163113 29 Oct 2018

HR is the new PR, Henk Meyknecht, COO, Kempinski Hotels tells Hozpitality Group.

In Conversation with Henk Meyknecht, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East & Africa Kempinski Hotels.


Chief Operating Officer Middle East & Africa
Member of the Management Board of Kempinski Hotels SA

With responsibility for hotel operations in the Middle East & Africa, Henk oversees the Kempinski portfolio across 11 countries in this dynamic and highly diverse region, ranging from Beirut to Kinshasa, and from Abu Dhabi to Accra, as a Member of the Management Board of Kempinski Hotels SA.

In this capacity, Henk drives hotel performance to maximise value for all stakeholders, cascading the company strategy and prioritising organisational goals, as well as boosting talent mobility and monitoring staffing to ensure the highest quality and customer satisfaction levels.

Henk is a passionate hotelier with more than 30 years of experience in luxury hospitality. A Dutch national, Henk gained extensive insight into Europe, Middle East, North America and Asia, leading hotel operations in these regions.

He joined Kempinski in 2012 as General Manager of Kempinski Hotel Suzhou, China. In 2013 Henk was appointed Regional Director of Jordan, and one year later he was assigned to rebranding the 700-room Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai. In 2016 he was appointed Senior Vice President Middle East & Africa, based in Dubai.

Prior to joining Kempinski, Henk held leadership roles with Hilton, Marco Polo, Peninsula and Langham. He is a graduate of Maastricht Hotel School in the Netherlands, and has degrees in Marketing from Cornell University and Business Administration from the University of Hong Kong.

Hozpitality:- What are your expansion plans of Kempinski Hotels in the next 3 years in this region?

Henk Meyknecht:- The industry has never been more global, with guests increasingly on the lookout for unique experiences to match their individual tastes and preferences. We already benefit from strong brand recognition across the region and we are actively expanding our presence through selective growth, with projects in several key cities in the Middle East region including Dubai, Medina and Mecca. 

Hozpitality :- How are you different from other international brands as a preferred Employer for your team?

Henk Meyknecht:-In a nutshell, I’d say it all comes down to culture. Our approach to recruitment, development and retention is as unique as the beautiful performances we expect our employees to craft for our guests every day. As independent hoteliers with more than 120 years of entrepreneurial heritage behind us, and an exclusive focus on luxury, Kempinski offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand, employees can enjoy the personal touch and dedication to their craft that comes from being an independent luxury operator. At the same time, our hotel footprint in more than 30 countries offers employees international development opportunities.

Hozpitality :- Human Resources is an extension of PR, do you believe in this saying?

Henk Meyknecht:- Our employees are the face of Kempinski. It’s our people who craft unique experiences for guests every day in each of our hotels. As a service-oriented industry, employees are our number one brand ambassadors. This has become even more relevant in a digital world, where guests share the stories of their experience in the moment, as they are unfolding.

Hozpitality :- How do you maintain staff retention? What could a new employee expect from Kempinski Hotels when he/she joins your group?

Henk Meyknecht:- Luxury hospitality is a craft that demands attention to detail from people truly committed to delivering service from the heart. We look for authentic people who care deeply, and personally, about the well-being of our guests and fellow colleagues. Over the last two years we’ve been on a journey to upgrade our HR foundation and further strengthen connections globally to boost talent attraction, mobility and retention. Kempinski employees have access to career opportunities across the globe. Yet, in spite of this international scope, it still feels like being part of an extended family.

Hozpitality :- UAE, especially Dubai is a very competitive market, how do you manage to keep yourself different from competition?

Henk Meyknecht:- In an industry of consolidation and standardisation, we stand out as independent luxury hoteliers with more than 120 years of experience. Each of our hotels is a unique jewel. The opening of the 391 suites and rooms at Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai on the Palm, at one of the most prestigious locations within Dubai, is a perfect example of how our exclusive focus on luxury allows us to continually redefine the segment. In a region where luxury hotels are the norm, we have created ‘Versailles by the sea’. The craftsmanship and design of the hotel is exceptional. From the dazzling grand atrium shimmering with gold leaf and a montage of mirrors, to the grand chandelier cascading with 28,000 Swarovski crystals, and the Italian touch with marble, gold and silver leaf plated wood, combined with opulent drapery, elegant colour schemes and expansive spaces…it’s a palatial atmosphere. We offer a choice of unique restaurants, including Alain DuCasse, and the most luxurious Spa facility in the region.

Hozpitality :- With so many local hotel brands capitalising on the opportunity in the mid-market segment, how do you manage to keep up?

Henk Meyknecht:- Kempinski operates exclusively in the luxury segment. Our guests value quality and we remain competitive by answering their desire for a crafted and personal luxury experience. Each of our hotels in the region is a unique jewel. And yet they are all connected to the Kempinski heritage and service standard, cultivated during more than 120 years of experience as luxury hoteliers. We anticipate demand in this segment to continue well into the future from regional markets, as well as feeder markets of Central Asia, India and China, where Kempinski benefits from strong brand recognition. We also anticipate strong demand in the leisure segment as a result of the long-term investment from key markets into the tourism sector.

Hozpitality :- World Expo is coming to Dubai, how would this affect your business, are you excited?

Henk Meyknecht:- We are very excited about Expo 2020. We look forward to hosting visitors from all over the world during this historical event at our beautiful properties in the region. As a pioneering luxury hotelier, Kempinski has long been an innovator in the industry – and a meeting place where people come together and ideas are born. Our hotels and people reflect a deep cultural empathy and we embrace the opportunities Expo 2020 will create for Kempinski and the region, both during the event itself as well as from the connections formed around the important topics to be discussed.