Carlson Rezidor’s Simone Kuhn shares tips for women to lead in hospitality

By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
On 18 October 2017 at 01:46

Being a woman in the male-dominated hospitality industry may become so challenging to many but it just takes setting a clear goal and focusing on it, according to Simone Kuhn, Business Development Manager at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group for African Anglophone countries.

In Kigali, Carlson Rezidor manages both Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre Kigali and Park Inn by Radisson Kigali.

Simone is among the continent’s most successful women in the industry and was, last month, awarded in the Top Hoteliers category at the AKWAABA African Travel Market’s African Travel 100 Women Awards as part of the Women in Tourism Programme.

IGIHE talked with Simone on the sidelines of African Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) that ended in Kigali last week and revealed her experience of being a woman in hospitality and the global hotel group’s expansion ambitions.

Simone has been making waves across Africa as a female leader in the business development sector within the tourism industry and consequently added three hotels to Carlson Rezidor’s portfolio within the last 16 months.

“I do not think there is any difference between a man and a woman in this industry. It is all about setting yourself in the right position at the right time and networking with the right people. I also think it is about trusting your gut,” she said.

Simone urged women in the industry to “have a clear goal of what you want to achieve if you are working for a company, don’t let anything turn you away from your focus. If you want to achieve a goal, you have to work hard to do so. It will not just simply be handed to you, make sure you surround yourself with the right people, trust your gut and move forward.”

Group’s expansion plans

Simone focuses on the expansion of four Carlson Rezidor’s brands namely Radisson Blu, Radisson Red, Park Inn and Quorvus in 10 Anglophone countries including Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia and Namibia, among others, where the global hotel franchise has 28 hotels among the 80 hotels with 17,200 rooms in operation and under development the group currently runs on the continent. The target is to have 125 hotels with over 23,000 rooms in Africa by 2022.

Simone says that over the last three years, the group has signed a new hotel deal in Africa every 37 days and improved its hotel openings to open a new hotel every 60 days. “We are looking at key markets like Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe... and will look into bringing new brands into the market in 2018,” she adds.

Having two hotels under Carlson Rezidor in Kigali, Simone finds Rwanda as a hub in East Africa for hospitality, saying “Every time I come here, I am amazed at the passion of the Rwandan business community. There is an opportunity to come together and grow the businesses here.”

Simone was literally born into the hotel industry as her father served as the General Manager for Sun International Hotels & Casinos under Sol Kerzner for many years. Her career in the industry started in 2000 after being enrolled in an in-house training programme at the Savoy Hotel in London and later held management positions within hotel operations in South Africa and the United Kingdom within Relais & Châteaux and Starwood.

In May 2011, Simone joined Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group which currently features a portfolio of 480 hotels with over 106,000 rooms in operation or under development in over 80 countries.

Simone Kuhn, Business Development Manager at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group for African Anglophone countries
Park Inn by Radisson Kigali is managed by Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group which manages 80 hotels in Africa targeting to reach 125 hotels by 2022
Kigali Convention Centre is under management of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group