100: Surinder Arora

01 July 2010 100: Surinder Arora

Overall ranking: 36

Hotelier ranking: 12

Surinder Arora - Snapshot

Surinder Arora is one of the UK's major independent hoteliers, owning 16 properties with more than 6,000 hotel bedrooms, principally around airports.

He is the founder and chairman of the family-run" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">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. The portfolio currently comprises seven hotels with more than 2,500 bedrooms.

The Arora Family Trust additionally owns nine more airport hotels that are operated by BAA Lynton under a range of 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.

He left in 1993 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.

In 2006 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.

Surinder Arora - What we think

Surinder Arora may be worth an estimated £234m, according to the 2010 Sunday Times Rich List, but he is not one to throw his weight around, having built a reputation for valuing long-term business relationships.

He has consistently used the same lawyers and a single bank, Allied Irish, throughout his career. Arora also has a reputation for being extremely people-orientated and tends to refer to his business as "being like family". Turnover of staff is much lower than the hotel industry average.

Arora has a family-focused approach to running his business - his brother and brother-in-law are directors - and he strongly believes that good teamwork is the key to success. "It's important to always make sure staff are treated as part of a family team, but it has to be two-way traffic, with commitment running both ways," he told Caterer in 2009.

Arora's experience working at British Airways stood him in good stead as a developer of airport hotels, and it was no surprise when Arora Hotels was chosen to open the main hotel at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in 2008 - a contract win that he describes as the highlight of his career.

The 605-bedroom hotel, operated under a Sofitel franchise and including a Brasserie Roux, has picked up Best New Business Hotel in the World in the UK Business Traveller Awards 2009 and the Best Airport Hotel in the World at the Business Traveller magazine Hotel Awards 2009 in the USA. It also won a bronze award for accessibility in the Meeting & Incentive Travel Awards 2010.

Surinder Arora - Further information

Surinder Arora - My Life In Hospitality >>

How has Heathrow Terminal 5 taken off? >>

Jamie Oliver scrapes into Sunday Times Rich List with £65m fortune >>

Read more about the 100, the list of the most influential people, here >>

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