Led by visionary luxury hotelier Jose Silva, CEO Jumeirah Group, has been not only tackling the challenges but also identifying the opportunities which the Covid-19 pandemic has been presenting the world of luxury hospitality. Since his tenure, Jumeirah Hotels is on a secure pathway to a leading positioning, similarly to what Emirates Airline represents for the global aviation.
What are the key operational elements that luxury hoteliers should consider before opening post-pandemic?
Based on our experience, I would summarise it in four words Safety, Culture, Training and Communication.
Safety is always the first consideration. To restore confidence and give guests the peace of mind they seek, luxury hoteliers must meet the highest standards of safety, integrate it as part of a culture, not just amongst the employees, but the guests too.
We believe that third-party validation is equally important and that’s why Jumeirah are working with Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspection and certification, to assess the measures we’ve taken to protect our guest’s safety. Jumeirah Al Naseem becoming the first hotel in the world to receive the prestigious Bureau Veritas Safeguard Label was a very proud moment and an important step for us in restoring guest confidence under the current circumstances.
I’d like to think this will serve as an inspiration to others, to create a socially responsible movement across organisational cultures, our society and the industry as a whole, where we champion a sense of pride and collective responsibility for the safety of others. The Government of Dubai and its tourism authority “DTCM”, have led a successful path through this pandemic and restoring guest confidence is a priority, not only for Jumeirah Group, but for all hoteliers.
As an industry, we need to innovate and creatively address operational challenges in what we call the ‘next normal’ to meet the needs of guests.
Guest communication is based on transparency, visibility and approach. It’s important to communicate to guests in the right way and ensure information is fully available to them throughout the hotel. We are catering to this through multiple digital channels with our Stay Safe Campaign. We paid particular attention to a soft, elegant and caring approach, to avoid any unnecessary anxiety
Will luxury travellers regard value differently when it comes to luxury hospitality? How will have their expectations changed?
History has shown that after any pivotal moment in time, there has been an impact on the future forever.
These unprecedented times created a social and humanitarian movement, whereby authentic values reemerged. People’s health and wellbeing continue to be centre stage and great emphasis has been placed on that by the consumer, organisations and by the authorities. We have also seen a sudden revival of togetherness, peace of mind and an emphasis on “the family”, as luxury travelers look to rebalance their lives and dedicate more time to memorable moments with loved ones.
It comes as no surprise to me that some nuances born out of those phases, are transcending into today’s guest expectations. We can see across some of our signature dining experiences that there is appetite for casual elements, making for a more affordable and customized experience to suite the new life balance – Less extravagance and more purpose.
How will you reassure guests they should have no concerns about their rooms?
We have implemented vigorous new protocols in housekeeping including aerating every day with fresh air and providing the full suite of hygiene amenities including mask, gel and wipes. Bedding is one of the most important elements to address with pillows and duvets undergoing a thermal hygiene process at 90 degrees. We are also leaving rooms vacant for three days after each stay and, where this is not possible due to high occupancy, the room undergoes a deep cleaning and wipping combined with a sanitisation fogging process.
Our Bureau Veritas Safeguard Label is also the highest level validation we can achieve right now, and we continue our mission to certify our wider portfolio.
What about dining? How has that changed?
From a dining perspective, we were one of the first to close buffets and focus on social distancing and implementing a comprehensive sanitisation protocol between each service.
Many hoteliers however, are faced with the reality that their restaurants are not viable to open under the current social distancing regulations with occupancy limitations. Owners, or leaders like myself, need to reinvent their spaces and/or their offering.
I envisage we will see a surge of “Pop Up” restaurants that will take a cue from fast-fashion. They’ll be more affordable and the “collections”, meaning the menus and even locations in this case, shall be limited in duration. This concept allows for creative use of space, maintains that all-important interaction with your guests and gives them something fresh and new to be excited about.
At Jumeirah, we are well positioned with a host of talented chefs with Michelin star backgrounds and the expertise of Michael Ellis, our Chief Culinary Officer, former Michelin Guides’ Global Head. One of our newest additions to our pop-up dining scene is French Riviera, a French Mediterranean concept, which has just been launched on the beachfront at Jumeirah Al Qasr in Dubai.
We launched a new modern take on in-room dining concept proposing a customised service through our e-butler app, where guests can select from an array of special signature dishes designed by our signature restaurants’ Chefs and presented in a format with the generosity of mezze style sharing.
This dining experience is also available in secluded areas across our resorts. It is time to be creative, to reinvent the service, to be agile by opening intimate single guest or group pop-up experiences, that cater to their new expectations.
With new measures / protocols, which new positions must be created? What about training?
We have created a number of new positions and evolved the roles of existing colleagues to meet the needs of the ‘next normal’. Our hygiene teams are now tasked with additional responsibilities to guide operations teams on detailed checklist to ensure new best practices are implemented and adhered to.
We also have what we call Fresh Air Engineers who are responsible for ensuring that triple the fresh air is circulating in our hotels. We have teams designated to the guest journey, whether it be check in, dining, outdoor leisure etc, that serve as guardians of the hygiene and safety standards, who are there to support and guide the guest.
Staff undergo extensive re-training to re-define service, ensuring that it’s in keeping with our luxury proposition whilst meeting the requirements of today’s new world.
What is your vision for the future of the luxury hospitality industry in the post pandemic world?
From a luxury point of view, lavish and extravagant vacations will likely be replaced with more memorable and meaningful ones, where intimate family gatherings and celebrating lifetime moments are more the focus.
Privacy and space will become more important, encouraging architects to reconsider hotel design with reference to more exclusive spaces with great energy, but less density to give them peace of mind. Given the “work from home” policy has been a necessary precaution for many organisations and has gained social acceptance around the world, we may find that hotels will reconsider the business center concept and start to introduce more personalised spaces for people to continue to “work away from the office”, with their own devices in both formal and more informal settings.
Villas with private pools within the hotel environment are also likely to be in higher demand. We have seen a marked increase in villa reservations within our own portfolio.
I believe from a corporate perspective many opportunities lie within employee engagement. Our reliance on video conferencing during this period has shown how efficiently we can communicate across all levels of the organization. We have broken down the silos and hierarchy. Senior executives are more accessible and engaged with their teams than ever before and as a result, we are seeing far more interaction and contribution from the junior and mid-level colleagues when it comes to the planning, development and
decision-making stages, which ultimately drives engagement levels and acquisition of new skills. We have all created new habits throughout the lockdown period that will serve to create efficiencies in the future.
Ultimately, I think COVID-19 times have reset the stage for an interesting future in hospitality, where a shift in expectations could open the door to a new horizon of experiences. In the immediate new world however, safety will come first.
José Silva joined Jumeirah Group as Chief Executive Officer in March 2018. He brings a wealth of experience with more than 35 years’ in international luxury hospitality, including 27 years with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. Silva is renowned for the repositioning of some of the best hotels in the world including the iconic Four Seasons George V Paris. As Regional Vice President, he successfully led the most prestigious portfolio of the Four Seasons Collection elevating both product and guests experiences to the highest level. Silva was awarded ‘Hotelier of the Year’ by Virtuoso, the leading luxury travel agencies network and, during his tenure, the Four Seasons George V was awarded 5 Michelin stars, still the most Michelin starred Palace in Europe and Americas.
As CEO, José is responsible for growing the Group’s luxury portfolio through international expansion overseeing the next phase of dynamic growth whilst building on Jumeirah’s extraordinary success over the past two decades, driving the company to a new era in luxury. Born in Portugal, raised in Montreal up to 35-years old, José thinks global with always a tactical and local approach.
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