Targeted Panelists, Speakers, Moderators

20th November 2014



Suzan LeVine, US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Ambassador LeVine was named to her position on June 2, 2014.  Prior to joining the U.S. Government, the Ambassador focused on education in both her professional and volunteer life.  She formerly was the co-founder and then chairperson of the advisory board for the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington – one of the world’s leading early learning research institutes.


Guillermo Leal Llano, Academic Director of ART Technologies Americas and Apple Distinguished Educator Class 2012

“Technology is the opportunity to embrace significant changes in learning”.

Guillermo Leal Llano is the academic director of ART Tecnologies México. He was recognized in 2012 as an Apple Distinguished Educator and earned a degree in Computer Science and in Telematics from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Throughout his career, he has worked to improve educational digital environments in Mexico, Colombia, Switzerland and Guatemala. He has also served as a computer science teacher, and currently coordinates Apple’s professional development program for K–12 schools and higher education institutions.



Ross Edmond

Ross Edmonds is a presenter, facilitator and event designer for many of the top businesses in the UK. He has worked extensively across the travel industry as well as the financial, telecommunications and information technology sectors.

Ross is known for blending serious business outcomes with a great sense of humor. He will bring to the event his unique mix of dynamism, reflection and wit to ensure that it is focused, insightful and relevant.


Thursday 20th November 2014 | 11.00 – 12.00

Omer Kaddouri, President & CEO, Rotana

Omer Kaddouri close-up
“In this day and age, the ability to adapt to a fast-moving business environment is the only sure means of survival. If a company cannot adapt – or cannot adapt fast enough – it will be overtaken by those that do. We at Rotana, constantly work on creating innovative ideas that engage guests and improve their overall experience.”

Omer Kaddouri recently assumed the position of President and CEO of Rotana – a highly successful hotel management company with over 85 properties in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe. British-Iraqi, Mr Kaddouri graduated in 1986 from Les Roches, working with chains such as Hilton International in UAE and London, Shangri-La in Kuala Lumpur and Rotana.  As President & CEO, Mr Kaddouri is responsible for paving the way for Rotana’s aggressive expansion plans to operate 100 hotels by 2020.

Brian Payea, Head of Industry Relations, TripAdvisor


Brian Payea is the Head of Industry Relations for TripAdvisor, and is responsible for global educational and policy outreach to the travel industry. He focuses on strengthening the ties between TripAdvisor and the hospitality community. His department builds tools for hotel brand management, hoteliers and other hospitality professionals to leverage the insights available from the wealth of traveler-contributed information on TripAdvisor and other social media.

Brian has more than 30 years of experience in communications and marketing leadership, and is a member of the HSMAI Americas board as well as the HSMAI Foundation board and the Lodging Industry Ratings Advisory Council at AH&LA.

Nicolas Mayer, Partner & Industry Leader, PwC

Nicolas Mayer

In his role as Industry Leader of PwC’s Lodging & Tourism Clients Group, Nicolas Mayer is responsible for the overall service delivery of PwC’s service offering to clients. In Switzerland, the Lodging & Tourism Clients Group services clients in the tourism, travel, lodging and destination management sector and comprises 11 full-time consultants and an additional multidisciplinary team of around 40 professionals.

Prior to joining PwC, Nicolas worked in a variety of operative positions for Hyatt International, Hilton Hotels and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Companies in the USA, Germany, Spain and Indonesia.

Roger Allen, CEO, Resources for Leisure Assets

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« We are living in one of the most exciting periods for innovation in the hospitality industry, where consumers want and expect to be touched by innovation…be it a product, a service or a new experience.  Making this happen requires a leadership mind-set that is free from predefined parameters.

Roger Allen is CEO of Resources for Leisure Assets, an international boutique company providing leisure advisory and asset management to the evolving and ever changing wellbeing industry.

Roger Allen specializes in financial analysis, business planning and sound operational management of leisure facilities and the essential relationship of designing wellness concepts that have the best opportunities for operational and financial success.

He takes a very entrepreneurial approach to leisure development, which is a very focused and aggressive perspective on how the industry ‘should’ deliver a ROI without compromising the guest experience.


Thursday 20th November 2014 | 13.45 – 14.45

Susan Harmsworth, CEO, ESPA

“ ‘Are entrepreneurs born or made?’, that is the eternal question.  What makes an entrepreneur?  Many things, including passion and belief in your business, willingness to work 24/7, leadership and ability to build a team and delegate, vision and the ability to constantly evolve and change!

Universally recognised as one of the world’s leading spa experts, Susan Harmsworth’s innovative, inspirational and forward thinking approach has shaped the luxury spa industry into what it is today.

For over 40 years, Susan has devoted her professional life to spa and wellness, enriching people’s lives globally.  Her passion and aptitude for the creation and management of spas and natural products has underpinned the success of health retreats, with 500 luxury spas and wellness centres in over 55 countries. Susan’s career has also included health and beauty journalism, spa education programmes and the extensive development of natural and effective skincare and body care products, based on the principles of nature and science.

