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Q& A GERALD LAWLESS,

Executive Chairman of the Jumeriah Group

Gerald Lawless has been with the Jumeriah Group since 1997 after a 23-year career with Forte Hotels. With Lawless at the helm the Duabi based group has in recent years seen an impressive expansion of their portfolio.

The group is, perhaps, best known for Dubai hotel Burj Al Arab which is often named as the world's most luxuorius hotel.   As well as their hotels and resorts, the Jumeriah Group also manages manages Jumeirah Living, a luxury brand of serviced residences, their spa brand Talise, Jumeirah Restaurants,   the Wild Wadi Waterpark, the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, and Jumeirah Retail, which runs 15 stores.
Clearly possessing the Irish charm that is so well suited to the luxury hotel industry, he shares his Expert Opinion with The Luxury Travel Bible.
What inspired you to get into the hotel industry in the first place?
Well I always say to young people who are joining the industry, and indeed my youngest son is about to start his second year at the School of Hotel Administration in Cornell, so I always say, it is such a fantastic industry. You meet like-minded people, you meet positive people, you're rarely lonely and you're always with other colleagues who are really dedicated to what they're doing. As well, I always perceive the hotel industry as so varied and so interesting because you meet people from all walks of life. It truly is a 'people-to-people' business. I knew I would love it!
 
At what age did you join the hotel industry?
I was 19, on the 12th December 1971.
 
What is the single best defining thing about Jumeirah hotels and resorts?
There are two defining things, one is the people and the other is certainly the actual hotels, the businesses that we have. They are mould breaking, ground breaking. They were amazing when they started; they re-defined tourism, not only into Dubai, but I think they have had an influence on tourism even on an international scale.

Gerald Lawless

What does the slogan 'Stay Different' mean?
'Stay Different' means a few things. It is not grammatically incorrect; we are not saying 'stay differently', we are saying: you are an individual, and we want you to stay that way. We will facilitate you being able to stay different by having hotels, where each hotel is different, each is unique. In addition, we really do encourage our architects and our designers to come up with properties so that each one is absolutely different. I think every hotel should have its own personality; it should have its own character and its own sense of place. It is very important to have this sense of place, where the hotel participates in the local community because it is a huge opportunity for businesses to reach out to the community and to be part of it. We do know that the type of guests who stay with us appreciate this approach to business, they don't want to stay in 'cookie cutter' hotels, and they want to see that every hotel does have its own character and has its own identity. As well, as luxury travel develops worldwide, both in the business sector and in the leisure sector, I think this aspect of our industry will become a lot more important. And Jumeirah is particularly well placed, having been, as far as I'm concerned, a pioneer in this area over the years.
 
And what is, in your opinion, the next big luxury travel trend?
I think it has already started in a way, and it is very linked in to IT, to people being extremely knowledgeable about where they're going to, before they go because they have the resources at their fingertips. But I also think that it's the need for high-end travellers to understand that they are actually doing 'good' by travelling. When they go to places around the world they stay in places they're actually not only helping the Profit and Loss account of that hotel, but they are actually contributing to society generally. And that is why people like to enrich their lives; when staying on holiday in a luxury hotel, or even when visiting on a business trip, they need to see that the hotel at which they are staying has a correct approach towards the local community, has a proper social responsibility programme one that it actually believes in and delivers for its employees and definitely for its guests as well.
jumeriah carlton tower
Jumeriah Carlton Tower
Jumeriah
Burj Al Arab
What is your personal 'litmus' test to define whether the hotel is worth the luxury hotel tag?
I think it comes through the people, because we all know what is 'luxury' in relation to the physical presentation of the property. At each of our hotels we do have a golden thread, the Jumeirah culture, and that culture is based on interaction and connection, and ultimate service to our guests through our colleagues who work for us.
 
What's your favourite city to visit?
I really enjoy cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai.
 
Where was your best dining experience?
I think very often the dining experiences that I have enjoyed most would probably be in places like Hong Kong, which has a really huge variety of dining choices.
 
What is your favourite airline for Business and First Class?
By far my favourite airline is Emirates Airlines. I think we owe so much to Emirates Airlines for what has been achieved within the tourism industry in Dubai. However, I also think the tourism industry worldwide has also benefited greatly from this pioneering approach of not being afraid to buy in a large number of A380s, whereas now a lot of people are queuing up to book the A380. Emirates are experiencing a very high occupancy level on this fantastic aircraft. I also think that, as a frequent flyer, the experience on Emirates is so consistent and of such high quality that to me they are far, far ahead of the other airlines. I was even greeted a few days ago, as I walked on to the plane, by the Captain Supervisor who greeted me in Gaelic (Irish as it is sometimes referred to), so that was quite something. They have incredible cabin crew and unbelievable equipment, the best entertainment systems on the aircraft and definitely their first class and business class on the A380 are not equalled by any other airline.
Jumeriah Hotels
Jumeirah Emirates Towers Presidential Suite
What three things do you never travel without?
When travelling on business the list would definitely include my Blackberry, itinerary booklet, and my bag with various technology gadgets.
 
What is the one travel experience you will never forget?
Wow, that's a difficult question! It must be our Dubai Holding expedition to Kilimanjaro led by Ahmed Bin Byat, the CEO of Dubai Holding. We did it in 2008, and it was truly an amazing experience.
 
What is the most important thing, travel wise, that money can buy?
A First Class suite on Emirates Airlines.
 
And what's the most important thing, travel wise, that money cannot buy?
Friendly service.
LAWLESS's Choices
Emirates Airlines www.emirates.com
Luxury Links: www.jumeirah.com
Posted 30/8/11
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