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2016 Middle East Conference Speakers


Conference Speakers

  Samir Abi Frem
Corporate Vice President of IT, Rotana Hotels Management Corporation

A professional executive who graduated with a BS in Computer Science and a Master degree in Hotel Management from one of the best international universities “Institut de Management Hotelier International (IMHI)” in France. He has held executive IT positions within the Middle East region and has more than 15 years of experience in Information Technology for the hospitality industry. He has worked for 10 years with a reputable international hotel chain where he built up the company Vision in technology and formed a very energetic and professional team. He acquired a remarkable multinational experience in In-room Technology, Systems Automation and Integrated Internal process in the service industry. With an extensive background in hotel and Information Technology management, he enforces high IT standards that are essential to successful hotel management.


  Peter Agel
Global Segment Leader - Hotels, Oracle

Peter is engaged as Global Segment Leader Hotels and part of the Oracle Hospitality Strategy Group. From 2004 onwards Peter served MICROS as SVP Strategic Customer Relationships EMEA. Prior to the engagement with MICROS Peter was a partner with ghh Consult dealing with hotel development projects and MICE businesses. After his studies in Economics and Geography with focus on town and country planning he worked in the travel and tourism industry for more than 20 years. He worked as Managing Director with TRUST International Hotel Reservation Services (then part of Bertelsmann Media worldwide). He also served as CEO with Worldhotels (formerly known as Steigenberger Reservation Service). For more than 10 years he managed Steigenberger Consulting dealing with hotel and tourism developments projects worldwide, including tourism master plans, hotel projects and regional marketing concepts. Peter is a specialist with integrated solutions for the hospitality industry worldwide. His competence covers in particular distribution technology and services as well as customer-focused digital media, cloud services, mobile devices, and interaction with social media. Peter also services as Vice President Technology and Think Tank with the Travel Industry Club in Germany.


  Rene Beil
Managing Director, Beaufort Global Partners & President HAMA MEA

René Beil, Managing Director of Beaufort Global Partners LLC, brings a seasoned history in hospitality management, operations, finance, investments, asset management and business development to the group. He has led business development and growth initiatives on multiple continents as prime driver of investments, asset management, and new business development for Sovereign Wealth Funds, Government, Public & Private Companies, Royal Families, High Net-Worth Individuals as well as Family Offices. His past appointment as Vice President Asset Management of Dubai Investment Group & currently is President of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association MEA (HAMA MEA). Beaufort Global Partners is a private boutique Investment, Asset Management & Development Firm specializing in hospitality real estate and public market ownership with a focus on hotels, commercial buildings, residential projects, and industrial complexes. The firm is based in Dubai, UAE.


  Carol Bitter
Head of Strategy, Fahrenheit 212

Carol Bitter leads the commercial strategy team in London. Carol is a seasoned innovator with over a decade of experience partnering with companies around the globe on some of their most exciting (and demanding) innovation challenges. She has worked with a wide array of clients, from big corporates to smaller start-ups and social entrepreneurs. Carol has a Master’s degree in Economic and Political Development from Columbia University, her innovation career started with a broader perspective: helping governments, communities and non-profits look for new ways to unlock economic opportunity.


  Mike Blake
Executive Vice President and CEO, HTNG

Michael Blake is HTNG's Executive Vice President and CEO. He was previously the CIO of Commune Hotels & Resorts, encompassing Joie de Vivre, Thompson, Tommie and Alila Hotels. Michael provided strategic leadership and sound perspective to contribute to the management and evolution of Commune's global IT functions. He previously served as the CIO for Hyatt and set the global technology direction for their global footprint. Michael has over 20 years of experience in finance and technology in various roles. Prior to his CIO roles with Commune and Hyatt, Michael was Senior Vice President of IT for First Data, CFO of IT Finance at Kaiser Permanente and Director of IT Finance for Sears. In each of his roles, he was the highest ranking IT Finance resource and key internal consultant and advisor to international senior leadership teams. Prior to that, Michael held various financial roles within United Airlines including the controller of the IT organization. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Utah, received his MBA in Finance and Economics from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and also his MS in Information Technology from Northwestern University. He also maintains several credentials and licenses: CPA, CMA, CISA, CITP and PMP. Michael served as a member of HTNG Board since 2008 and was Treasurer for many of those years.


