CONSISTENCY IS KING

Abu Dhabi 2019 | CULTURE & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Stefan Fuchs, General Manager of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, on the personalized hospitality and product quality that set it apart, providing something for every income bracket, and working to boost demand.

Stefan Fuchs
BIOGRAPHY
Stefan Fuchs started his career in the F&B industry and worked for several different companies in Germany. He developed a strong interest in the hospitality business and completed his MBA degree in hotel management. His first steps in the hospitality business were with Ritz-Carlton Doha, followed by the opening of the company’s hotels in Russia, Japan, China, and Bahrain. He joined Jumeirah for the first time in 2006 as Director of Food and Beverage at Madinat Jumeirah before he took the position of Executive Assistant Manager at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi in 2009. Since 2010, he has been part of the team in Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, having experienced the preparations and opening of the hotel as Hotel Manager and subsequently assuming the role of General Manager.

How does Jumeirah place itself within the competitive Abu Dhabi hospitality sector, and what factors will drive demand moving forward?

Jumeirah is a homegrown luxury lifestyle brand in the UAE, and Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is its iconic Abu Dhabi destination, not only for its architecture but also as a culinary destination with 12 restaurants and bars and 174 chefs, many of whom have won awards. For four consecutive years we have been rated number one on TripAdvisor. Our facility not only hosts tourists, but also members of the UAE government, the finance and defense sectors, and delegations from abroad. Competition is not a threat to us. Tourism is also growing, especially in the MICE sector, with more exhibitions coming into the city, such as the International Defense Exhibition-IDEX in 2019, medical conferences and, last but not least, grand weddings. The personalized hospitality and product quality make our hotel a preferred choice for guests. With the recently introduced stimulus package, we are confident that the economy will pick up again. Hence, there is a need to educate and train the next generation of Emiratis to eventually take over the hospitality business, hiring them from academies and letting them gain experience in the industry.

What necessary steps should Abu Dhabi take to maintain a competitive edge and differentiate itself in the region?

The UAE is not just about its cities; there are UNESCO World Heritage sites and natural landscapes and various things to see and do outside of urban areas, especially in the western region, including 200 islands. Abu Dhabi is not only a six-hour flight from Europe with nice hotels and beaches, but also a peninsula with beautiful sea and island views. We have created attractive offers that are unique in the region. Abu Dhabi is also known as one of the safest cities; the highest level of security is provided for larger events. No matter what one's budget is, there is always a bracket to accommodate one. During Formula One, for example, one can be a part of the VIP crowd or enjoy the race and after-party with the racing team. Abu Dhabi Hill, one of Yas Marina Circuit's iconic landmarks with open grass seating, offers spectators the best views in motorsport without compromising safety.

Given the historical high-profile target segment, what direction should the Abu Dhabi tourism industry take to overcome its recent challenges?

Abu Dhabi is not necessarily geared specifically toward the rich; there is a great mixture of everything. With our push toward cultural activities, a certain class of guests does respond. However, Yas Island focuses more on families, and some of the other attractions here are perfectly suitable for guests of all types. Etihad Airways, which carries 20 million passengers per year, also gives us an advantage: Abu Dhabi is a great stopover that offers thrills and relaxation. There is a great opportunity in the stopover business. Other destinations have done this successfully, and Abu Dhabi has that potential as well. The average rates are going down in the industry, and at the moment, supply outpaces demand. However, numbers are growing, not as fast as we want them too, though it is just a matter of time. Once construction of buildings and infrastructure is over, demand will catch up, provided the geopolitical situation is stable. At the same time, hotel capacity needs to be matched by airlift, though Etihad has been redesigning its routes. The fact that there is growth in our destination is a great success. What we now need to provide is consistency.

How can the government enhance the industry from an economic and regulatory perspective?

Now that the tourism authorities are working together, we see an interest in visiting “the Emirates" instead of just one city in the UAE. However, the government has to work to attract big organizations and to host exhibitions and conferences on a citywide scale.