Jumeirah conquers Europe and looks at Asia – an exclusive interview with RVP Derek Picot

With a career spanning over a decade at Jumeirah Group, Derek Picot, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Jumeirah Carlton Tower has been instrumental to Jumeirah’s expansion in the old continental. Picot is today responsible for the two London properties, Frankfurt, Rome, Istanbul and Mallorca properties of Jumeirah in Europe, with a recently confirme project for St Petersburg, Russia. We sat with Derek Picot for a comprehensive, exclusive interview.

How has the London luxury hospitality market performed in 2013 and what are your expectations for 2014? Do you foresee any challenges?

The London market has been reasonably buoyant after a slow start to the year that was a ‘hangover’ from the exceptional demand that occurred around the Olympic period in 2012. Several new openings have increased the size of the market, but generally our competitors and ourselves have seen good growth through the year and we expect to meet our targets.

Which is the comp set of your two London hotels? Which are your competitive advantages?

The two hotel properties have differing sets of competitors. The Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel keeps a focus on hotels of a similar size and scope. In the neighbourhood we compete with the Belgraves hotel and the Cadogan. The Jumeirah Carlton Tower competes with the other larger luxury hotels in Knightsbridge. The main three competitive advantages we have are location, the scale and scope of our facilities and our significant service advantage typified by our ‘Stay Different’ philosophy. We are closely culturally connected to our neighbourhood, guests enjoy thoughtful and generous service – and we try to make each of their hospitality experiences in some way exhilarating.

Unlike some of your properties worldwide, Jumeirah both owns and manages the two London properties. Which are the advantages?

Jumeirah only manages the London properties on behalf of a Trust, the company owns some of its properties in Dubai under a separate structure.

Which have been your predominant target nationalities for your two London hotels?

We try to maintain a balance in our source market mix. Our top three markets are the Middle East, the Americas and the UK with strong business coming in from the rest of Europe. We are also seeing encouraging demand from emerging markets such as Russia and China.

5. Last year, you launched Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living – a long term third party agreement. How was the concept received in London? Do you plan to expand internationally?

Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living is an exceptional and unique product that has been extremely well received by the top end of the market and has been very successful with a focus on spacious accommodation and exceptional service. The cutting edge design combined with full facilities in each apartment especially suits the longer stay requirements of families and the corporate market. The concept is not one that would suit every market and location but we operate similar businesses in the Middle East. We are delighted that it has been so well received in London.

How important is your patronage of local guests? (Spa, F&B etc)

Local guests are absolutely central to not only our restaurants and bars, but also to our spa and fitness facilities. They are part of the life and soul of our London hotels. The Rib Room at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower is a particular success and has a late night scene that finishes well after midnight. They add character and culture to the neighbourhood. The attraction of these businesses has a great local appeal, for example, membership of The Peak Health Club is heavily supported by residents living within a 2 mile radius of the hotels.

Your product has been constantly evolving with the renovations and refurbishments. Do you have any short / mid-term plans to update any of your facilities and services (i.e. introducing iPad centralized room control etc.

We constantly review the latest trends in service, design and technology. Retrofitting is never as easy as equipping a new build hotel. Fortunately the improvement in wireless communications has made some of the latest technology much easier to install and we are able to be very responsive to new trends. In particular we are very keen to ensure that super-fast Broadband is available throughout the building as well as good mobile phone signals. Ipads are now commonplace – and proving very popular with guests for room service ordering as well as opening up the portfolio of services in a more appealing format.

For the hotels you supervise in Europe, as a Regional Vice President, which have been the best performing in 2013? Why?

All our new hotels have seen impressive growth as they complete year two of operations. Jumeirah Grand Hotel Via Veneto inRome has enjoyed the largest year-on-year volume growth; Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa in Mallorca has significantly improved its shoulder period business and won numerous awards; and Frankfurt has enjoyed great success especially with the corporate banking segment, emerging as number one in its competitive set. The largest growth in market share against its competitive set has been the Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living.

With the recently secured financing, which will be the key target markets for Jumeirah’ s expansion?

The next phase of the company’s expansion is eastwards, with eight new hotels under development in Asia, including five in China and one each in Bali. Thailand and India. In addition, several projects are progressing in the Middle East, with a new 430-room luxury hotel being added to the Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort in Dubai. And in Europe we have just announced our new property in St Petersburg that is expected to open within three years.