  Floor Bleeker
Chief Information Officer, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts

Treasurer, HTNG

Floor Bleeker, joined Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts in 2013 in the position of Chief Information Officer. As a member of the company’s Executive Committee, he is responsible for IT strategy, program development and implementation across the group. He also oversees the IT shared service organization covering Mövenpick Group, Mövenpick/Marché Restaurants, plus Mövenpick Fine Food and Mövenpick Wine. Floor brings over fifteen years of international hospitality technology experience to Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts. He began with the Rezidor Hotels & Resorts Group (formerly Radisson Hotels & Resorts) in Belgium and has worked in IT positions in the USA, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Prior to joining Mövenpick, Floor worked with the Jumeirah Group in Dubai, UAE for more than a decade, most recently as Vice President Business Solutions for the IT team, which is comprised of more than 100 international award winning specialists that look after the IT strategy, solution development, digital marketing, project and portfolio management, SBU operations and international expansion. Floor holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Marketing from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), and a Bachelors (BSc) degree in Hospitality Administration with a Finance specialization from the Hotel School The Hague. He is a Dutch National, a husband to his wife, Ann and a father to his daughter, Lauren. He serves on the HTNG Board of Governors as Treasurer and holds a number of advisory board positions for other organizations as well.


  Donald Bremner
Managing Director, Stirling Hospitality Limited

Donald Bremner is Managing Director at Stirling Hospitality. Mr Bremner has over 20 years of global experience in two of the world’s leading hotel companies: InterContinental Hotels Group and Jumeirah International. Prior to joining Stirling Hospitality, Mr Bremner was a hotel manager for Jumeirah where he was responsible for all aspects of the opening and operation of this luxury branded hotel. His first role at Jumeirah was as Director of Development Planning as well as Director of Rooms for Jumeirah Essex House in New York City. Mr Bremner also held the position of Asset Manager in Longwing Asset Management (part of Dubai Investment Group). Prior to joining Jumeirah, Mr Bremner spent 11 years with InterContinental Hotels and Resorts where he held the positions of Director of Food and Beverage in Manhattan, Front Office and Revenue Manager in Puerto Rico and Operations Analyst for the East Coast Region, USA. Mr Bremner graduated from InterContinental's Hotel Graduate Program and has a Bachelor of Science degree from Aberdeen University.


  Florian Gallini
CEO, Interel

Florian joined Interel in February 2003 as Sales Manager. In 2005 he moved to Dubai in the capacity of Managing Director for the region, to lead the expansion in the Middle East, responsible for Interel’s regional product placement into major hospitality and residential real estate projects. Florian was appointed Group CEO for the company in December 2012. Of dual nationality (German and Italian), Florian grew up in Milan and Munich and graduated with a Diploma in Economics & Management from the Free University of Bolzano. Interel is today the fastest growing manufacturer of integrated room technologies and energy conservation systems in the luxury hospitality industry. Headquartered in Dubai, the Italian manufacturer has nearly two decades of experience in the hospitality industry with a footprint across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas. INTEREL is an approved supplier with more than 15 of the world’s leading hospitality and leisure organizations.


  Hamza Hasan
Director, Digital Solutions, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts

Hamza Hasan joined Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts as the Director Digital Solutions in September 2014. In his capacity, he is responsible for all aspects of Mövenpick's digital guest facing presence, from the Websites to Wi-Fi Everywhere, from Web Check-in to Virtual Concierge. He is an Indian citizen and owns a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology, a Higher National Diploma in Computing and has recently acquired his Project Leadership qualification from Cornell University. Being a web platform specialist, he worked in Dubai since 2005 in hospitality, tourism and advertising in the roles of a technical customer consultant, project manager, web developer and web systems administrator.


