May 10, 2024

The Youngest in the Hotel Industry – 6 Leaders and Their Story

What have you done by the age of 19? Drank beers, studied for exams, skated with friends, partied or … worked on your dream to open your own hotel?

Ritesh Agarwal, Davonne Reaves, Jessica Myers, Martijn Zengerink, and Nehme Imad Darwiche—since a young age, they knew what they wanted and made it happen. Meet the youngest hotel owners, hotel manager and hotel CEO. They've indeed proven that age is just a number!

Ritesh Agarwal

“My older siblings went to engineering school and business school. I was like the black sheep,” said Ritesh. He always had a hunger for business, spending his weekends at networking events to meet entrepreneurs. However, during these events, he often got frustrated by the lack of affordable and clean places to stay. That's when the idea was born.

In just six years, Ritesh has gone from dropping out of college to becoming one of India’s youngest billionaires.

At 19, he started a budget hotel chain called OYO, which has become India's biggest hotel chain. Now, at 25, he's taking the brand worldwide and wants to expand in the US. OYO already has 200 locations in the US, but Ritesh aims for more.

Davonne Reaves and Jessica Myers

At 33 years old, Davonne Reaves and Jessica Myers are making history as the youngest Black women to co-own a property in a big hotel chain.

They met as students at Georgia State University and years later started Epiq Collective: a company that invests in apartments and hotels. Teaming up with Nassau Investments, they bought the Home2Suites by Hilton in El Reno, Oklahoma, for over $8 million. This achievement marks them as the youngest African American women to co-own a property in a major hotel chain.

“I never thought by the time I was 33 that I’d be a hotel owner, but I admit that it feels great to have accomplished that at this point in my life,” Davonne told Black Business in an interview.

Martijn Zengerink

At only 26, Martijn earned a significant promotion to become the hotel manager at Crowne Plaza Dubai Jumeirah. He played a pivotal role in the property’s success after its rebranding, having worked in various departments before assuming the managerial position.

Growing up in a family that traveled a lot, Martijn developed a passion for hospitality from an early age. With his parents running an e-commerce business, Martijn gained valuable insights into business operations. He began his career as a front office intern at the Amari hotel in Phuket, Thailand. Subsequently, he completed a one-year management internship at the Amari hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand, further honing his skills in operations management. And as they say, the rest is history!

Nehme Imad Darwiche

At 31 years old, he is the founder and CEO of Jannah Hotel & Resorts, and he's not your typical CEO. As 19 year-old he started as a dishwasher and set himself a goal: to become the F&B manager by 22. Of course, he achieved that goal, plus a few more. For Nehme Ima, success is all about hiring the right people and ensuring they believe in their work.