Jumeirah Group CEO Ste­fan Leser talks about the com­pany's ex­pan­sion drive and the im­por­tance of un­der­stand­ing the mar­ket.

Late last year, the Qatar Road­show events or­gan­ised by Dubai-based lux­ury ho­tel chain Jumeirah Group wel­comed over 200 spe­cial­ists from the travel trade in­dus­try. The com­pany's Di­rec­tor of Global Sales Jad Doumet had said then that Qatar was among the top five mar­kets with tourists vis­it­ing Jumeirah Group's ho­tels around the world. In ad­di­tion, the num­ber of overnight stays by Qatari tourists at the group's ho­tels around the world had in­creased by 4% as of Oc­to­ber 2016, com­pared with the same pe­riod the pre­vi­ous year. He also added that the open­ing of the Burj Al Arab Ter­race had al­ready started to at­tract tourists from across the GCC and from Qatar in par­tic­u­lar.

Jumeirah Group CEO Ste­fan Leser echoed his col­league's views and fur­ther em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of con­duct­ing road­shows. Last De­cem­ber, the group opened Jumeirah Al Naseem, part of the Mad­i­nat Jumeirah re­sort in Dubai, which has a to­tal of 430 rooms within its premises.

“We take time to un­der­stand our guests' needs through road­shows and re­search and adapt as guest pref­er­ences change and evolve. Our fu­ture plans are to fo­cus on key mar­kets such as Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar, and bring our spe­cial brand of hos­pi­tal­ity to our guests' home mar­ket,” says Leser.

The group, very much on an ex­pan­sion drive, cur­rently has 10 ho­tels un­der con­struc­tion in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion. Leser feels that Al Naseem brings a con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­tural flavour to the Mad­i­nat re­sort by of­fer­ing a lux­u­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence fo­cused on a jour­ney of discovery through the mod­ern cul­ture of the city.

“We oc­cupy the most pres­ti­gious beach in Dubai which now stretches along two kilo­me­tres of its coast­line. The ameni­ties at Al Naseem suit all types of trav­ellers – fam­i­lies, cou­ples, friends, groups and peo­ple on busi­ness trips. One also gets to en­joy views of our flag­ship prop­erty, the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.”

The group cur­rently op­er­ates 21 prop­er­ties and is look­ing at re­gional as well as in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion. “We take our time to find the ideal prop­erty to add to our port­fo­lio – one that is right for our stake­hold­ers, col­leagues as well as guests. Since 2011, we have dou­bled our ho­tel port­fo­lio and are aim­ing at con­tin­u­ing this mo­men­tum,” says Leser.

“Our an­tic­i­pa­tion is that 10 Jumeirah ho­tels will start op­er­at­ing in the next three years. We'll be open­ing the 250-room Jumeirah Nan­jing in China in Q2 2017. This will be fol­lowed by open­ings in Oman, St. Peters­burg, Abu Dhabi and Jor­dan. Eight of our ho­tels un­der con­struc­tion in the Asia Pa­cific re­gion are in China. Apart from Nan­jing, Jumeirah Guangzhou, a 198room lux­ury ho­tel in 2019, and ho­tels in Qian­daohu, Wuhan, Sanya, Hangzhou and Wuhan fea­ture among our plans.”

Cham­pion golfer Rory McIl­roy was the com­pany's global am­bas­sador from 2007-12, but it turned out to be a one-time pro­mo­tional tac­tic em­ployed by them. Leser claims that the move paid off but ex­plains why it was done away with.

“Our five-year re­la­tion­ship with McIl­roy

"Our five-year re­la­tion­ship with Rory McIl­roy was an ex­cel­lent way to bring our brand to a wider au­di­ence and he was a fan­tas­tic global am­bas­sador for us."

was an ex­cel­lent way to bring our brand to a wider au­di­ence and he was a fan­tas­tic global am­bas­sador for us. When we started work­ing with him back in 2007, we were his first cor­po­rate spon­sor and we are proud to have sup­ported him in his rise in pro­fes­sional golf. As our port­fo­lio grew, we started wel­com­ing more and more vis­i­tors to our ho­tels and our guests have now be­come our am­bas­sadors.”

The group has also been in the news re­gard­ing other de­vel­op­ments. There were a series of new ap­pointees last year. Marc Dar­denne joined the com­pany as Group COO in Septem­ber af­ter Leser had taken over the post of Group CEO from Ger­ald Law­less in Fe­bru­ary. There has also been a fair bit of reshuf­fling at the global level. Other than that, the group an­nounced the clo­sure of a num­ber of its renowned restau­rants Tokyo@theTow­ers, Harry Ghatto and The Ivy Dubai. How­ever, Leser does not feel that the turn of events sent the wrong mes­sage.

“Tokyo@theTow­ers and Harry Ghatto were fan­tas­tic suc­cess sto­ries. They were open for 16 years, which is an im­pres­sive run for a res­tau­rant, es­pe­cially in a fast­paced city like Dubai. We will soon open a new brand con­cept in that space, which is part of a Jumeirah-led in­no­va­tion plan for Emi­rates Tow­ers Boule­vard,” he said.

Leser also makes the point that the com­pany cur­rently op­er­ates 215 food and bev­er­age out­lets across the group and that the culi­nary of­fer­ings were an im­por­tant part of the Jumeirah ex­pe­ri­ence. “In re­cent times, there has been sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in the group's restau­rants, in­clud­ing the launch of a num­ber of col­lab­o­ra­tions with renowned chefs – Michael Caines (Jumeirah at Eti­had Tow­ers), Nathan Out­law (Burj Al Arab Jumeirah) and Tom Ker­ridge (Jumeirah Carl­ton Tower).”

In 2015, the Jumeirah group launched the Emi­rati­sa­tion ini­tia­tive, #BeTheHost, to en­cour­age Emi­ratis to join the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. The group em­ploys more than 300 Emi­ratis and is com­mit­ted to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­cruit more tal­ent into the busi­ness, in­clud­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of UAE's work­force.

“Hos­pi­tal­ity is an ex­cel­lent ca­reer choice and we are proud that Emi­ratis hold a num­ber of im­por­tant se­nior roles within the group, in­clud­ing at the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer level,” says Leser.

“Dubai's hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try is ex­pected to be the key driver of the job mar­ket ahead of EXPO 2020. It is an­tic­i­pated that as much as 70% of the 25 mil­lion vis­i­tors ex­pected dur­ing EXPO 2020 will be from out­side the UAE. And ho­tels are of­ten the first real en­gage­ment a visi­tor has with a city, so they are very im­por­tant as a plat­form to show­case a na­tion's spirit and cul­ture."

Leser adds that Jumeirah also sup­ported the bid for EXPO 2020 Dubai, and that the group is very much at the fore­front of ho­tel de­vel­op­ment in the UAE. He sug­gests that with the World Cup com­ing to Qatar, a sim­i­lar so­cial me­dia ini­tia­tive could be con­sid­ered

A twin deluxe room in Jumeirah Al Naseem, Mad­i­nat Jumeirah Re­sort, Dubai

Wadi Pool, Jumeirah Al Naseem, Mad­i­nat Jumeirah Re­sort, Dubai

Ocean Suite in Jumeirah Al Naseem, Mad­i­nat Jumeirah Re­sort, Dubai

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