Mumbai: At The Economic Times Lifestyle Luxury Weekend 2019, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, the global luxury hotel company showcased seven of its state-of-the-art properties. Destination Reporter spoke to Shaf Butt, Regional Director of Marketing, MEASA & ASPAC at Jumeirah Group.
Tell us about Jumeirah’s 2018 performance in terms of patronage from Indian visitors?
In 2018, we welcomed more than 3 million guests from around the world to our hotels across the entire portfolio. In terms of Indian visitors, Grosvenor House Suites by Jumeirah Living, London was the most popular hotel and topped the list in 2018.
This property was followed by Jumeirah at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and Jumeirah Zabeel Saray in Dubai. We saw a 23.9 per cent year-on-year increase in 2017 vs.
2018 from the Indian market to Jumeirah’s portfolio. We also saw good growth in 2018 of Indian visitors into our property in the Maldives, Jumeirah Vittaveli.
What kind of business are you getting from India? How much of that is leisure and MICE?
Many enquires we receive from the Indian market are for incentive groups or destination weddings. Guests are often looking for multi-venue options which we can accommodate across our 13 hotels in the UAE.
For example, Madinat Jumeirah resort offers four luxurious hotels (1200 rooms) and a portfolio of flexible conference and banquet facilities, including grand ballrooms, the Madinat Arena and Fort Island, an outdoor venue which offers the largest hotel event space in the UAE.
For the MICE sector, we have a number of attractive offers in place for summer 2019.
These were recently delivered to trade and we have seen a really positive response. In addition, we have launched some truly magical wedding packages that can be found on our website at Jumeirah.com.
Can you explain the visitor profiles you are targeting from India and how they will find Jumeirah different?
Placing the guest at the heart of all we do is a top priority whether it’s individual guests, couples, business travellers or families. The current focus is to elevate the already very high standards of excellence.
We are committed to continuous improvement and ensuring that the Jumeirah name is synonymous with great service, high quality and exhilarating experiences. With a renewed determination to lead luxury hospitality, Jumeirah has re-committed to deliver personalised guest experiences offering service beyond expectations.
Which source markets provide you with maximum number of guests as on date? And if it isn’t the GCC, why do you think they prefer Jumeirah?
Our top source markets into Dubai include the UK, Russia, UAE, Germany, China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Visitors love the year-round sunshine and the popularity of the UAE as a destination has increased rapidly over the years.
Demand continues to grow as new attractions open and more choices for accommodation, dining and entertainment become available.
The UAE is constantly evolving so for returning guests there is always something new to discover. The city’s location is less than a four-hour flight for one-third of the world’s population. Jumeirah enhanced its family and luxury appeal with the launch of The Terrace at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and the opening of our new hotels which include Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort and Jumeirah Al Wathba Desert Resort and Spa, both in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai has also boosted its family attractions and there are now more things to see and experience than ever before – from the world’s largest shopping mall to popular theme parks. For arts and culture lovers, there’s the Souk Madinat Jumeirah theatre which hosts some of the region’s finest shows. Adventurous guests to the city who stay with Jumeirah can enjoy complimentary unlimited access to Wild Wadi Waterpark.
What has been the response to the recent launches like Royal Saray, Saadiyat Island, Jumeirah Living Guangzhou and the refurbished Jumeirah Beach Resort?
Jumeirah Group is performing well and we are expanding rapidly. We moved into 2019 confidently with sustained profitability.
The Jumeirah portfolio now comprises 24 luxury hotels. We have recently just opened two hotels in China, Jumeirah Nanjing and Jumeirah Guangzhou Living and also more recently two hotels in Abu Dhabi – Jumeirah Al Wathba Desert Resort & Spa and Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort. Our plans to grow the portfolio of luxury hotels and resorts internationally are well underway.
What is your plan for the next 5 years for Jumeirah? Where does India feature? Which cities are you looking at?
