Hil­ton’s grand­pa­tri­arch

Long-term pro­jec­tions au­gur well for ho­tel chain

Finweek English Edition - - People -

IN AN ERA of foot­loose labour and rapid eco­nomic changes, four decades in the same in­dus­try with the same com­pany sounds un­think­able. But for Jean-Paul Her­zog – pres­i­dent for the Mid­dle East and Africa at ho­tel group Hil­ton World­wide – this demon­strates his love and pas­sion for the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try and de­sire to leave a last­ing legacy.

A Swiss na­tional born in Bern and raised in Basel, Her­zog dis­cov­ered very early in life that fus­ing his love for trav­el­ling and work­ing with peo­ple would make a good ca­reer and sought to make that hap­pen. But lit­tle did the young Her­zog know when he joined the Hil­ton Ho­tel in Zurich in June 1970 the move would mark the be­gin­ning of his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer with the group, span­ning three con­ti­nents and var­i­ous lo­ca­tions.

In his cur­rent po­si­tion based in Dubai, Her­zog is re­spon­si­ble for 44 ho­tels in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, Egypt, Africa and the In­dian Ocean.

Fin­week caught up with the Hil­ton “grand-pa­tri­arch” at the group’s Sand­ton ho­tel on his re­cent trip to South Africa. The oc­ca­sion was a sober re­minder that the global travel in­dus­try was ex­tremely hard hit by the credit cri­sis and re­ces­sion, with a sharp drop in tourist ar­rivals (in­clud­ing busi­ness trav­ellers) world­wide, re­sult­ing in a huge neg­a­tive im­pact on both oc­cu­pan­cies and ho­tel rev­enues in many coun­tries.

But Her­zog’s ex­pe­ri­ence clearly counts for some­thing. He’s pro­ject­ing ahead, with a growth strat­egy that in­volves 21 ho­tels in the pipe­line for the Mid­dle East and Africa re­gion. Out of those, five will be built in Africa, with Hil­ton Wind­hoek set to open in the fourth quar­ter of this year.

Why the op­ti­mism? Ever the diplo­mat, Her­zog draws on a con­sumer trend that au­gurs well for his

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