Every once in a while I sense a shift in the hotel industry force. Right now, I feel it coming out of Dubai, where Jose Silva, a 27-year star with Four Seasons, is taking firm control of Dubai Holding’s Jumeirah hotel business, operating with new-found freedom and a vision which includes developing distinct leadership teams in Product, Brand, Culinary and Rooms. Breaking the mold always captures my attention.
His latest hire, Chief Culinary Officer Michael Ellis, comes from the Michelin Guide, where he made the guides more accessible and global. He and Silva are incredibly passionate about food and want to make it a focal point of Jumeirah hotels going forward, and we are not always talking fine dining. As Ellis says, sometimes it’s about “making simple products sublime.” They do want to make their restaurants more of a destinations that spark emotions, but not necessarily too complex.
They use terms like “social dining,” while I like to return to the key adjective “accessible,” which creates a level of comfort that has become more a requirement than nice-to-have amenity for next-gen luxury travelers. The duo is bent on being creative in the kitchen and innovative in all they offer. Hotels with greater emphasis on F&B feels right on.
Development is also being kick-started by Silva and his team. Jumeirah has already launched a lifestyle brand in Zabeel House and with its owners’ deep coffers reportedly plan to double the overall portfolio from the 18 it had at the start of 2018, focusing on Europe, North America and Asia. Six new hotels are in the works in China alone. At the other end of the spectrum, Silva also plans to introduce an ultra-luxury brand that has its roots with the company’s flagship Burj al Arab in Dubai.
HOTELS recently spoke to Ellis and Silva and walked away feeling like we might be witnessing the start of a super team to unlock the potential of the hotel organization. Silva has recruited a number of new GMs to improve standards across the portfolio, and with his new tact might become the darling of the development community, especially as it is willing to put more equity into opportunities. Watch this space.