The Swiss hotelier Kurt Ritter celebrates his 35th anniversary with Rezidor. In 1976, he joined the company as General Manager of the SAS Luleå Hotel in Sweden. Since 1989, he heads Rezidor as the President & CEO, and is most probably the longest serving Chief Executive Officer of the hospitality industry. Rezidor’s Board of Directors recently extended Ritter’s contract until 2015.
“I look back on 35 fantastic and incredibly diversified years – and forward to more than 3 equally exciting years. I still love what I’m doing and feel that I can still move things” said Kurt Ritter. Under his management and leadership, Rezidor has developed from a small Scandinavian group to a global player and to one of the fastest growing hotel companies of the world. The group currently has 35,000 employees, features 3 distinct brands (Radisson Blu, Park Inn by Radisson, Hotel Missoni) and more than 400 hotels with 90,000 rooms in operation and under development in 64 countries across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Ritter is the man behind Radisson Blu’s success as Europe’s largest upper upscale, design-conscious brand, behind the impressive growth story of Park Inn by Radisson which jumped from 0 to more than 140 hotels in seven years, and behind the stylish partnership between Rezidor and the iconic Italian fashion house Missoni.
Kurt Ritter’s charisma, his commitment to Rezidor, his genuine belief in hospitality, and his straightforward approach are admired throughout the industry. He is an hotelier with heart and soul, and his career almost seemed predetermined: Ritter was born in 1947 in his parent’s hotel “Beausite” in Switzerland, and learned the meaning of providing guests with attentive service already as a little boy. Some years later he graduated from the prestigious École Hôtelière de Lausanne and took over his first position at the luxury Hotel Bellevue Palace in Berne as Assistant Manager.
After having spent some time with Ramada International Hotels in Belgium, France, Germany and Sweden, Ritter joined Rezidor – as General Manager in Sweden and Kuwait, as Vice President Middle East & Far East, based in Singapore, and finally as the President & CEO, based in Oslo and then in Brussels. Key dates of his career include the Master Franchise Agreement with Carlson Hotels Worldwide to create Radisson SAS in 1994, and the agreement with Carlson in 2002 to also develop the brands Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn and Regent across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2005, Ritter signed the worldwide licence agreement with Missoni to develop and operate the luxury lifestyle brand Hotel Missoni, and in 2006 he was responsible for Rezidor’s IPO on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.
What comes next? “I will further focus on revenue generation, and on Rezidor’s profitable growth in emerging markets like Russia/CIS and Africa. We were pioneers in these regions and are today among the leading international players – a position which we want to keep and extend”, comments Ritter. “On the worldwide market, we aim to globally align our brands together with Carlson, owner of the Radisson- and Park Inn brands and our majority shareholder”, adds Ritter.
Global tasks for one of the most respected and awarded hoteliers of the world: Kurt Ritter was the “Corporate Hotelier of the World 2002”, received the “International Hotel Investment Forum Lifetime Achievement Award 2004”, and the “MKG Lifetime Achievement Award 2008”. He also holds two Honorary Doctorates of Johnson & Wales University, Providence (USA) and Oxford Brookes University (UK).
Kurt Ritter is married to Lara Ritter and lives in Brussels, Belgium. He has three grown-up children and a first baby granddaughter, born in January 2011.