  Fraser Hickox
Managing Director, The Conceptual Group

Until recently the General Manager of the Peninsula Group's research Lab in Hong Kong, Fraser in retirement remains a consultant to Peninsula and other companies around Asia and in the Middle East as well continues to develop specialized electronics for different companies. A keen advocate of HTNG and the participation of hoteliers within this organization for a common good. Fraser was inducted into the HFTP Hall of Fame in 2008 and is the recipient in December 1993 of the Personnalite de Lannee Distinction International Hotellerie. He holds a number of degrees in Engineering and Sciences and has had a diverse career spanning broadcasting, civil aviation, banking and manufacturing.


  Ted Horner
Managing Director, E. Horner & Associates Pty Ltd

After graduating with formal qualifications in Catering & Hotel Management from Victoria University in 1976, Ted was involved in the establishment of several companies specializing in supplying technology for the hospitality industry. In 1989, he launched a Consulting Practice specializing in Technology Consulting to the Hospitality Industry which is now recognized as the leader in the Australian market. In 2005 he was awarded his first consulting assignment in Dubai with Jumeirah. In 1995, he launched the first newsletter dedicated to technology in the Hospitality Industry, HTR this was then replaced in 2002 with the launch of Australia's first hospitality technology portal site. In August 1996, he launched the first dedicated Australian Hospitality Technology Conference and Exhibition held in Sydney. In 2004 he was the first non US person to be elected to the HITEC Technology Hall of Fame for his contribution to the advancement of technology in the hospitality industry. In 2002 he was one of the founders of HTNG and is now an Executive Advisor.


  Sandrine Le Biavant
Director of Consultancy - Sustainability, Energy, Farnek

Sandrine Le Biavant is the Director Consultancy of FARNEK, the Swiss UAE-based Facilities Management Company awarded several times as Green FM Company of the Year. Lead Auditor for Energy Management Systems and Green Globe consultant, Sandrine is an experienced hotelier and FM consultant, while moreover being a passionate sustainability advocate. Her team consists of engineers and consultants in energy, water, waste, CO2 and social responsibility management advising more than 100 hotels, hotel chains, owning companies and tourist boards in MENA on how to reduce their impact and run a more responsible business. Implementing energy management for prestigious projects managed facilities (residential, commercial, malls) managed by FARNEK. Sandrine’s specialty is to empower owners and managers of facilities in implementing long term innovative solutions to improve guest experience, operational / managerial performance and profits at the same time.


  Michael McCarten
Managing Director, Duetto Research

Michael McCartan has been Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Duetto since December, 2014 where he spearheads the rollout of Duetto's services and development of customer success teams throughout the region. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of eRevMax from March 2012 and as their Chief Operating Officer from December, 2010 to March 2012. He joined the eRevMax team to oversee the daily operations of the Rate Tiger and Connect brands. He served as Vice President of Product Management at Pegasus Solutions. A specialist in software product management, business development, technical pre/post-sales and overall project management, he has over 15 years experience in the hospitality industry. He is a frequent speaker and panellist at major travel industry events across EMEA. Mr McCartan has an engineering degree from the University of Cape Town and a business degree from the Open University. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.


  Ram Parimi
Vice President, International, Social Tables

At Social Tables we are passionate about shaping the meetings and events industry through collaborative, innovative solutions that are founded upon relationships. Social Tables has 4,000 customers, including Hyatt Hotels, Carlson Rezidor, Four Seasons, The Venetian-Palazzo, Goldman Sachs, Live Nation, Harvard, and The United States State Department. The company has 130 employees and is headquartered in Washington, DC's Metro Center. Prior to building the sales team at Social Tables, I worked in Sales and Business Development at Eventbrite, The Kennedy Center, and Fisher Investments


