Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Surinder Arora, Arora Hotels

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Surinder Arora, Arora Hotels

Overall ranking: 64 (ranked 36 in 2010)

Hotel ranking: 14 (ranked 12 in 2010)

Surinder Arora founded Arora Hotels, one of the fastest-growing, privately-owned hotel chains in the country, in 1999. The company, which specialises in hotels at airport locations, has a portfolio of 16 luxury four- and five-star hotels. He owns seven hotels principally around airports with 2,500 bedrooms, 95 meeting rooms and conference facilities, 10 restaurants and nine cocktail and theme bars. The Arora Family Trust also owns nine further airport hotels operated by BAA Lynton under international brand names.

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 years. 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 in the country.

But in 1993 Arora left to focus on other interests. These included the development of a B&B at Heathrow Airport to house airline staff, forming the basis for Arora International, which was founded in 1999 and has since become the largest hotel company at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The Arora International portfolio comprises seven hotels with more than 2,500 bedrooms - three each at Heathrow and Gatwick and one in Manchester. Forthcoming developments include four new budget hotels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports which are due to open from 2012 onwards.

In 2008 the Arora Family Trust paid the Airport Hotels Unit Trust more than £300m for nine airport hotels. The properties are the Hilton and Renaissance hotels at Heathrow; the Hilton, Sofitel, Premier Travel Inn and Renaissance hotels at Gatwick; and the Radisson SAS, Express by Holiday Inn and Hilton hotels at Stansted.

The property arm of the Arora Group - Arora Management Services - is involved in property asset management of a portfolio of landmark office buildings at key UK airports.

In May this year, the group announced it is to develop and operate a four-star, 212-bedroom hotel, restaurant and spa opposite Ascot racecourse. It is the second property that Arora Hotels - is currently developing within a sporting environment. Plans are also in the pipeline for the building of the four-star, 170 bedroom Arora hotel at the Kia Oval.

Surinder Arora - What we think

Just because Surinder Arora is one of the less voluble hoteliers doesn't mean his importance to the industry should be over-looked.

Worth an estimated £249m, up £15m from last year according to the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List, he dominates the airport hotel market with properties at Heathrow and Gatwick and is now moving into the sporting venue arena.

The announcement of the properties at Ascot and the Oval mark an interesting move for the hotelier. Since starting the group, he has always used the same lawyers and a single bank, Allied Irish, while his brother and brother in law are also directors, ensuring a family-focussed approach.

Arora has a reputation for being extremely people-orientated, referring to his business and colleagues as "being like family", and consequently staff turnover is significantly lower than the hotel industry average.

When Arora Hotels was chosen to open the main hotel at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in 2008 - he described the contract win as the highlight of his career. The 605-bedroom hotel, operates under a Sofitel franchise and includes a Brasserie Roux and has won several awards including Best New Business Hotel in the World in the UK Business Traveller Awards in 2009.

Surinder has won a raft of awards and is especially prominent in the Asian community and recognized as a leading entrepreneur. Over the years he's been awarded Eastern Eye Asian Business Award 2007- KPMG Entrepreneur of the Year; the GG2 Leadership & Diversity Award 2009 - Entrepreneur of the Year and the Lloyds TSB Dual Awards 2009 - Asian Corporate 100. In March 2011 he was made a patron of the Royal Holloway Entrepreneurs.

Surinder Arora's ranking in the 2010 100 >>

Arora to develop hotel at Ascot >>

Final approval given to build Arora hotel at the Oval >>

Hoteliers dominate hospitality Rich List >>

Arora Family Trust completes >>

Arora Hotels website >>

Arora International website >>

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