INTERVIEW: General manager, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Bill Keffer

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

General manager, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Bill Keffer brings TTG up to speed with the high-end hotel’s news and updates, plans for next year and the latest luxury travel trends.

TTG: How was the year for JW Marriott Marquis Dubai in terms of news and developments and what do you have planned for the rest of 2018?

2017 was another very strong year for the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. We received seven international industry and media awards, exceeding our 60-strong record since opening in 2013. Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar, an Indian restaurant headed by a Michelin-starred chef, and Prime68, a unique steakhouse focused on heritage beef and mixology, both swept the board across a number of restaurant awards. Our 17-room Saray Spa also garnered a World Luxury Spa Award for Best Male Spa globally.

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As the only hotel in the UAE capable of hosting groups of 1,000 delegates or more to meet, eat and sleep; we are also gaining official recognition globally for our 8,000m2 meetings, incentive, conference and events space.

We are now just a few months away from our fifth birthday and in the past five years we’ve enjoyed remarkable success. Operating the largest hotel in the UAE in terms of rooms and maintaining impressive occupancies is a testament to our team. Even as times get more challenging, we retain a unique proposition in an ever-changing market.

The new Dubai Water Canal has made our location even more attractive and Dubai continues to be a must-visit destination for travellers.

Looking forward, we will be opening some stunning canal side terraces, which will be a major attraction for guests. With the support of DTCM and our owners, we will continue to succeed and will always strive to exceed expectations.

TTG: What trends are currently shaping and influencing the luxury travel and tourism sector in the GCC? What do you think is driving these trends and how are you responding?

Sustainability is a big driver for us and research shows it’s also very important to millennial travellers. We are proud to lead the way in environmental excellence in hospitality, participating in the UAE Food Bank scheme and donating 40,000 meals this year, achieving remarkable recycling figures for a hotel so large and gaining the ISO 14001 Certification for outstanding environmental practices.

The digitalisation of travel is more than a trend, it’s the future, and we were quick to implement time-saving and intuitive technology such as online check-in, whereby you can check in to our property as your plane lands in Dubai. We also have installed a meeting app called JW Concierge, where meeting organisers don’t even need to leave the room or make a phone call to order more coffee or adjust the room temperature; it’s all arranged through a touch of button.

We are seeing a huge increase in Chinese and Indian travellers as a result of new visa processes and growing economies. These travellers are shaping the luxury travel and tourism sector and we are responding by ensuring we have what these travellers are looking for, including hotel associates speaking their own language, great value food and beverage, complimentary transport to the world’s largest mall and competitive room rates.

TTG: Finally, with experiential travel still a key trend for luxury tourism this year, what do you think the future buzzwords will be for luxury travel in the GCC?

We feel that travellers are looking for authenticity, attention to detail and emotional connectivity to be part of their experience, and that these will be the buzzwords of the future. These cornerstones of modern luxury travel fit very well with the JW Marriott brand pillars, whereby we commit that our service should be ‘Intuitive, Authentic and Crafted’.

Guests are looking for their experiences to be immersive and real, the appearance of luxury is no longer enough. We are responding to this by the personalisation of guest stays – we learn as much as we can about our guests and tailor their experience to their personal tastes wherever possible. This attention to detail keeps guests loyal to our property. We also tell stories about our restaurants and chefs through our in-house magazine and other collateral, so that guests feel connected to the people behind our concepts. In terms of authenticity, we ensure that guests have authentic experiences at every touch point. In our Indian restaurant, Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar, we have a speciality menu dedicated to the much-loved street food of India, and another dedicated to ancient culinary secrets – The Lost Recipes of India. Our guests enjoy the authentic stories behind the creation of our concepts and the effort we impart in making these experiences as immersive and authentic as possible. From completely customised spa treatments, to desserts prepared right at your table, to authentic interactions with confident and knowledgeable associates – we recognise that luxury travellers crave this experiential aspect as it helps them build memories and true connection.