Invited Speakers

  Alana Witte
Founder, The Chief Guest Officer
 
Alana Witte founded The Chief Guest Officer to help hotels and restaurants develop a single "guest-centric" vision across all methods of customer contact in the guest journey, and realign all departments of the business to support this, in order to truly reinvent the guest experience, create more loyal (and profitable!) guests, and drive revenue.

Before establishing The CGO, Alana led the accelerated global growth of Revinate (the hospitality industry’s leading online reputation and guest satisfaction technology) in the Middle East & Africa, launching Revinate’s Dubai and Cape Town offices. Alana holds a master's degree in Arabic Studies from the University of Texas, and began her career in a communications and branding advisory role in the MEA market predominately in the hospitality, tourism, and development verticals. Given Alana’s involvement in both the hospitality industry and technology transfer, she is keen to engage MEA's hospitality stakeholders to explore how the region’s hotels can truly reinvent the guest experience.

Alana Witte
Founder, The Chief Guest Officer
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  Alexander Suski
Founder, The Chief Guest Officer
 
Mr. Alexander Suski was appointed Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for Millennium Hotels & Resorts Middle East and Africa in 2016. In his role, he oversees the commercial support for the current 29 hotels in the portfolio as well as 40 future openings and is responsible for driving the broader short and long-term marketing and sales strategies for the region.

Mr. Suski brings with him 15 years of marketing and sales experience, working with leading hotel groups in Europe and the Middle East. He joins from Kempinksi Hotels, where he held the role of Area Director of Sales and Marketing for their Egyptian and Bahrain properties before moving to the UAE as Director of Sales and Marketing at Kempinski Hotel Ajman and Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. During this time, he was responsible for creating and implementing sales and marketing strategies, driving marketshare, profit growth and the positioning of the hotels in the market. Prior to this, he gained valuable experience in Europe, working with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (IHG), Sofitel Luxury Hotels (Accor), Crowne Plaza (IHG) and De Dikke Van Dale (Fletcher Hotels).

In his current role, Mr. Suski is tasked with coordinating the sales and marketing initiatives for the Group’s existing portfolio and new openings. In addition, his commended leadership skills and an impressive performance record, combined with a thorough understanding of the Middle East & Africa market will be instrumental in driving the Group's ambitious financial growth and expansion plans.

A Belgium national, Mr. Suski is fluent in Dutch, English and French and holds several industry qualifications.

Alexander Suski
Director of Sales and Marketing
Millennium Hotels & Resorts Middle East and Africa
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  Amer Al Halabi
General Manager, EMEA
HotelsCombined
 
Amer has a wealth of experience in tourism, e-commerce and business development, spending over 19 years working in the tourism world across e-commerce and market development for various international companies.

He has deep knowledge of the Middle East & North Africa and Europe markets, established presence and branches of international brands and companies in almost all cities in the region.

In 2013 he was appointed as General Manager for the EMEA region for HotelsCombined. In this role, he is responsible to manage existing relations and affiliates and to develop the direct business with key strategic partners. Amer holds an MBA in marketing and has great experience in all media mediums and marketing.

Amer Al Halabi
General Manager, EMEA
HotelsCombined
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  Ivan Jakovljevic
Sector Lead Travel&Finance, Middle East and North Africa, Google
 
Ivan is responsible for Google’s Travel business in the MENA region. He is working with leading hotel chains, airlines and tourism boards to create innovative, impactful digital marketing and advertising solutions that drive the online travel business.

Prior to Google, Ivan was one of the leaders of the transport practice at Booz & Company, management consulting firm.

Ivan holds a Masters in Engineering from Belgrade University and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Ivan Jakovljevic
Sector Lead Travel&Finance, Middle East and North Africa, Google
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  Laurent A. Voivenel
Senior Vice President, Operations & Development for
Middle East, Africa & India Swiss-Belhotel International
 
Laurent A. Voivenel is the Senior Vice President, Operations & Development for Middle East, Africa & India for Swiss-Belhotel International, spearheading the group’s expansion in the region. He holds over 30 years of extensive international hotel and asset management experience with some of the world’s leading and most prestigious hospitality brands including Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Prior to joining Swiss-Belhotel, Laurent was the Chief Executive Officer of HMH – Hospitality Management Holding for over three and a half years and was the primary driving force behind repositioning HMH as the Middles East's largest and most credible operator in the dry segment while setting in motion aggressive expansion.

