By Doug Gollan
The past two years has taken Dubai-based Jumeirah Group from 10 to 20 operating properties. In rapid succession: Frankfurt, two hotels in the Maldives, a third property in London, Istanbul, Rome, Baku, Mallorca, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. This growth means, “We now have a very credible international spread of luxury hotels,” according to President and Group Chief Executive Officer Gerald Lawless.
The new hotels have been a mix of new and old structures. Pera Palace in Istanbul dates to 1892 and was originally built for passengers on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie stayed for long periods of time and the room she stayed in (Room 411) is now the Agatha Christie Room. Founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk lived in the hotel as well, and his former suite is now a museum open to the public. In Rome, the Grand Hotel Via Veneto has also been renovated, and Lawless categorizes the two properties as being “of great character and great traditions.”
In London, Grosvenor House Apartments have been a hit, particularly with Arabian Gulf and Middle East customers who go to London during the summer and want family style living at a luxury level. Designer Anouska Hempel has given the oversize apartments a contemporary look in this prime Hyde Park location.
In Mallorca, Lawless says Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa is “perfect for elite travelers.” Built on a cliff overlooking a fishing village, its large footprint gives it a spacious feeling despite just 120 keys.
Frankfurt has been getting positive feedback, and Lawless was beaming as we spoke at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel, a sparkling, soaring tower that was getting oohs and aahs from the nearly 1,000 travel industry kingpins attending the World Traveler and Tourism Council Annual Conference here. In fact the hotel’s Presidential Suite accommodated President Bill Clinton, the keynote speaker.
Growth, however, isn’t slowing much—if at all. According to Lawless the group has five hotels under development in China—Hainan, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Macau and Thousand Island Lake (where rooms will be spread over four or five islands). By 2015, Dubai resort Madinat Jumeirah will add a fourth luxury hotel, 45 villas, pedestrian area and retail component. Kuwait is about to open, and, in the next four years, the flag will be planted in Bali’s Jimbaran Beach area and Mumbai’s Lower Parel district. Multiple projects are planned for Saudi Arabia as well.
Over the next couple of years, Lawless plans to make hay in the Middle East by taking advantage of the region’s booming economy. “Now that we have established our credentials internationally, we are going to focus on our home region, not as a regional brand but as an international luxury brand,” he said.
So what did the low key Irishman think of delegates’ response to his Abu Dhabi property? The normally understated Lawless simply said, “People are blown away.”