piece of paper with very little branded product.” He says various economies there are receiving investment capital due to their mineral wealth and are in need infrastructure and tourism infrastructure investment. “It is a great opportunity,” he adds. “It is back to the pioneering days of this industry.”
Overall, Kyriakidis calls his new landscape “a good cocktail of opportunity” that, in context, is just beginning.