The Luxe Vibe
As VP, global sales for Jumeirah Groupâ€™s Middle East and APAC region, Linda Lewis has her pulse firmly on the needs of luxury travellers. As the hotel chain tries to establish its presence in India, she discusses what guests can expect from this luxe brand
By Vinita Bhatia
While expanding its operations outside the Middle East, why did the Jumeirah Group choose to India instead of regions like Europe?
We are constantly on the lookout for newer and emerging markets and we have witnessed that the luxury segment travelling out of India is very good. The understanding of luxury brands here is high, so, we decided it was a great opportunity and perfect time for us to develop this market.
Also, geographically, this region is a to us; by flight, UAE is just three hours away and it has good air connectivity. Hence, we saw this as an opportunity for our hotels.
In 2012, you entered into an alliance to set up a 470-room property in India. Five years later, the property has still not opened. When can we expect it to open?
We are still in the development phases for that particular property. Since it is still in the developing stages, I am unable to give an opening date for it. As a hotel operator, we continue, though, to look at opportunities that would be a suitable fit for the Jumeirah brand in India. But we ensure that it fits with the brand and is at a suitable location.
The property you were planning was in Mumbai, wasnâ€™t it?
Yes, there was a property in Mumbai and I would say that it is still being developed, though I donâ€™t have any details on that. However, we would look at other key cities. I canâ€™t comment on the exact cities but we are looking at opportunities within the market.
How are you planning to tap these prospects in the country?
At the beginning of 2017, we started our relationship with Blue Square and since then we have developed the team to focus upon India. That is a starting point. Also, we organised our first Indian road show in Mumbai and Delhi. That is our initial entry into the marketplace, where we are predominantly focused on primary cities.
What is the nature of your engagement with Blue Square?
They are assisting us with sales, marketing and PR for this market. Our directors of sales and marketing works along with Nadia Beaulieu, director of global sales, and MEASA who heads the Indian market, work closely with them. August Simon, who is our global account lead, is in touch with Blue Square on a daily basis. The agency provides with information about the best cities in the cities to navigate so that we can tap this emerging market.
What are some challenges of doing business in India?
Since we are new to the market, we are opening as many distribution channels to ensure that our products are available to the consumer â€“ whether they choose to book through travel agent or our own websites. We are also keen on working with luxury companies who would fit with the Jumeirah brand, and this is where Blue Square is assisting us to connect with the right partners.
How do you aim you create a brand recall amongst Indian customers?
I canâ€™t comment about the hotels in India because we donâ€™t have any currently. But Jumeirah is known for its iconic buildings, and a good instance is Burj Al Arab, which is known globally for its design and exceptional service. This is what we offer, regardless of where we go globally.
Luxury is perceived different by different guests. Millennials, for instance, seek indulgent experientals rather than genteel experience. How will your brand meet these expectations?
Our hotels cater to everyone. For instance, Jumeirah Beach Hotel is a 20-year old property where guests who had stayed with their parents are now returning with their families. Through differentiated experiences and services, we are able to offer a tailored stay to our travellers.
This is also because of the cities where we operate in. For e.g. Dubai is a dynamic city with numerous entertainment options that can engage all types of customers.
What about creating resorts in unexplored regions, rather than multi-cultural mega-cities like Dubai, since millennials are keen to visit places that are slightly off-the-map?
As a brand we have opened in cities of excitement and aspiration, be it in Dubai, London, or Mallorca. I am from London myself, but I could still visit it today and find some street that I have not seen before. So, if you walk into our hotel, you will find people of all ages visiting it.
At the same time, we are opening a hotel in Bali, because you can explore so much on that island â€“ you have the beach and the rain forest. So, we are steadily working to ensure that we offer exhilarating experiences to everyone who stays at Jumeirah hotel.
What is the nature of your recent partnership with MakeMyTrip?
We just signed a booking connectivity agreement with MakeMyTrip, which allows us to have a direct connection between our system and theirs. We are in the testing phase now and we hope to go live on to that portal with the access into our system by early 2018. After that, MakeMyTrip Indian travellers can book inventory directly into the system in real time and check availability of rooms.