Industry insight22 September 2021
With more than 30 years’ experience within the industry, Duncan O’Rourke has held several executive positions in Europe, the US and the Middle East. Having served as general manager, regional director, and later chief operating officer at Kempinski, O’Rourke then joined Accor in 2016 – carving out a reputation as something of a specialist in the luxury hotel segment. More recently, he was promoted to CEO for Accor’s extended Northern Europe division, taking charge of 1,100 hotels across 30 countries. He tells Hotel Management International about the changing face of hospitality in the wake of the pandemic, and his enduring love of Italian motorbikes.
What was your earliest ambition?
Duncan O’Rourke: My earliest ambition was to become a judge because I like mediating and came from a family of lawyers.
Private school or state school? University or straight into work?
I went to private schools as my family was based overseas and I went to boarding school in the UK, which provided me with a great education. To complete your further education, lay a foundation at university, and then gain work experience before doing an MBA. But you can’t generalise. It depends on the context and the personal background. In the end, there is no set path. Be smart, hardworking and brave.
What aspect of the hospitality industry has changed the most since you entered the industry?
It’s the pride. Hospitality is a wonderful industry, but its reputation has suffered a lot in recent months and even before. We need to change this. The hospitality industry has an immense impact on the global economy, there are so many talented people working with such immense pride, we need to continue to communicate this.
Which person, living or dead, most inspires you?
Nelson Mandela, despite all the challenges that he faced. He was forgiving and he dedicated all his passion to his belief.
What single most important skill do you need to be successful in the hospitality business?
Respect, for people and cultures and an inner drive.
Ambition or talent: which matters more?
If you want to succeed: ambition and surrounding yourself with talented people.
Where is the best hotel/resort you have ever been to?
To be fair and not to choose an Accor one, I would have to pick the Grand Resort Lagonissi in Athens.
How physically fit are you?
I feel good.
In what place are you happiest?
It’s not about the place but the people you are with. So, with my family.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Italian motorbikes – because of the look, sound, history and speed.
What is your mantra?
I believe in Karma – what you give will come back to you.
If your 21-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
He would think despite some bumps at the beginnings, things aren’t too bad.