  Maarten Plesman
VP/GM - EMEA, Revinate

Maarten Plesman is the Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Revinate. His 15 years of experience in the US and the Netherlands combined with his vast track record in different high-tech industries offers him a unique view on how companies can leverage technology to improve loyalty and increase revenue. Prior to joining Revinate, Maarten was the head of service sales at Cisco in Europe for the telecom service providers segment. He also held the Senior Associate position at McKinsey & Company in New York and helped build the tech company Idetic –currently known as MobiTV and a global pioneer in mobile and video technology. A seasoned specialist positioning companies for growth by aligning them with their customers’ needs, Maarten holds a Master of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Groningen and MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. He is fluent in English and Dutch and is currently based in Amsterdam.


  Lijees Rajan
Director of Centralized IT Services DXB & NE, Rotana Hotels Management Corporation

Lijeesh Rajan Works for Abu Dhabi based Rotana Hotel Management Corporation which oversees 50+ hotels in Middle East and North Africa. He has more than 12 years of experience in Information Technology for the Hospitality Industry including 9 years in Rotana. He closely work with VP aligning the company vision in technology and heading the centralized IT services for the Rotana Hotels.



  Douglas Rice
Managing Director, Hospitality Technology Strategic Advisors

Douglas Rice is an industry leader in the global hospitality technology industry. He advises hotels, technology providers, and investors on strategic technology planning, market development, funding, and mergers and acquisitions. Douglas was a founder of HTNG and served as its first chief executive from 2004 to 2015, following 15 years as a strategy consulting advising hotels and technology vendors. Douglas was the 2012 inductee into HFTP’s International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame; is the sole recipient of the Lifetime “Most Valued” Award from China Hospitality Technology Alliance; and was recognized in a 2008 Hotel Business cover story as one of the most influential technology executives in hospitality. He is been a frequent speaker at industry conferences around the world and has authored dozens of published articles. Douglas earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics with honors at Dartmouth College and an MBA with highest distinction from Harvard Business School.


  Rohit Salunke
Director of Engineering, Sofitel The Palm, Dubai

Rohit is a qualified mechanical engineer with a wealth of experience in the Hospitality Industry within various International brands. He has gained his professional certification through American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute and recognized as a “Certified Hospitality Facilities Executive”. He started his career at a Five Star Deluxe Property, Cidade -de-Goa Beach Resort, as Assistant Manager after which he joined Renaissance Goa Resort in the position of Deputy Chief Engineer before moving for his job assignment abroad as Chief Engineer with Elite Group of Hotels and Apartments in Bahrain. Staying within the GCC, his next appointment took him to Dubai, working for Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa. He later decided to take up the challenging assignment of pre-opening of hotel properties and was part of the successful pre-opening team of The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel. Presently he Director of Engineering with Sofitel The Palm Resort & Spa. His passion and drive for sustainability has earned the Resort three prestigious Sustainability certifications namely Green Globe Certification, ISO 14001-2004 & Blue Flag Certified within just one year of Resort Operations. Rohit has been an active participant as a speaker for various sustainability & safety seminars held in Dubai organized by Hotelier Middle East / EGBC / B Green Magazine./ Hotel Show, Green emirates event etc. to share his experience’s. His outstanding commitment and achievements in field of sustainability has also been recognized by Green Globe with a Sustainability leader award received by him at Hotel Show 2014. And was also the nominee for the CSR champion of the Year 2014 within the Middle East at Hotelier Awards 2014.


  Hanna Schiller
Senior Marketing Manager, HTNG

Hanna Schiller is HTNG's Senior Marketing Manager. She comes from TAC, a European technology vendor, where she led sales in the US market. Hanna directs marketing strategy and communications at HTNG by building relationships through designing effectual promotional campaigns, creative messaging and valuable materials for members. Hanna believes defining the future face of hospitality technology requires a focus on conversations and real relationships with members to develop the tools and education that future members will need to compete in a technologically competitive world. Hanna received her Bachelor's degree in International Business from Schiller International University. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, rock climbing and exploring the Chicago food scene.


