Just over a year ago Dubai-based hospitality firm JA Resorts & Hotels announced the appointment of Anthony Ross as its new chief executive.
Owned by the Dutco Group, the international hospitality company has over 30 years’ experience in managing and operating resorts and hotels across the Middle East and around the world.
As it continues its expansion, Breaking Travel News here chats with Ross about his ambitions for the company.
Breaking Travel News: You took over as chief executive at JA Resorts & Hotels last year. Can you tell us about your ambitions for the role and how you hope the company will develop under your leadership?
Anthony Ross: JA Resorts & Hotels is a hospitality company with a rich history and very well-respected shareholders.
The assets are unique, and the group has the potential to own the resort landscape in the Middle East and Indian Ocean from its flagship in Jebel Ali to more recent acquisitions in the Maldives and the Seychelles.
The idea of growing a niche owner operated brand from the dynamic business hub of Dubai was very enticing.
BTN: There have been concerns of late of the Dubai hospitality market reaching saturation point, particularly and the luxury end. What has your experience been of your home markets in recent months?
AR: The market is certainly full of choice and I know many hotels are struggling with owner expectations versus market decline and some very significant rate drops.
However, JA Resorts & Hotels is lucky to be in a great position as all of our properties are quite unique, even in this market.
Take for example JA Ocean View Hotel - its directly on Jumeirah Beach with every single room offering a full sea view, without obstruction.
JA Oasis Beach Tower, a favourite of GCC families, offers huge, luxury serviced apartments right in the heart of Jumeirah Beach.
JA Hatta Fort Hotel is a unique mountain escape with its own micro climate and we know Dubai residents think of it immediately when craving the outdoors.
Then we have JA The Resort - Dubai’s largest experience resort, with three unique hotels and over one million square metres of experiences, 22 restaurants and more than 40 activities from water sports to golf to tennis to shooting.
A family can stay at JA The Resort and everyone from the grandparents down to the baby will have a great time.
We’ve also maintained our strong position because of our 38-year history and experience in the market, which our repeat guests coming to us year after year seem to really value.
BTN: How big a role do you expect Expo 2020 to play in the development of the tourism sector in Dubai in the next two years?
AR: Expo 2020 is a tourism milestone to strive towards, it will be a moment in time when Dubai will dominate the world stage and all eyes will be on us.
The theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ is bound to create a huge buzz and we already know Uber has signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads & Transport Authority to test flying cars at the Expo for example.
All of this will create a huge surge in interest in Dubai as the most forward-thinking city in the world and will bolster the tourism sector.
JA Ocean View Hotel is 15 minutes from the Expo site and JA Oasis Beach Tower and JA The Resort are just 20 minutes away, so we are excited to be a real part of the experience, especially since more than 80 per cent of the site is planned to be reused or repurposed in the legacy phase and is expected to be home to about one million residents and 500,000 jobs.
BTN: JA Resorts & Hotels has been traditionally strong in its home base in the United Arab Emirates, having only recently begun its global expansion. Will your experience, having managed independent hotels in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Australia, while also spending several years with Swire Hotels, help the company go truly global?
AR: Well this remains to be seen, but I would like to think yes.
We have recently signed a joint venture, with a company based in the US to develop three luxury lodges in an Indian Ocean location and are deep in discussions to manage a portfolio of three- and four-star hotels in Asia.
The future is certainly exciting, and it is not lost on the JA management team that many of the well-known hotel companies built on a small portfolio of owned assets to become globally successful.
The secret is in understanding and refining our value proposition and developing a niche which we can own, a niche that separates us from the giant commoditised hotel brands.
Our intent is creating resorts and hotels which thrill all generations and our Jebel Ali resort is the template.
BTN: JA Resorts & Hotels has recently joined the Global Hotel Alliance. What benefits will that bring?
AR: We recognise that these days loyalty and rewards matter more than ever to customers, particularly in the younger generations.
Travellers of the future want instant gratification and expect to be rewarded for supporting a brand.
The Global Hotel Alliance allows us to be part of a loyalty scheme with 33 hotel brands and 550 hotels in 77 countries.
It allows us to offer rewards, while still retaining our much-loved individuality and legacy, without a ‘mass market’ approach.
BTN: Can you bring us up to date with the development pipeline at JA Resorts & Hotels. Where can we expect to see the brand next?
AR: You can expect to see significant growth for the JA brand.
We will begin with the September 2019 opening of Lake View Hotel at JA The Resort in Jebel Ali.
This will bring our room count to 791 keys, making it Dubai’s largest experience resort.
We will also have announcements regarding new Indian Ocean properties and potentially other global locations coming soon.
In addition, we have looked at refreshing the brand image and have just launched a new website that is much more modern and user friendly.
BTN: JA Resorts & Hotels was recognised with several top titles at the World Travel Awards during 2018. How important are accolades such as these in the development of the brand?
AR: Yes, we were delighted to receive five awards for our Maldives, Seychelles and Dubai properties.
These accolades are a much-appreciated acknowledgement of our success, however not a measure of it.
Our focus is guest satisfaction, and this is how we assess our performance from a reputation perspective.
That being said, we are thoroughly grateful to be recognised and have the opportunity to be exposed to new audiences globally.
Going forward, we will be considering awards for our new exciting food and beverage concepts, in addition to recognition for some of our outstanding team members.
Find out more about JA Resorts & Hotels on the official website.