With a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), Laurent has a proven track record in areas of corporate mergers and acquisitions, hotel development and investment, multi-brand operations, as well as outstanding management experience across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

Being based in the Middle East for the last 17 years,Laurent also has a deep understanding of the region's unique business dynamics and culture that has resulted in a solid network and close ties with hotel owners, developers and investors.

Laurent A. Voivenel
Senior Vice President, Operations & Development for Middle East
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  Patrick Andres
Managing Director, Asia-Pacific Rainmaker Asia-Pacific
 
Patrick is a seasoned industry expert with over 25 years of experience in the travel and hospitality technology industries, and has in-depth knowledge of the Asia-Pacific region where he spent almost 20 years working for global organizations based out of Hong Kong and Singapore. Prior to joining the Rainmaker group, he was the Singapore-based Executive Vice President Asia-Pacific for Duetto. He has also held senior management positions with Travelport, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, IATA, Expedia, Micros-Fidelio and SAP; primarily based in Canada and Asia. As Regional Managing Director with the Rainmaker Group, he leads all commercial operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Patrick is a key member of the senior management team responsible for driving revenue, securing new business and identifying key strategic opportunities to grow the company’s footprint across the Asia-Pacific. Patrick has an MBA in International Business from the University of Ottawa, and a bachelor’s degree in Finance from McGill University. He is currently based in Singapore.

Patrick Andres
Managing Director, Asia-Pacific Rainmaker Asia-Pacific
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  ROBERT A. GILBERT, CHME, CHBA
PRESIDENT & CEO, HSMAI
 
As President and CEO of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International, Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, has been guiding HSMAI through a dynamic and exciting period of change as the 7,000+ member organization has been re-established globally to grow the revenue for hotels through sales, marketing, and revenue optimization. During Gilbert’s tenure, HSMAI has achieved tremendous success with a number of initiatives ranging from the development of expert communities in the areas of Digital Marketing, Resort Marketing, and Revenue Management, the development of HSMAI University’s webinars and certification programs and the global expansion of HSMAI thru the formation of HSMAI Global and regional development in Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East. Gilbert holds a BS degree from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and has been a member of HSMAI since joining the student chapter at Cornell. He is a frequent guest lecturer at Cornell. Gilbert is a past chair of the Convention Industry Council (CIC), and has served on the Board of Directors of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Travel and Tourism Coalition of the U.S. Travel Association. He also serves on a number of advisory boards of hospitality and hotel management schools.

Robert A. Gilbert
CHME, CHBA, President & CEO, HSMAIs
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  Tiina-Maija Bergman
Founder MindYourBusiness
 
Founder of MindYourBusiness, a Dubai based company offering Workplace wellness and personal development solutions, Tiina-Maija Bergman is a woman on a mission to boost mindfulness and well-being in the region and globally.

She has extensive experience in the hotel and hospitality industry, mainly in the Middle East; her home since 1995. Prior to moving to the region she worked in the hotel and restaurant industry in her native Finland, as well as in Switzerland and in France.

Tiina-Maija’s career has exposed her to various facets of hotel and restaurant operations and particularly the corporate world, where majority of her hospitality experience has taken place. Over the last 20 years Tiina-Maija has held senior positions in global as well as local corporate office environment as well as serviced the hospitality industry as entrepreneur offering executive coaching and consultancy, and technology solutions.

Her BSc Degree in Hotel & Tourism Management and studies of International Trade and Management Accountancy are complimented by accredited NLP Master Practitioner, NLP Coach, TimelineTherapy™ and Hypnotherapy Master Practitioner certifications. She is also a certified indoor cycling and yoga instructor.

Tiina-Maija Bergman
Founder MindYourBusiness
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