Mei Zhang, Founder, Wild China

“Entrepreneurship is what propels change. It’s not about from 1 to 10,000. It’s about from zero to one.”

Mei Zhang is Founder of Wild China, a premium sustainable travel company offering distinctive, ecologically sensitive journeys to all corners of China.

A native of Yunnan province in southwest China, Mei earned her MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS) and worked as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company until she found her true passion in sustainable travel.

Rafael Micha, Chief Marketing Officer, GRUPO Habita

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“Everyone can build a nicely designed hotel, but very few hoteliers can create ‘ human hotels’: hotels with a soul and not just a pretty face… Grupo HABITA’s hotels embrace the local culture, and the community around them, safeguard the environment and are sustainable.  We were pioneers of the hotel of today. We wish to set the standards of the hotel of tomorrow.”

Managing Partner and founder of Grupo Habita, Rafael Micha is responsible for public relations, marketing and VIPs at the group’s 14 hotels.

Grupo Habita hotels are internationally recognized for their proactive architecture and interior design art. Rafael’s work has resulted in creating an experience which attracts personalities such as Bono, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and many other international and national celebrities.

Sebastien Tondeur, CEO, MCI

Sebastien Tondeur
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Sébastien Tondeur is Chief Executive Officer of MCI, a global company that offers solutions in strategic engagement and activation of internal and external target audiences that enhance business performance and take organizations to the next level.

Recognized as a thought leader, MCI helps organizations create immersive and authentic experiences that build community. MCI has 1’400 employees in 24 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, North and South America.


Thursday 20th November 2014 | 14.45 – 15.30

Dirk-Jan Rijks, VP Global HR, Accor

Dirk Jan Rijks
“In today’s ever-changing global environment and to be successful in the market place, a person has to be agile, possess an entrepreneurial spirit, be a passionate player and an over achiever with a true spirit of openness to diversity, cultures and prepared to embrace change as it comes!”

Based in Singapore, Dirk-Jan Rijks’ primary responsibilities for the Global Accor Luxury and Upscale Brands are to support and participate in brand experience while driving and supporting optimal guest experience strategy and satisfaction through HR programs. Dirk-Jan was previously the Vice President Human Resources Sofitel Asia Pacific with Accor Hospitality, where he was responsible for representing the Human Resources function to ensure brand-related training modules were rolled out within all properties.

Michel Gehrig, VP Talent Development, Kempinski

“Everyone says there is a war for talent. But what are we actually doing about it? The answers to that question right now are very generic, to say the least. The identification, recruitment, development and above all, the retention of talent needs to change – not tomorrow, not later, but now.  As the hotel industry, we need to work more closely on this issue than we have in the past.”

Michel Gehrig, a passionate advocate for talent development with a career in luxury hospitality spanning over 25 years, took over the position of Vice President Talent Development for Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group in 2012, leading Kempinski’s Talent Development teams, on a Corporate, Regional and hotel level.

Mr Gehrig is also responsible for strengthening the cooperation between Kempinski and various hotel schools. In the context of Kempinski’s on-going expansion, Talent Development is a subject of increasing importance.

Paula R. Singer, CEO, Laureate Global Products and Services


Paula R. Singer is president and CEO of Laureate Global Products and Services (GPS), where she leads Laureate’s portfolio of U.S. institutions, as well as online institutions and offerings, including those provided through partnerships worldwide.  She also is responsible for Laureate’s worldwide institutions that provide international education in the fields of hospitality, art, architecture and design.  Each of the 17 institutions in GPS shares a student-centered focus and an emphasis on positive student outcomes.

In 2004, Ms. Singer was recognized as one of five Enterprising Women in Maryland by the Baltimore Business Journal. She was named one of “Maryland’s Top 100 Women” three times by the Maryland Daily Record, earning her induction into the publication’s prestigious “Circle of Excellence.”

Ms. Singer earned a BS in Education from the University of Connecticut, where she was the first education major to be selected for the prestigious University Scholar program.


Lee Travers, Author, “Inspiring Women Leaders”

“In the aftermath of a socio-economic breakdown, the business case for more ‘inspiring leadership’ is a compelling one.  When women make up 51% of humankind, their empowerment through equal opportunities, fairness and basic human rights to propel economic growth is not optional, it is essential.”

As a certified Executive Coach, Facilitator and Speaker, Lee Travers draws on over 20 years of leadership experience in developing executives and leaders with global organizations.

She combines her own 8-point Inspiring Leadership model, leading coaching methods and the latest research in neuroscience to create insight, support and challenge leaders and top teams to make behavioral change and a positive impact. Lee has a particular passion for changing the landscape for women in leadership and has authored ‘Inspiring Women Leaders’.

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