68 TAKING THE PULSE OF ITS CUSTOMERS
JUMEIRAH GROUP CEO STEFAN LESER TALKS ABOUT THE COMPANY'S EXPANSION DRIVE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING THE MARKET.
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