RING LEADERS

Azerbaijan 2015 | SPORTS & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Christophe Mousset, General Manager of Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel, on events the hotel has hosted and how to deal with the mounting demand.

Christophe Mousset
BIOGRAPHY
Christophe Mousset, a French national, has an impressive career in the luxury hotel industry with over 20 years’ experience in Europe, the Middle East, West Africa, Central America, and Asia. During his career, he has driven hotel operations across luxury hotels brands such as The Savoy, Le Meridien, Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, and Jumeirah. He joined Jumeirah over 10 years ago at the group flagship properties Jumeirah Emirates Towers and Jumeirah Zabeel Zaray in Dubai, and is delighted to be leading the iconic Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel, Baku.

What have been some of the most significant events that Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel has hosted this year?

We are proud of the fact that the hotel has now been open and operating for three successful years. Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel has established a positive reputation in the market both because of the strength of the Jumeirah brand, the appeal of the hotel's location, and the relationship we have with a number of business partners, including the Exhibition Center. For example, we worked with the organisers of the Azerbaijan Defence Exhibition (ADEX) to host top exhibitors and high-ranking military officials both regional and international. We also host the welcome gala reception of the Caspian Oil and Gas Conference every year and are the key sponsor for the Baku Polo World Cup. Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel is popular for weddings and social events, often involving local celebrities and high-ranking officials. Notably, the First Lady of Azerbaijan celebrated her 50th birthday here in combination with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation charity event. We also hosted the recently elected Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani and his entourage in our uniquely appointed 17th Floor Presidential Suites. Due to our proximity to the airport and to the Presidential Palace, we are a preferred destination for hosting state visits. Overall, 2014 was a great year for us, especially given the number of repeat guests; in fact, well above 75% of our visitors in the summer season, which is encouraging as return business is a key indicator of success in the luxury hospitality sector.

What are some of the unique services that the hotel has been preparing for the first European Games in 2015?

The Jumeirah brand “Stay Different" is the promise that we are imaginative in our product and destination. It says that we are thoughtful and generous, and it says that we are culturally connected. Our approach to the European Games reflects this promise. We are proud to be involved and plan to create a strong sports theme throughout the resort, and our unique sport, leisure, and outdoor facilities will make us a preferred destination for all to patronize. We are one of the European Games' partner hotels, and we are working closely with the executive committee—BEGOC—to make sure it is a monumental success both for the hotel as the only city resort and the reputation of Baku as a luxury destination. We look forward to welcoming many guests as a result of the European Games as well as delegates from key ministries and other officials from the European Community.

How do you ensure that your personnel live up to the reputation of the Jumeirah Group?

Our focus is fully on ensuring the most memorable guest experience. To achieve this, we invest in training our employees to ensure they are equipped to deliver the quality of experience our guests expect. Every colleague has an Individual Development Plan, from the most junior stewards to top executives. The same goes for colleagues across the whole Jumeirah footprint, which includes 22 hotels and resorts across the world. Personally, I am a living example of Jumeirah's commitment to developing talent within, having joined the company over 10 years ago and subsequently promoted to senior executive roles in three of our flagship properties.

Services are also available for external guests. What is the demand right now from external guests?

A successful resort has to be built on the local community. Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel is a summer destination and people come here to relax and enjoy the clean environment, which consists of six acres of landscaped gardens, as well as a 550m private beach. In the summer, we welcome many non-hotel guests. The water park is a particular draw for families, and we have long-stay guests that come here for 30, 60, or 90 days. We are seeing an increase in business from outside Baku and Azerbaijan, especially from Russia and CIS countries. We have also noticed a considerable increase in online bookings from the US, UK and Europe, as well as Asia.