Overall ranking: 47 (new entrant)
Hoteliers’ ranking: 12 (new entrant)
Surinder Arora – Snapshot
Surinder Arora is one of the UK’s major independent hoteliers, owning properties with more than 5,500 hotel bedrooms principally around hotel airports.
He is the founder and chairman of the family-run Arora International, which develops and operates luxury four- and five-star hotels designed to accommodate aircraft crew (at reduced rates) as well as leisure and corporate customers.
Arora International currently has five hotels with 1,600 bedrooms and more than 500 staff at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports. A fifth property is in the pipeline.
The Arora Family Trust additionally owns nine more airport hotels which are operated by BAA Lynton under a range of international brand names.
Arora is also the deputy chairman of the exclusive Wentworth golf club and hotel in Virginia Water, Surrey, which he acquired in 2005 in partnership with clothing tycoon and restaurant owner Richard Caring.
Surinder Arora – Career Guide
Surinder Arora was born in 1961 in the Punjab where he was brought up by his aunt before joining his mother in Britain at the age of 14.
After leaving school, he worked for British Airways as a customer services officer for 11 year. During this time, he also joined Abbey Life as a sales associate.
Arora moved to Abbey Life full-time in 1988, rising to sales manager in 1989 and branch manager in 1991. In 1988 he was recognised as Abbey’s second best salesperson across the country and was a member of the Chairman’ Club.
He left in 1993 to focus on other interests. These included the development of a B&B at Heathrow Airport to house airline staff, which formed the basis for Arora International.
In 2005, Arora – a keen golfer – teamed up with Caring to buy the Wentworth golf club near his home.
Surinder Arora – What we think
Surinder Arora has built Arora International into Gatwick’s biggest hotel operator and will claim the same leading role at Heathrow in 2008 when the group’s sixth property opens its doors.
He has achieved this through sheer hard graft combined with a shrewdness and attention to detail and standards that impressed long-term backers Allied Irish and the Royal Bank of Scotland. He told the Sunday Times in 2006 that he had regularly put in 20-hour days during the first 20 years of his working life.
During his time at BA, Arora also held down several part-time jobs– including a stint as a waiter – to pay for the training for his pilots licence. In his spare time, he developed a row of houses opposite Heathrow Airport into a B&B for airline staff, growing the HSA Motel from 19 to 50 bedrooms.
The B&B was demolished in 1997 to make way for the Arora International Heathrow hotel that opened in June 1999 with a BA contract to accommodate its air crews. It was soon joined in 2001 by the Arora Park hotel at Heathrow and the Arora International Gatwick/Crawley.
2004 proved a bumper year for the group, which became the first in Europe to win a franchise from Accor for its upmarket Sofitel brand. This was put to immediate use when Arora bought the 500-bedroom Le Meridien London Gatwick hotel and rebranded it the Sofitel London Gatwick in October.
In August of 2004, Arora also won the highly-prized contract to open the only hotel at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5, which comes on stream in 2008. The £180m, 600-bedroom Sofitel London Heathrow will be one of Europe’s largest luxury hotels and conference centres, with facilities for up to 1,500 delegates.
In between the Sofitel deals, Arora opened a smaller boutique property, the 141-bedroom Arora International Manchester, in a joint venture with Sir Cliff Richard – a partnership highlighted by the presence of five Cliff-themed suites.
Outside of Arora International, Arora became a minority shareholder in the Wentworth golf club in February 2005 after teaming up with Caring to win a hard-fought contest. This year, Caring drew on his new restaurant interests to create a new club restaurant run by the staff of London favourites the Ivy and Le Caprice. Arora, meanwhile, is keen to build a luxury hotel on the grounds.
At the start of the current year, Arora pulled off his biggest deal to date to buy nine hotels from the Airport Hotels Unit Trust for £300m through the Arora Family Trust.
The properties, which continue to be run by BAA Lynton, included Hilton and Renaissance hotels at Heathrow and Gatwick along with the Radisson SAS, Express by Holiday Inn and Hilton hotels at Stansted.
Arora is a patron of Springboard and his £90m-plus fortune makes him a regular in the Asian Rich List.
Surinder Arora – Further information