Is there a moonshot idea that you are currently intrigued by?
I am passionate about dining and great food experiences - not necessarily expensive one, but where you measure quality and satisfaction through the emotional connection to the occasion - I believe that the energy generated when people come together is powerful, and that dining is now less about eating and more about meeting.
At Jumeirah we’ve put food and beverage at the heart of the business and a key market differentiator. We are in a very exciting time of discovery, and we have great plans and some truly innovative ideas under development. For those developments, I especially recruited Michael Ellis, ex-managing director of Michelin Guide, as chief culinary officer for Jumeirah.
What does diversity mean to you?
Since Jumeirah established in 1997 it has always had a strong culture of diversity where colleagues promise to treat each other with respect and integrity. This allows them to be different but equally valued. No matter who you are or where you sit in the organisation we have a colleague charter of behaviour that apply to everyone.
Additionally, Jumeirah is probably the world’s most diverse hospitality company. We have 14,000 colleagues drawn from across more than 140 nationalities. We are very proud to employ 338 UAE Emiratis and are committed to enhancing opportunities for Emiratis through our national development programme.
How do keep pace with rapid change?
Our commercial team – business intelligence, sales and marketing – works closely with the rest of the business to anticipate the impact from influences and world events out of our control such as currency fluctuations. Being agile is as important as early awareness and appropriate action. Our expert sales and marketing teams, for example, adapt not just the price but the value for our guests to make sure we are always offering a highly desirable and great value experience.
We are also very lucky to have such a strong airline in Emirates and the fantastic facilities at Dubai International Airport. Dubai is attracting more and more visitors and new airlines such as Flydubai and Air Arabia are developing new routes that bring more people in from new markets, and we’re able to extend our welcome to these new guests.
We have very close relationships with our travel agency partners and those relationships, and the level of trust and confidence is very important and supportive when we are looking to attract new markets and new visitors into our properties.
What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?
I feel privileged to lead Jumeirah. This brand is iconic and has always been visionary and forward looking. It takes risks and thinks out of the box. One of my greatest passions is innovation and crafting the future of our industry. I feel that Jumeirah is at one of those crossroads where it can evolve from a well-reputed largely regional brand into an extraordinary global brand.
We are fortunate that our leaders are committed to making Jumeirah a national champion with engagement towards global expansion. That represents an extraordinary opportunity for all of us collectively. This is a moment where we can craft the next chapter of the Jumeirah story.
Can you name a person who has had an impact on you as a leader?
I have worked in luxury hospitality for more than 35 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to work in some of the world’s most prestigious hotels where I encountered many seasoned hospitality leaders. I would say that I’ve learned a lot from most of my previous bosses. Sometimes we mistakenly divide the world into people we learn from or not, depending on our level of appreciation of others. I personally believe in learning from most people. If you focus on people’s strengths, there is always something to learn and be inspired by. Knowledge is all around us if we keep an open and tolerant mind.
What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organisation?
Focus on doing your best in your current job. In doing so, you become a valuable element of the organisation and will therefore naturally be given more responsibilities. It is a myth that management promotes their staff, the reality is that people promote themselves by exceeding in their jobs day after day. Everyone at Jumeirah has a development path no matter what role they play in the organisation. New colleagues must remember to shine, to show their potential and to take advantage of the commitment that Jumeirah makes to them in terms of fostering opportunities to be the next-generation leaders of our company.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
The skills and qualities to succeed are the same in every industry: dedication, passion and pride for what we do combined with the commitment to excel.
What’s one productivity tip you wish everyone else knew?
Hard work is a given, but opportunity is the big game-changer. However opportunities often seem to gravitate towards people who have excelled at their current job and one step at a time. Most successful individuals that I have had a chance to meet never saw themselves achieving such accomplishments, they were simply passionate and focused on doing their best. Nevertheless, if you combine the hard work and opportunity with innovative and strategic thinking, you will reach beyond normal accomplishments and will craft your own successful future.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
That I graduated in civil engineering and have a passion for buildings, architecture and design.
What makes you get out of bed?
I have always been an early riser. I am always excited to see what the day will bring, and as CEO of Jumeirah every day is interesting as I work with my leadership team to take the Jumeirah brand global. Early mornings are about exercise – I like to cycle and run followed by a quiet breakfast where I like to gather my thoughts for the day ahead. Leading a big company like Jumeirah brings its own challenges, but managing under pressure is an important skill.
What inspires you?
I am a frequent traveller and I love discovering amazing places. As a food lover, I enjoy experiencing the various restaurant concepts and observing the local community. These experiences allow me to understand the concepts, designs and cuisines that appeals to the consumers. As I immerse myself in the culture of places I visit, I understand the cravings of the consumers when they travel. They are craving experiences and those experiences are best lived in the restaurant scene.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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