Jumeirah Group executive chairman Gerald Lawless outlines the major considerations behind the development of the firm's new contemporary lifestyle brand, Venu Hotels.
Jumeirah Group executive chairman Gerald Lawless outlines the major considerations behind the development of the firm's new contemporary lifestyle brand, Venu Hotels. Gerald Lawless is a hard man to pin down for an interview, so his eagerness to speak with Hotelier Middle East about Jumeirah Group's new lifestyle brand Venu Hotels is perhaps an indication of his personal passion for the product.
Lawless launched Venu Hotels last month at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai, ending several weeks of speculation about an imminent announcement from Jumeirah.
While details are still largely under wraps, with the first location of a Venu not expected to be revealed until after the summer, Lawless says there is a "strong likelihood" that Venu will debut with a hotel in Dubai.
He says there is sufficient "space" between Venu and the Jumeirah flagship brand to enable this.
"We are not saying Venu by Jumeirah, we are saying Venu Hotels, and to us that's important so you are staying in a different brand so there will be difference in both the look and the feel [of the hotels]," says Lawless.
One of the distinguishing factors is that while Jumeirah is a luxury brand, Venu will be a "contemporary lifestyle" hotel brand, says Lawless, the difference being "in the style of the hotel".
It will, however, still be a five-star product, emphasises Lawless, and the traditional Jumeirah service hallmarks will be maintained.
Other key features of the hotels will be "local soul", says Lawless, and the proactive use of technology, with a recurring theme being "interconnectivity and connecting people with places", adds vice president corporate communications and public affairs Piers Schreiber.
The use of cutting-edge technology - with variations on the emerging idea of the ‘virtual' concierge under discussion and pioneering software expected to be created - should not alienate Jumeriah's existing guest base, however.
Lawless says: "I think it will appeal to existing customers. Somebody said ‘does that mean you will be applying it to a younger audience' and I said ‘well I'm my age and I would love to stay in a Venu. I like to use technology, I like to use new products, I like to try new things so I see no reason why it wouldn't spread across all age groups and certainly that is where we would like to take Venu. I think it's right that way; people nowadays go through generations and have every desire to try exciting new products".
While the clientele may be similar for both Venu and Jumeirah hotels, the potential locations for Venu Hotels could be quite different, as Lawless explains.
"It opens up to new investors and new locations. Jumeirah Stay Different, which is our name brand at the very top end of the scale, will always find itself in key letterhead cities as we like to call them and in key resorts worldwide, whereas there are many other cities that we could take an operation and brand like Venu into that we may be a bit slower or reluctant to take Jumeirah into because room rates might be higher and so on.
"We have looked at this and we certainly feel that there are some really interesting cities that in the first wave you wouldn't take Jumeirah into, but that you could take Venu. And then there are also cities in which we already have Jumeirah but we could have Venu Hotels there as well."
Venu Hotels could comprise resorts or city properties, adds Lawless, with an average room count of up to 250 "but we are prepared to have exceptions".
The brand will also "absolutely" be taken international, with some of Jumeriah Group's already announced target of signing 60 hotels by 2012 planned to include Venu Hotels.
"Some of them will be Venus. The majority of them will be Jumeirahs because Jumeirah has been going for that much longer and we are very confident that the 60 hotels signed up will be there by 2012, and we are looking at 30 hotels opening to 2030," says Lawless.
"We are in advanced negotiations with a number of territories in the Middle East and outside the Middle East," adds Lawless, leaving the confirmation of the ‘venu' to another day.