  David Sjolander
Chief Operating Officer, HTNG

As Chief Operating Officer, David is responsible for driving the operational execution of HTNG’s mission. David is a lifelong hotelier with deep background in hotel technology, distribution and operations. He has held senior executive positions with several industry suppliers, such as Pegasus, TravelClick and Fidelio, as well as leading hotel chains Carlson Hospitality and Hyatt. David holds a bachelors degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Denver and an MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He also serves on the Executive Advisory Board of the Fritz Knoebel School Of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver.


  Kees van Donk
Director Hospitality and Healthcare EMEA, NEC Corporation

Since graduating from the Hotelschool Maastricht, Kees van Donk has held several business development and sales management positions in the field of Hospitality for companies including Accor, Hilton Worldwide, Fidelio and NEC. At present Kees van Donk is Director Hospitality EMEA at NEC Enterprise Solutions. Operating out of the company’s head-office in Hilversum, the Netherlands, his responsibilities include marketing, sales and account management to the Hospitality sector throughout EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa). In this role his objective is to accelerate the growth of NEC’s activities in the Hospitality sector and increase the company’s installed base in the region from 10,000 to 14,000 hotels over the coming 3 years. His background and experience, as well as his fluency in 4 languages, make Kees the ideal candidate to drive this strategic vertical for NEC in EMEA. Being the founding father of the NEC Smart Hospitality Framework, in addition to his commercial role and responsibilities, Kees focuses on driving new developments, i.e. Cloud based voice solutions, BYOD for Hospitality and Interactions 2.0 (Facial Recognition and Digital Signage). This all to address and support the business needs of the international hotel industry for efficient operations (> GOP) and effective guest focus (> REVPAR).


  Roy Verrips
Director of Information Systems - Dubai, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Roy Verrips has been been working in Hotel IT for almost two decades now, primarily with Hyatt in Dubai being involved in the opening of four of the current six Hotels in their Dubai portfolio. He did however diversify his brand and was also part of the pre-opening team of a Sofitel in Abu Dhabi. Prior to relocating to the Middle East 14 years ago, Roy was working for Micros-Fidelio in Southern Africa where he consulted on a number of new and existing hotel technology implementations. Roy has a passion for exceeding guest expectations, particularly by providing tools that lead his associates to offer luxury personalized customer service. He is also keenly aware of not just what modern guest technology needs are, but also how sustainable these technologies are for the operator over an extended period of conducting business.


  Nancy Wolff
Vice President, Hotel Systems, Jumeirah Group

An American National, Nancy has over 20 years in the technology industry, including over 10 years in the hospitality industry. As Vice President, Hotel Systems, Nancy works to support all technology components for Jumeirah hotels and is focused on enhancing the guest and colleague experience at all hotel locations. Prior to this role, Nancy led multiple technology projects through business value identification, requirements, design, and deployment. She established best practices and governance programs that analyze and improve IT capabilities. Nancy has worked with organizations to identify critical deficiencies, and recommend technology solutions and architectures specific to business needs. She developed key system initiatives and technology standards to improve IT and business performance, and has established all necessary governance measures to ensure organizations are move effectively implementing IT solutions.


  Steve Woodhead
Senior Consultant, Control Risks

With over 28 years’ experience in the physical security industry, Steve has developed a deep understanding of the need to balance security and operational requirements of organizations. Through his experience spanning business development, product innovation, management and consultancy, Steve has been at the forefront of several, multi-billion dollar security projects in the Middle East and Europe. With his current role of Senior Consultant at Control Risks in Dubai, Steve has advised on a number of new build hotel projects in the UAE and continues to work closely with the wider risk management teams. In his formative years, Steve developed security solutions for military and government clients, with deployments into Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2005 Steve formed a company focused specifically on mobile security solutions with products being utilized by Police and law enforcement agencies. As a keen advocate of embracing and applying new technologies within the security arena, Steve is currently working with manufacturers and developers in the field of security analytics and intelligent image processing.