On the back of his recent appointment as hotel manager of award winning Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai, Imran Changezi sits down with Breaking Travel News during a flying trip to London, to discuss the property’s recent rennovation, his priorities for next few months and why he thinks the future is bright for Dubai.
Located in the centre of Dubai’s commercial business district, Jumeirah Emirates Towers - which was named Middle East’s Leading Business Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2010, comprises two equilateral triangles. As a unique architectural icon of Dubai, the property is inspired by traditional Islamic themes.
Since opening its doors in April 2000 the property has become a visible statement of Dubai’s corporate success. The towers consist of a 350m Office Tower and a 305m Hotel Tower, both connected by a central podium – The Boulevard.
The 400-room Hotel Tower boasts 51 floors, with modern European style décor and furnishings and exceptional views. Meanwhile the Office Tower has 52 floors of lettable space based on a triangular layout, services by 17 elevators.
Breaking Travel News: What have been your main priorities since your appointment as hotel manager in July?
Imran Changezi: My appointment was in July but I have been with the Jumeirah group for over 12 years at various properties including the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and I was in Baku, to open the Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel.
It is an exciting time to be at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai especially as we have just completed the refurbishment of the rooms and suites which includes the addition of several outlets in the Boulevard including Alfie’s Restaurant and Lounge which is part of the Alfred Dunhill and The Ivy has also now come to Dubai.
We have refurbished one of the main flagship restaurants, the Rib Room which has just won an award.
To see the refurbishment that the hotel has gone through – you can’t take away the fact that the views and location is amazing but our rooms are now looking even more stunning.
BTN: Can you tell us more about the renovation?
IC: The renovation was completed over 12 months in various phases, so as not to disturb guests who are staying at the hotel and the result is stunning, beautiful.
The property is a very contemporary city lifestyle hotel and what strikes you most as you walk in to the Jumeirah Emirates Towers is the beautiful atrium and the lifts and the lobby and sunlit sitting area in the lobby.
Then there are the first room floors with meeting rooms, business centres and various offices. Then the rooms and suites are located above the tenth floor and are famous for their views.
The hotel is designed in a contemporary style which is fantastic when you consider that it was built ten years ago. Hotel construction began in 1996 and to hear in 2012 that the first word that springs to mind when looking at the Emirates Towers is modern and contemporary is awesome.
BTN: What are your key priorities moving forward?
IC: My key priorities are making sure we enhance our leading position by concentrating on our guests and repeat guests. The majority of our colleagues have been there for over nine years which also shows a lot of loyalty.
The number of awards it has won creates higher expectations each year and whoever takes over this role has a bigger challenge to maintain that and to take it to the next level.
Making sure our repeat guests are looked after and new propositions are added, such as the Rib Room and Alfie’s, together with the whole complex and array of services, not only for the business travellers but for whoever is looking for a nice city break in Dubai.
BTN: How are your occupancy figures?
IC: Average occupancy figures throughout the year, we are forecasting to close at around 72% for 2012 which is very healthy for a city hotel. This is about five points above last year.
BTN: What are your repeat visitor figures like?
IC: It is well over 26% which is very high compared to any benchmark around the world.
The Sirius loyalty programme, which is one of our biggest, continues to provide benefits to repeat guests. For example as a gold tier guest you get discounts, upgrades, access to a club executive lounge and complimentary airport transfers.
BTN: Which are your top markets?
IC: Emirates Towers’ top markets are the UK, Germany and US. Then the Dubai expatriate community is also a big market for us. People like to get away for a weekend in Dubai.
BTN: Why is the hotel so popular with business travellers?
IC: Business travellers represent about 50 to 60% of the business. As a city hotel and given its proximity to the shopping malls and the airport, it is an ideal location. Plus, if you stay with us you get free access to the other beaches at the Jumeirah properties in Dubai, in addition to free Wild Wadi pass.
BTN: What are the top new gadgets that guests can expect to enjoy at the property?
IC: We are launching a very comprehensive application that guests will be able to download. Phase one will be launched for in-house guests and phase 2 will be for non-residential guests. Guests will be able to access all services at the hotel, from room service, to hotel bookings, to requesting a wake up call.
Whatever we have at the hotel you will be able to access on the app - so I am very excited about that. I am confident we will be able to launch it next month. It will be compatible with all mobile devices, including Android, Blackberry and Apple.
As a business travel hotel we do expect guests to use a lot of gadgets. So of course we have a docking station where you can charge your iPhone with a sound system. There is also a media hub to connect lap tops.
In the business centre, we are one of the few hotels to offer one of the top range and high tech video conferencing facilities with an integrated sound system. These can be enjoyed by business or leisure travellers. We also offer complimentary WiFi across the entire complex. Hopefully this is now becoming a norm for other hotels.
BTN: How popular is the spa offering proving to be with guests?
IC: The H20 spa was considered to be bit male dominant with mainly male focused offerings, so Jumeirah has converted it into its own Talise brand as we get a high number of female travellers and female business travellers.
We don’t only rely on in house guests but we have a high number of expatriats living in the UAE and people do use food and beverage outlets as well as the spa facilities.
Plus we just have launched or new, beautiful Talise fitness gym with a beautiful New-York, loft inspired design which opened two months ago. This has now replaced the health club with a spa element, a fitness element and nutrition elements so guests can get a full consultation.
BTN: Can you give an outlook for Dubai on behalf the Jumeirah Emirates Towers?
IC: Our occupancy is very healthy and we are optimistic about the continuous growth we have seen in Dubai, not only from a business traveller perspective but also from a tourism perspective. The UK continues to play a very important role in that.
And continuous evolving retail elements coming into Dubai, with new brands and shopping malls. So we are talking about a long sustained outlook with serious commitments from brands.
Dubai is considered as a regional head office for many large multinational chains and companies, so the outlook I would say is really strong and there are more and more openings and competition with more hotels coming in. I would imagine the development teams of those hotels coming into Dubai have done their homework and the kind of large hotels that are coming into Dubai in 2013 and 2014 proves the fact about the visibility and the continuation of business growth.