This year marks hotelier Kurt Ritter’s 30th anniversary with Rezidor SAS, the global operator of multiple hotel brands. Under Ritter’s dynamic and intuitive leadership as president and CEO, the company portfolio has grown from 29 hotels in 1994 to 271 hotels in 2006, operating under five brand names and encompassing over 55,000 rooms in operation and under development in 47 countries. Widely considered an industry visionary, Ritter oversees a well-defined and sharply focused growth plan aimed at adding 40 new hotels per year.
Born in Switzerland in 1947, Ritter had an early start in the hospitality industry. As a child growing up in his parents’ hotel, he learned the meaning of providing guests with attentive service and a memorable experience. After completing his formal education at the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce du Canton de Vaud, Ritter graduated from the prestigious Hotel Management College in Lausanne and took his first position in the Hotel Bellevue Palace in Bern as assistant manager in 1970.
For the next six years, Mr. Ritter worked with Ramada Hotels in Paris, London, Cologne, Frankfurt and also in Sweden before joining SAS International Hotels (SIH) as general manager of SAS Hotel in Lulea in Sweden.
In 1979, Ritter moved to the Middle East to take a similar position with the SAS Kuwait Hotel. Within five years, he was promoted to Vice President Middle East for SAS International Hotels, moving to Singapore for this post. In spring 1988, Ritter was named vice president & COO and returned to Europe, where he was appointed president & CEO of SIH in 1989. He relocated the corporate office from Oslo to Brussels, providing the company with a strategic location for global expansion.
Under his direction, in 1994 SAS International Hotels signed an agreement with Carlson Hotels Worldwide for the Radisson brand, which represented the basis for Radisson SAS growth from 29 to the current 185 hotels in 47 countries. Since this time, Ritter has also held the position of president & CEO of Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts.
In 2001, Ritter engineered the renaming of SIH to Rezidor SAS Hospitality to reflect the company’s new positioning as a global operator of diverse hotel brands. This was quickly followed by another milestone in September 2002, when a new strategic agreement with Carlson Hotels Worldwide was signed. As a result, in addition to the Radisson brand, Rezidor SAS Hospitality also became a partner in the Park Inn, Country Inn and Regent brands in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In June 2005, Rezidor SAS Hospitality completed a strategic agreement with US-based Carlson Hotels Worldwide, which transformed the long-time franchise partnership into a shareholder agreement. Carlson Hotels acquired a 25 percent stake in Rezidor SAS from the SAS Group in return for renegotiated commercial terms of the parties’ current master franchise agreements. In November 2005, Ritter signed a worldwide license agreement with the Italian fashion house Missoni to develop and operate a lifestyle hotel brand of the same name: Hotel Missoni.
Ritter’s outstanding achievements have been acknowledged by his peers, and he has received Honorary Doctorates and awards including HOTELS magazine’s “Corporate Hotelier of the World” in 2002 and the “International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Known for his traditional values, visionary spirit, straightforward approach, and unparalleled belief in genuine customer service, Ritter has made an indelible mark in the hospitality industry and raised the bar in every possible way for his peers and followers. Ritter is married to Lara Ritter, has three children and lives in Brussels.