GENEVA—As part of Kempinski Hotels’ long-term succession planning, the group has announced that Reto Wittwer, president and CEO since 1995, has retired from this role, and has handed it over to his successor, Alejandro Bernabé. Alejandro Bernabé became CEO of Kempinski Hotels effective October 29.
In a career spanning four decades, Reto Wittwer is one of the hospitality industry’s longest-serving CEOs, since being appointed president & CEO of Ciga S.p.A. (from 1992 to 1995) and prior to that, president & CEO of the then Swissair Nestlé Swissôtel Ltd. (from 1989 to 1992). A Swiss national, Wittwer has traveled extensively and gained experience in almost all operational departments before becoming CEO. In the nearly 20 years since he was appointed, Wittwer has grown the portfolio from 21 hotels to the 73 under operation today, with a further 35 under construction or final development.
“It’s nearly two decades since the shareholders of Kempinski asked Mr. Wittwer to make a long-term commitment and help make our joint vision a reality, said Michael D. Selby, chairman of the supervisory board of Kempinski AG. “He’s steered the group through challenges, which other competitors have failed, and Kempinski has weathered the economic crisis thanks to our business model of pure management agreements for hotels in Kempinski’s portfolio. Mr. Wittwer really has been part of making Kempinski Hotels the successful company and respected brand it is today. The supervisory board of Kempinski AG thanks Mr. Wittwer for having dedicated so much of his career to the group. We hope he will stay close in his new role as president emeritus, despite going into a very well deserved retirement.”
Alejandro Bernabé has been groomed through successive postings and increasing responsibilities to succeed Wittwer at the helm of the group. Bernabé started his career in food & beverage, a core focus for the group, working in Switzerland, South Africa, France, and Sri Lanka, before joining Kempinski in 1998 as pre-opening food & beverage manager at the Kempinski Hotel Plaza in Jakarta. Bernabé continued in food & beverage at the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, managed by Kempinski as the time, then at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul. He was soon promoted to resident manager in Spain, then general manager in Malta, Kuwait, and Jordan. Bernabé’s success in leading Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai brought him to the supervisory board’s attention once more, and Bernabé was transferred to manage the Siam Kempinski Hotel in Bangkok. Bernabé was made responsible for the group’s operations and development efforts in Southeast Asia in 2013, and his development efforts in one of the group’s most important emerging regions have already resulted in the group signing two hotels in Myanmar.
“The Supervisory Board unanimously agreed to nominate Mr. Bernabé as CEO of Kempinski Hotels,” said Selby. “We’re confident that Mr. Bernabé will bring renewed vigor to accomplishing our vision, and bring Kempinski Hotels to greater heights of financial and operational performance, together with his colleagues in the Management Board.”