Building the Icon of Luxury Jumeirah

Even if there is no such thing as a “seven-star” hotel, the Jumeirah Group—which owns the celebrated Burj al Arab and the three-resort city on the sea, Madinat Jumeirah—likes to think there is and likes to think it owns them all.

The Dubai-based hospitality company is one of the fastest growing companies in the world and for those luxury hotels it has not built yet, blink and Aladdin will make them so. For those luxury properties it does not own or manage yet, blink twice.

“Jumeirah has set an aggressive course, not just for Dubai or the Gulf region, but all over the world,” says Hans Heijliggers, area general manager for Jumeirah’s Dubai hotels.

Indeed, the company makes its wishes and lets them fly. While it currently owns 11 properties in the Gulf, in London and in New York—the aforementioned Burj al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and theJumeirah Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai; the Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London; and the Jumeirah Essex House in New York—it’s going for the gold. Sixty hotels are the goal and that more than five-fold increase in real estate is targeting a 2012 date for mission accomplished.

“We are well on target to achieve our objective of globalizing our luxury brand, and we expect to have 60 properties either in operation or under development by 2012,” says Gerald Lawless, executive chairman of the Jumeirah Group. “Our discerning guests first experienced the Jumeirah ‘Stay Different’ promise in Dubai, then in London and New York, and we look forward to soon welcoming them to our luxury hotels around the world.”

How to get from 11 to 60 in just a few short years? If in Dubai the mantra is buy, buy, buy, then that is just what the Jumeirah Group is trying to do with one of the foremost luxury brands around: Orient-Express Hotels, whose properties include the Hotel Ciprianiin Venice and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. Jumeirah bought a 9 percent stake in the company in October when it was rebuffed for friendly acquisition. The onboard purchase allows Jumeirah to keep its toes in the pie while blocking aggressive moves and threats by other entities such as that posed by Indian Hotels Company, a subsidiary of Tata Group, which owns Taj Hotels and has also declared its interest in the chain.

Meanwhile, over the next three years at least 37 five-star hotels are on schedule to be built in Dubai—eight of those properties to be run by Jumeirah. Of those eight, four properties will include serviced apartments under the Jumeirah Living brand, one of the many brands now sheltered under the steadfast Jumeirah umbrella. These include its global spa brand Talise Wellness; The Taste Department, the company’s dedicated restaurant division; Wild Wadi water theme park; The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management; and Jumeirah Retail, with its 15 stores and luxury online store.

On the home turf of the United Arab Emirates, the company seems to have access to a bottomless pocket of funds to finance the development of hotels for Jumeirah to own and to run. But in overseas markets, winning contracts for management has become increasingly competitive over the years. Still, according to published business reports on the company, developers are courting Jumeirah rather than the other way around.

“Developers now come to us, which is a nice compliment,” Guy Crawford, CEO of Jumeirah Group, told a regional reporter.

Among the management partnerships Jumeirah is spearheading around the world is a contract with Deka Immobilien, the German property company that wants Jumeirah to operate a five-star resort at Port Soller in Majorca, due to open in early 2010. Jumeirah also won the contract to operate the new Jumeirah Southlands Resort in Bermuda, the first luxury resort to be built on the island in 35 years. Other contracts include the super-luxe Jumeirah Phuket Private Island Resort in Thailand on the shores of Koh Raet; a new development in downtown Shanghai, the Jumeirah HanTang Xintiandi; and the Beetham Tower block in Southwark, near Blackfriars Bridge in London—an iconic, slender curved-glass landmark that will rise to 540 ft. and have a dramatic observation deck at the top—in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The group also signed contracts to manage the Jumeirah Bali Resort in Indonesia, the Jumeirah Maldives Resort in the South Male Atoll, the Jumeirah Al Salam Resort in Bahrain, the Jumeirah Al Salam Yiti Resort in Oman, and the Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotelin Kuwait, in addition to other recent announcements of hotels in Guangzhou, Glasgow, Macau and St. Thomas, USVI.