In addition to the new hotels recently opened in China and UAE, within the next 18 months we will open our first hotel in Saudi Arabia, a 1000 room luxury hotel in Makkah. Also we have announced new hotels in Oman, Malaysia and Indonesia which are all scheduled to open by 2022. The Middle East and China are definitely important markets for us and are markets where Jumeirah will continue to expand.
We know that our Indian guests appreciate our luxury hospitality and we’d love to open a Jumeirah hotel in India. There have been a number of discussions and we continue to look for opportunities. There are some key cities in India that would suit a brand like Jumeirah, Mumbai is definitely one of those cities. This is my first time here in Mumbai and I really love the vibe and atmosphere of this city. There is certainly a market of affluent travellers and residents who would enjoy all that Jumeirah has to offer. India is becoming more important for us both as a development market and as a source market.
What are you doing in India to build awareness for the brand? Are any roadshows planned in India? Which cities?
As a brand we are looking to further increase Jumeirah’s visibility in India. The Indian market knows Jumeirah well and we are delighted to welcome many Indian guests who stay with us across our portfolio, but there is always more from Jumeirah to showcase to the market.
We really want to share more about what our Indian guests can enjoy, for example in Dubai, we know they love our Wild Wadi Waterpark, our stunning beaches and in particular, our excellent and wide choice of dining options. We know dining is key for Indian travellers, and sits perfectly well with one of our brand pillars of enhancing our dining experiences. We also have the opportunity to create breathtaking and unique wedding and honeymoon experiences across our portfolio of hotels around the world.
‘Jumeirah Flavours’ is one of the most popular packages booked by the Indian market online and offers guests a wide range of privileges including daily complimentary breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner across over 40 participating restaurants located in Dubai, including Burj Al Arab Jumeirah’s restaurants. (www.jumeirah.com/flavours)
In addition to online packages, we participate in many sales roadshows in key cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. The aim of this is to build partnerships and relationships with our existing valued partners. In addition to some of the key online channels, we are also trying to focus more on the B2C segment and exploring more targeted advertising through local radio, cinemas and the airports. Our Global Sales team visits India regularly and has established positive relationships in the industry and found opportunities to grow business in all segments.
Currently, Blue Square Consultants is also appointed to work with Jumeirah and is our on the ground agent in India. They help to direct MICE, wedding business and leisure guests to our key hotels around the world.
How important is the F&B/Restaurant segment for your overall business? How are you investing in this and how is the segment performing? What is their contribution to overall revenue? Are these owned IPs or licensed brands or space leased out to brand operators?
At Jumeirah we appreciate how important dining is to overall guest experiences and we have embarked on elevating our F&B experiences across the portfolio. This isn’t just about great food, it is about creating great social spaces, lighting, music and great ambiance. We have therefore put dining as a core pillar of the brand and one of our strongest differentiators.
We recently appointed renowned epicure, Michael Ellis as Chief Culinary Officer. This is set to drive creativity and reinvigorate our dining concepts and gastronomic experiences. We have welcomed a number of new chefs and developed restaurant concepts.
Rockfish, the Mediterranean seafood restaurant in Jumeirah Al Naseem at Madinat Jumeirah Dubai has revealed an entire new menu created by the hotel’s new Executive Chef, Marco Garfagnini.
The new enhancements come as part of Chef Marco’s role to enhance the F&B offering of hotels within Jumeirah Group. In his current role at Jumeirah Al Naseem, he leads a team of 150-plus chefs and stewards and oversees the hotel’s seven owned restaurants. Chef Marco also plays a key role in executing the vision of CEO Jose Silva and Chief Culinary Officer Michael Ellis in growing the hotel group’s F&B excellence.
Another example is Summersalt at Jumeirah Al Naseem which has launched a new Japanese fusion pop-up concept, created at the hands of new Japanese/Argentinian Chef Cristian Goya. Umi Shio fuses the artful craft of Japanese cooking, with the delicious flavours of South America, alongside a selection of new Japanese-inspired cocktails, mocktails and varieties of Sake, all served impeccably on the shores of Madinat Jumeirah’s private beach, with views of the ever-iconic Burj Al Arab.