Breaking Travel News interview: David Thomson, chief operating officer, JA Resorts & Hotels

10th Oct 2012
Breaking Travel News interview: David Thomson, chief operating officer, JA Resorts & Hotels David Thomson, chief operating officer of JA Resorts & Hotels

Following the announcement venerable hotel group Jebel Ali International Hotels would become JA Resorts & Hotels as it seeks to boost its international profile, Breaking Travel News sits down with chief executive David Thomson to see just what the change will mean for the group.

Breaking Travel News: Why was this an appropriate time to re-brand Jebel Ali International Hotels?

David Thomson: Jebel Ali International Hotels has made its mark of the hospitality sector in the UAE, yet we wanted a brand that we could take overseas and expand internationally.

We’ve now got the personnel, resources and experience to show the rest of the world what we can do, so it made sense to build a brand that essentially, could do the talking for us.

BTN: What will the new name ‘JA Resorts & Hotels’ and logo bring to the group?

DT: JA is an abbreviation of Jebel Ali, yet it stands for all the same values.

While Jebel Ali did ‘give birth’ to JA Resorts & Hotels, we’ve given the brand a new look and a new lease of life. We’ve not just changed visibly, like our name and logo, we’ve changed our tone of voice, our proposition, our strategy and our mentality, all aimed at providing the best possible guest experience.

We have developed a new vision and mission for the company, as well as re-aligned our company values in keeping with our new promise.

JA Resorts & Hotels, as a brand is all about casual luxury and heartfelt hospitality, an assurance that we guarantee at any one of our resorts or hotels.

BTN: Can you explain the thinking behind it?

DT: This was a strategic decision to ensure that we had a consistent and valued brand that we could take overseas and expand internationally. We have over 30 years’ experience managing resorts and hotels and we’re now in a strong position to take the brand abroad.

We believe JA Resorts & Hotels is a brand that will work in a number of markets and now we’ve re-aligned what we stand for, I’m sure our consistent feel to providing heartfelt hospitality will go a long way.

Jebel Ali has established itself as a leading hotel group in Dubai

BTN: What response have you had from your team since you first unveiled the new brand internally?

DT: At JA Resorts & Hotels we employ over 1500 people and it was therefore essential to dedicate time to launching the brand internally before we revealed it to our guests and partners.

I was completely overwhelmed at the positive reaction from our associates and whilst we had help developing the brand concept, it was our team internally who brought the brand to life.

BTN: Which new international markets / types of travellers are you hoping to appeal to with the re-brand?

DT: The new brand, JA Resorts & Hotels, works across a number of different markets, languages and nationalities.

Operating both 4 and 5 star properties, we are able to provide something for everyone, whether its couples, groups of friends or families.

Whilst we want to target new visitors in new markets, I hope that our return guests will notice the difference when they check into our hotels, as this isn’t only about the brand at a corporate level.

We’ve explored all the different touch points on the guest journey and identified what we already do well and the areas in which we can improve.

BTN: What do you envisage to be the main challenges in rolling this out?

DT: Going through a re-brand is a challenge and doing it whilst still running the current properties, makes it even tougher. We have however, had the help of Interbrand, who are one of the best branding agencies in the world.

They were able to take a look at our company and accurately identify what we stand for, our vision and values and turn that into our brand promise and new direction.

Going forward, things are slightly easier as we have re-aligned our brand standards, so what works in one property, will be repeated at all the others.

Given that people can find it hard to adjust to change, how will you reassure your loyal UAE guests that the heartfelt hospitality for which JA is renowned will remain in place?

DT: I hope our guests know us well enough to realise we are only making positive changes.

At Jebel Ali, it was always about providing the best levels of service and over exceeding expectations, yet we did this through different methods at different properties.

At JA Resorts & Hotels, we’ve taken the best aspects of service from all our properties so we now have a consistent approach to delivering genuine heartfelt hospitality.

The Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa was named Middle East’s Leading Family Resort and Middle East’s Leading Golf Resort by the World Travel Awards in 2012

BTN: Are there any other big developments on the horizon for JA Hotels & Resorts that you’d like to comment on?

DT: Our first property under the new brand, Ocean View Hotel. will open in Dubai Marina as the Emirates only 4* hotel on the beach at the start of 2013.

This family hotel offers 342 rooms, all of which have sea views as well as 6 restaurants and bars, gymnasium and a temperature controlled infinity pool. We’re hoping for a soft opening in the local market towards the end of the year, but will definitely be opening for our internationals guests on 1st January 2013.

We also plan to open our first Seychelles property in the first quarter of 2013. Enchanted Island Resort will be the group’s first international property outside of the UAE and the luxurious hideaway will only feature 10 spacious villas, which spaciously circle the perimeter of the 5 acre island.


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