By Thomas Shambler
The Messilah beach resort was Jumeirah's first property outside the UAE. Today, it stands testament that the hospitality brand no longer requires home-turf advantage
When Jumeirah's Messilah Beach Resort opened its doors in 2013, locals lined up around the block to see behind the luxurious walls. It was the first Jumeirah hotel to launch outside of the GCC area, and – with so many Kuwaitis familiar with luxury hotels – the brand was immediately recognized. Beyond that, Jumeirah chose a location already synonymous with hospitality. The original resort in Messilah opened in the mid-1970s, and in the cooler months was often packed-out with beachgoers. Suffice to say; the launch was a roaring success. As well it should have been.
Jumeirah is a very large hospitality brand, not least in the Middle East. It brought with it a totally revamped design, facilities, amenities and seven restaurants. More importantly, it is one of a few leisure-focussed properties in the city (many of Kuwait's hotels cater to business guests). The question is: three and a half years down the line, has the property's new-fangled veneer worn off?
From a design-perspective, the hotel is certainly a looker. There's a huge guardian area surrounded on three sides by the property itself. Guests looking inward will see the gardens and pathway towards the first of two swimming pools, complete with requisite loungers on all sides. A second pool overlooks the beach area, which is larger and more idyllic. There's a children's play area tucked away near the beach, too. It has all the requisite playthings (floor-mounted water pistols, waterslides and such) but most importantly, is semi-hidden behind a blockade of palms. It gives parents just enough room to relax from their kids but doesn't go as far as abandoning them to the ever-present lifeguard.
Those relaxing around the pool and beach area are a mixture of local Kuwaitis and other visitors from the Gulf. Save for its business-friendly clientele loyal to the brand, Jumeirah puts a lot of additional effort into making sure there's something new for its returning guests. Each weekend sees new activities, from beachfront yoga and tennis lessons, to Jet Ski sessions and cooking classes. The resort is keen-on creating excuses that tempt visitors to return - and that's no bad thing.
The spa is another example of Jumeirah's focus on luxury travellers. Those who have visited any of the brand's properties will no doubt be familiar with its Talise Spa concept. However Messilah offers features all its own. There are 17 treatment rooms, plus two private suites, a fitness studio – complete with personal trainers – hydrotherapy baths, a drift room, salt room and steam room. All treatments come with a personal assessment, letting guests tailor any of the massages, facials, ritual packages or detox programmes to their liking.
As you'd expect from a hotel with seven restaurants, Messilah is no slouch in the food and beverage department, either. Kuwait has quite a long history when it comes to fine dining, and it shows. Salt Restaurant and Pepper Steak House cater to high-end diners, while Olio Italian Restaurant offers guests traditional Italian fair overlooking the beach and sea. Arabesque takes care of shisha and traditional food and has become a popular nightspot for guests and visitors alike. One of the most interesting beverage concepts – which happens to be set in one of the most beautiful rooms in the entire property – is the Tea Lounge. An attractive location for high-end functions, the regal yet relaxed setting is the perfect place to sip one of the many traditional and bespoke tea mixtures to the sounds of soothing piano music.
The hotel itself is big. There are 316 large rooms and suites, 80 serviced apartments and 12 villas – that come with their own private entrance and walled-off garden area (a stone's throw from the hotel's two pools). And while occupancy varies depending on the weather – like all hotels in the region – even when it's fully booked, with grounds this large guests will be hard-pressed to know it.
So three and a half years on, does the Jumeirah Messilah still represent the pinnacle of luxury travel in Kuwait? While the hotel is less shiny and new than it once was, and must face down fresh competition in the luxury space from yet more hospitality brands eyeing the city, it need not be worried. The Jumeirah Messilah Beach Resort and Spa is not just as renowned – by Kuwaiti locals and visiting guests - as it once was, but growing stronger with age.