Industry Update
Opinion Article19 April 2017

How will you be a global catalyst for change?

By Stefan Leser, Group Chief Executive Officer, Jumeirah Group

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Jumeirah Group is a well-established Dubai business which operates in an environment that supports and drives change. No other city in the world has had the global impact that Dubai has on the travel and tourism industry. The creation of destination Dubai has impressed and enthralled all of us who work in hospitality. Dubai makes us think and question. It reminds us not to get set in our ways or be limited by our own imagination, and that bold thinking and risk should be embraced as a pathway to growth.

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In 2017 Jumeirah celebrates its 20th anniversary. As we prepared for this important milestone we considered not only our brand, our portfolio and offering but also our success and our responsibility. Being a catalyst for change is a responsibility. Hospitality companies effect change and are a driver for social and cultural evolution. Change comes in various guises and, certainly, today we are more able than ever to influence the way we live and the way we spend our valuable time. We are offering experiences and travel destinations that only a few generations ago would have been inconceivable for many.

You cannot be a catalyst for change unless you are prepared to innovate. You must be comfortable with risk, however calculated it might be. You need to operate in a positive environment - where trying a new venture that does not ultimately succeed is not seen as failure. And you need to accept with ease that your decisions and actions are going to be open to scrutiny. Again, it comes down to being bold. An important spur in our own culture of bold thinking, and in maintaining our brand positioning as a leader in luxury hospitality, is our commitment to continuous improvement. It is one of our most important tenets. It applies as much to our colleagues, who are encouraged to develop and upskill, as it does to our brand and properties.

If I look back just one year since I took the helm as Group CEO, I am astounded by the number of improvements and enhancements introduced across the company. Two of the most significant were the launch of The Terrace at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and the opening of Jumeirah Al Naseem. The Terrace reinvigorated an already unmatched and iconic hotel, offering guests a completely new and unique experience. Jumeirah Al Naseem completed the Madinat Jumeirah resort and took our Jumeirah brand in a fresh direction, with its contemporary modern luxury styling, without diminishing the Arabian hospitality, which so importantly underpins the Jumeirah experience.

One important pillar of continuous improvement is to embrace technology. This is much more than investing in technology; it's understanding technology and what it offers. Many technologies created for one industry have an indirect impact on other industries. Don't limit your thinking to hospitality tech – look outside the sector. What other technologies are being used and how can you adopt, in part or in whole, within your own business. Be inspired by technology and adapt it.

Virtual reality was created as an entertainment experience and was adopted, and adapted by the gaming industry in the 1990s. Google adopted and adapted it to create Street View and it became a tool for architects and town planners. Soon it was adopted and adapted by theme parks, augmenting reality to provide the thrills of the rollercoaster without the ride. And last year the world chess championship was broadcast live in 360 ° VR and VR has been adopted by American football, and other sports broadcasters.

We innovated VR tech to create Jumeirah Inside, the first collaboration between Google and a hospitality company. VR means we can offer viewers a personalized, curated journey around our properties. And it gave us global reach. It is available in five languages, across mobile, tablet and desktop devices. Although a substantial investment, it is a simple idea that has transformed the guest experience – it's now about the pre-guest experience. VR has enabled us to reach the guest before they visit the properties and we treat them as guests before they walk through the door.

We have used technology to effect change in how travel choices are made and close the gap between aspiration and reality. We have sought to eliminate the risk that a holiday or travel experience will disappoint or that time will not be well spent. In a world where time is the most highly valued commodity of all, who can afford to waste it? We have also eliminated some of the uncertainty that can procrastinate the decision-making process. In a world of choice - you can't choose.

If we can be a global catalyst for change it is through being a visionary and inspiring others to be bolder. Our bold thinking is a reflection of Dubai and driven by the inspiration that surrounds us. We are consciously creating an environment that embraces continuous improvement. We believe that we have a responsibility to be catalyst for change – and we are fulfilling that responsibility and sharing our insights with the hospitality community. Our aim is not only to inspire our guests but also our industry peers.

Related Event

Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC)2018

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AHIC Village, Waldorf Astoria — Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
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Stefan Leser

Stefan Leser joined the Jumeirah Group as Group Chief Executive Officer in February 2016. During his time with the company, he has overseen a number of important milestones. These include the launch of The Terrace at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and the opening of Jumeirah Al Naseem, a 430 luxury room hotel in Dubai, which completes the award-winning Madinat Jumeirah Resort.

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