As Jumeirah prepares to open a new property in Nanjing, Graham Kiy, Regional Vice President, Greater China, sheds light on the Dubai hotel group’s winning formula of teaming the spirit of the emirate with local culture and aesthetics
Jumeirah Nanjing, opens in 2017. What is unique and exciting about this newest property?
It is Jumeirah Group’s first property in China since we opened Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel in Shanghai in 2011. The Zara Hadid-designed hotel will include 250 rooms, 32 suites and a range of facilities including a Talise Spa and an indoor swimming pool. The hotel will set a new benchmark for the luxury hotel experience in East China.
In what ways does Jumeirah bring the spirit of Dubai to China?
Jumeirah is a brand made in Dubai and the spirit of the emirate is entwined in the spirit of the company. The Jumeirah portfolio is unmistakable but while each of our hotels exhibits the spirit of Dubai, they also represent the culture of the city in which they are located, ensuring guests in each hotel experience Arabian hospitality and the culture of that city.
The modern innovative stylish design of Jumeirah Nanjing is emblematic of the Dubai city spirit. Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, the hotel will be a place to connect to the region’s cultural heritage and international style.
Now travellers can also experience the spirit of Dubai through Jumeirah Inside - a virtual journey comprising 360° video and photography 3D sound, interactive hotspots and voiceovers.
Developed in partnership with Google, Jumeirah Inside is a hotel industry first and offers a fully immersive digital travel platform, which is accessible via Jumeirah.com.
Guests can take a journey through the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and experience the world's most luxurious hotel, exploring the vibrant colours and water features in the atrium before taking a leisurely stroll through the magnificent Royal Suite, soaring over the 180 metre high atrium and exploring Dubai from the exclusive helipad. From the helipad, guests can continue their virtual journey and explore Jumeirah' hotels and resorts around the world.
Jumeirah inside is optimised for mobile and tablet users, and offers the opportunity to make hotel reservations at any point. The experience is available in English, Arabic, German, Russian and Mandarin. The Chinese-language version of the website will be ready at the end of November, while the app will be downloadable from mid-December.
At Jumeirah, we like to think of ourselves as gateways to local culture and guests will always discover aspects of the region brought to life within the hotel and in its nearby surroundings
Jumeirah is celebrated for tailoring its offering in terms of service and aesthetics, depending on the host market. How is that manifested in its Chinese properties? And how important has it been in the brand’s success in China?
The Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel is constructed in the form of a Cong, an ancient Chinese ritual object formed from an outer square representing earth, and inner circle representing heaven. The cylindrical atrium stretches 14 levels through the centre of the tower. Encircling the entire lobby is a 1000 character Chinese poem in the calligraphy of ancient Chinese scholar Huai Su. The text contains lessons on living honourably that are still studied today across China, Japan and Korea.
But it’s not just the aesthetics – across all of our hotels, we pride ourselves on creating guest experiences that give insight into the local culture of the destination. At Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel we offer a Lobby Art Tour to all guests – an iPod-led tour that guides them through the artworks on display and explains the Feng Shui elements of the hotel On Mondays to Fridays, guests may also enjoy the Sunset Incense Ceremony in the Lobby Lounge.
Such attention to detail is at the core of the Jumeirah brand and we know that the cultural experiences we offer is one of the primary reasons that Chinese travellers choose to stay in our hotels around the world.
Jumeirah has several Chinese properties in the pipeline. Which you are most excited about?
All our new properties are exciting and special in their own way - from a Norman Foster designed city hotel in Wuhan to a rural retreat in Thousand Island Lakes.
Jumeirah Group has plans underway for eight properties in China, each catering for a different market. For example, Jumeirah Haikou Resort is set within an exclusive golf community in Hainan, the only tropical island resort destination in the country; and Jumeirah Guangzhou Hotel is set in a prime location in the centre of New Pearl City Tianhe District, East Guangzhou.
During Dubai Week in China, Jumeirah will be involved in a discussion around the importance of cross-cultural understanding in unlocking economic growth. How important has a focus on cross-cultural understanding been to Jumeirah Group’s success?
Jumeirah Beach Hotel – our first property – is 20 years old next year and in that time Dubai has changed dramatically. The city’s growth from pearl diving and fishing village to global metropolis was founded upon the notion of welcoming new cultures. Tourists from all countries feel welcome in Dubai and we feel proud to have been part of creating such a welcome. Chinese guests can research and make their booking on the Mandarin version of Jumeirah.com, and on arrival will discover Chinese speaking staff, brochures printed in Mandarin and Asian cuisines in our restaurants.
At Jumeirah, we like to think of ourselves as gateways to local culture and guests will always discover aspects of the region brought to life within the hotel and in its nearby surroundings, from fine tapestries and artworks to historical items such as Hemingway’s desk at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul; cycling and book tours from Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London; and the abras on the canals in Madinat Jumeirah.
You have three decades of experience working in South East Asia and Greater China. How would you describe the Chinese consumer’s hospitality requirements today compared to, say, a decade ago?
The number of Chinese “high net worth individuals” is increasing and very different compared to 10 years ago. Chinese travellers are willing to try new experiences discover local destinations. The Chinese Luxury Traveler 2015 report surveyed Chinese travelers who spent US$30,000 or more on travel over the past year and found that their preferences are distinct from China’s mass travel market.
One of the main observations was the rapid increase in overseas travel. On average, they travelled overseas four times last year, totaling 33 days, and business travel made up 13 days. The total number of outbound trips in 2014 increased 17.8 per cent year on year, to 116 million, according to the China Tourism Academy.
Leisure and global travel will remain as the themes for Chinese super travellers. Europe was the top destination on the chart, with America closely behind. Experimental travel, such as business travel will continue to increase for Chinese super travellers.