Guy Crawford is CEO of Jumeirah, one of eight divisions of Dubai Holdings.
The emotional philosophy of running luxury hotels is challenging – how exactly do you capture consumers’ hearts and minds?
Relevance, thoughtfulness, consistency and a sense of fun come to mind. At Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai, the rooftop Vu’s restaurant is tremendously popular. Its pristine white restaurant, and style is added by the fact that servers’ ties exactly match lilies’ green stems. Now for the sense of fun, that never fails to amuse. Your coffee comes with a little wooden box with a silver dancing man in front – pull him back, a drawer opens and he exactly picks up a toothpick, which invariably produces a laugh.
Jumeirah has 11,500 employees right now, it will need an additional 60,000 by 2012, and yes that figure is manageable if you break it down and control it. It is not just about numbers, it is getting the right emotional and cultural skills. Jumeirah is working on vocational training, particularly in China and the Philippines. The company is planning a small boutique hotel inland in Bali and early on my colleagues talked to local villagers to see how Jumeirah could help them acquire the skills, say basic English, that would enable them to apply for jobs (it is, admittedly, much easier for a small property to interact with the community). Part of the success in hiring and retaining is the direct interaction of the senior team. Someone at the top of the pyramid meets every new hire as soon as possible after induction, to talk about the company’s hallmarks and its DNA.
Jumeirah’s hallmarks are printed on a small card which should be carried at all times by everyone, to remind them to greet a customer by name, never say no, treat colleagues with respect. There are also such underpinnings as pick up your own phone rather than let your assistant do so, and anticipate what any interlocutor actually wants.
I do think that the Jumeirah guest wants individual recognition, consistency of delivery and tailor-made services. The hotel must revolve around them. Our company is run by passionate professionals driving business through its people and there is mutual respect.
Despite the rule to recruit where possible from within, Jumeirah has always had a reputation for hiring strong management who stay. I want my General Managers to be out-front managers, listening and interacting rather than sitting in offices. I want to make sure they are empowered. Happy staff lead to happy guests, leading to happier shareholders.
Jumeirah has a confident target of 60 properties – open or in the pipeline – by the year 2012. There are over 100 under discussion right now. Every hotel will be unique, following the company mantra ‘Jumeirah – stay different’. There will of course be touches of Jumeirah in each property.