“Our development plan of 60 hotels by 2012 remains achievable” - Gerard Lawless, Executive Chairman of the Jumeirah Group

6 min reading time

Published on 06/10/09 - Updated on 17/03/22

Founded in 1997 and subsidiary of Dubai Holding, Jumeirah has been managed since its beginning by Gerard Lawless, the group has come a long way since the opening of the emblematic Burj Al Arab in 1999. Today the group has 5 hotels in Dubai in addition to the Wild Wadi Waterpark and the Emirates Academy, but Jumeirah wants to leave its luxury mark just about everywhere around the world. After New York and London, the group is preparing to develop in all directions. The Jumeirah Hantang Xintiandi which should soon open in Shanghai will mark the kick off of an Asian supply with 7 hotels in China, Indonesia, the Maldives and Thailand. Europe will soon have a new hotel in Frankfurt and Glasgow in addition to a third property in London. Jumeirah will also demonstrate its resort savoir-faire on the island of Majorca, in the Virgin Islands and Argentina with the management of a polo resort. The Middle East has not gone forgotten with most of its cities on the gulf in the line of fire. At the same time, the group banks on its long-stay concept Jumeirah Living.

HTR : In the last five years, every hotel group was desperately looking to open new hotels in Dubai. Will the current downturn have an impact on the attractiveness of the city from an hotelier' point of view?G. L.: Actually, our Developments team is always looking for projects that offer a perfect fit with our existing portfolio of luxury hotels, and whose owners understand and support our core essence to Stay Different. The current economic situation may allow us to find some great opportunities.Gerard Lawless : I believe in the future of Dubai and of the UAE as a travel destination. On 18 August 2009, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) released its latest visitors' statistics: the Dubai hotel industry received 3.85 million guests in the first half of 2009 - once again, a rise of 5% in the number of visitors over last year. And according to DTCM, five-star beach hotels recorded 97 per cent occupancy, while five-star city hotels recorded occupancy levels of 76 per cent during the second week of August. Dubai continues to be one of the sought after leisure and business destinations. It takes ambition and vision to achieve what Dubai has accomplished in the past 10 or 15 years! The Emirate has become one of the most popular and sought-after tourism destinations in the world, with its exceptional facilities, high levels of service and hospitality and a very exciting calendar of high profile sporting and entertainment events. It has become a year-round destination that offers something for everyone, attracting a diversity of tourists from around 100 different countries. Emirates Airline was launched only 25 years ago and in this short period, they have transformed Dubai into one of the world's major hubs. Now, hundreds of daily flights are bringing close to 20 million passengers to the city during the first six months of 2009, up 5% over the same period in 2008.HTR : Are luxury hotels more affected by the crisis than other properties or the contrary? How did this drop affect the profitability of your hotels?G. L.: In Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts we are experiencing very healthy occupancy rates in our beach hotels with over 90% in February, March, April, July and in the first half of August prior to the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. We would like to give full credit to the travel and tourism industry in Dubai, and in particular Emirates Airlines and Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, who have assisted us so strongly in promoting one of the world's best destinations. With regards to the profitability of our hotels in Dubai, as a privately-held company, we do not disclose our financial results. But I can confirm you that, despite the decreased RevPAR year-on-year for the first quarter of 2009, Jumeirah continues to be a profitable business. Dubai boasts the second highest RevPAR in the region after Abu Dhabi, and the fourth highest RevPAR in the world.HTR : What will help Dubai to overcome these difficult times?G. L.: Dubai stakeholders from the tourism sectors have work closely together to develop compelling promotions for international visitors. For example, from March until May of this year, we at Jumeirah collaborated with other Dubai hoteliers, DTCM and Emirates Airlines to develop the “Keep Discovering Dubai” campaign, during which we invited journalists and travel agents from around the world to discover or rediscover Dubai and its many attractions. In two months, Dubai hosted 2228 travel agents from 62 countries and 172 journalists from 34 countries. The results from that joint effort can already be felt in the Dubai occupancy rates that are holding up better than in most parts of the world, and in the tone of the ensuing media coverage, which is overwhelmingly positive.HTR : Jumeirah has a lot of openings planned everywhere in the world but also in the Middle East with Oman, Bahrain and Al Ain. What is the potential of these markets for luxury hotels?G. L.: We see a tremendous opportunity for growth of our business in Dubai and the GCC region, as the region is wisely spreading its attention across new market segments in Asia as well as Europe. As a home-grown Dubai-based company, the Middle East is a major market for us, both with regards to the clientele of our hotels and for our growth strategy. As a market for our hotels and resorts, according to the visitors' statistics released by DTCM in May 2009, 5 of the top 10 source markets for Dubai for the first quarter of 2009 are located in the region. And our two hotels in London, Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel and Jumeirah Carlton Tower, are both very popular with the Middle Eastern guests, especially in the summer season. On the Development side, the number of properties that we anticipate to have under development or under management in the Middle East and North Africa will equate to 45% of our total portfolio worldwide in 2012. We have already signed management agreements for hotels and resorts in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. Several of these projects are already underway, for example Jumeirah Etihad Towers, one of Abu Dhabi's most prestigious new beach front developments now in construction at one end of the beautiful Abu Dhabi Corniche; and Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel in Kuwait, opening next year.HTR : Jumeirah will begin soon the operation of the Jumeirah HanTang Xintiandi in Shanghai. Jumeirah has also announced many projects in Europe, Asia and even Americas. Why is this worldwide expansion strategic for your group?G. L.: Jumeirah has established itself with a foundation of superb hotels in Dubai. Hotels such as Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Emirates Towers have helped to redefine the industry from the customer satisfaction and guest offering points of view. We look to develop the Jumeirah “Stay Different” brand as one of the world's most luxurious hotel brands on a global basis. It is important that we are well represented in the principal locations across the world, therefore we have developed strategy to have presence in what we call “letterhead cities” and aspirational resort destinations. By 2012 we intend to have 60 hotels, either under development or in operation.We are also diversifying our offerings, with new and dynamic divisions such as:

- Jumeirah Living, which opened its first luxury, serviced residence, Jumeirah Living World Trade Centre Residence in August 2008 in Dubai;
- Jumeirah Restaurants, with the very successful concept of the noodle house restaurants already signed up in several countries in the Middle East, Asia, now entering Europe through Cyprus and opening in Australia in October; and more restaurant concepts being developed;
- Talise Spa, with its holistic approach to wellness and creating spas that will be destinations by themselves;
- Jumeirah Retail and the growing success of our online boutique,

HTR : Despite the financial crisis, are you confident to achieve your expansion plan of 60 hotels by 2012?G. L.: Jumeirah remains committed to all projects in its pipeline, and we currently have 15 hotels under construction. We have determined that our development plan of 60 hotels and resorts under construction or under operation by 2012 remains achievable, even in this challenging environment. With most of these projects still under development, we expect a market revival by the time they are due to open, in three to five years.HTR : What are the consequences of this downturn for your group? Within this difficult economic environment, do you fear a possible takeover of your group? On the contrary, will this crisis open new opportunities for Jumeirah?G. L.: Actually, our Developments team is always looking for projects that offer a perfect fit with our existing portfolio of luxury hotels, and whose owners understand and support our core essence to Stay Different. The current economic situation may allow us to find some great opportunities.

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts

Hotel Group

  • Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts United Arab Emirates
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