Industry visionary Gerald Lawless believes the region is on the brink of exciting times as he looks ahead to The Hotel Show Dubai 2018
Former President and CEO of the Jumeirah Group and immediate-past chair of the World Travel and Trade Council Gerald Lawless has previewed The Hotel Show Dubai. Due to take place in September, by affirming that he believes the Middle East tourist offering is on the brink of truly exciting times.
Often cited as one of the visionaries, under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who helped make Dubai the tourist showpiece it is today, Lawless has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to hotels and constantly improving guest experience, taking the reins of the Jumeirah Group in 1997 before the brand had even launched a property.
In less than three years, the group was up and running, with the iconic Burj Al Arab, the jewel in its crown. The hotel, which is the world’s first 7-star property, captured the imagination of tourists across the globe and stamped the UAE’s passport as a truly global destination, invariably kick-starting two decades of visitor-driven expansion across the country that transformed the region entirely and solidified tourism’s role as a long-term revenue alternative away from oil.
However, more than 20 years and unrivalled growth later, Lawless believes the Middle East is once again on the cusp of redefining tourism.
Speaking ahead of this year’s Hotel Show Dubai, taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre between 16-18 September, the Irishman insisted that anything is possible in the region, now that tourism has proven its worth.
“I think we’re on the brink of truly exciting, but also challenging times, he says.
“The argument has been won and everyone accepts and understands that travel and tourism is a great benefit to the economy and society. To see what is happening, not just here in the UAE with the likes of the development in Ras Al Khaimah, but with what is happening in Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince being truly committed to developing the country as a tourism destination not just for religious tourism but also to show what the country has to offer, is just fantastic.
“When you look around the Middle East and hone in particularly on the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is the example of a location that really developed its product and itself as a tourist destination. I think Dubai very much stands out as a leader in terms of what has occurred in this region.
“It is great to see the understanding that has developed in this part of the world of the importance of tourism and the benefit of travel to the global economy and society. What has been achieved here is nothing short of phenomenal. At this moment in time, I am very excited and believe we truly are at the beginning of a great era for tourism in the Gulf countries and the Middle East generally.”
A graduate of Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, Lawless stepped down from Jumeirah, with the globally-renowned brand now operating 23 hotels across 12 worldwide destinations and owning in excess of 100 restaurants.
Asked where the region can now go having firmly established itself as a key player in global tourism, Lawless says: “We need to ensure that what we’re doing is done in a sustainable way. Sustainability covers the environment, for sure, but it also covers the social aspects of what travel and tourism can do to a destination. For us in this part of the world, we have to understand, appreciate, and respect the culture of the region. We have to understand the people who live here and what their aspirations are for the future of their country and how the country can develop with travel and tourism.
“It’s not just numbers. It’s the sustainability of those numbers. It’s the sustainability of the whole travel experience for people who are staying here. There are many, many different levels of a market, but I think the sustainability issue is one that we have to think about and we have to be very considerate about it.
“When I first came here in 1978, there was only Dubai Creek, that was it. It was the buildings around the creek that were the major areas. And I still love when guests come for a visit, we have our little tour around Dubai which starts with a visit to Bur Dubai, the Al Fahidi Fort and the museum down through the textile souk, hop on an Abra, go across to the spice souk, walk through the gold souk, and see all the boats pass by. This is the magic of Dubai.
“A place like Dubai must never lose that sense of heritage, culture, and the sense of sustainability to continue with that.”
The Hotel Show Dubai will gather 30,000 industry professionals to the biggest networking and product sourcing event of its kind in the Middle East.
The three-day event will feature more than 600 exhibitors, a packed general manager’s leadership conference, and a host of live features.
“The Hotel Show is one of the major events for any hotelier,” Lawless adds.
“It’s is also for suppliers or anyone with any interest in the business. The Hotel Show is such a great forum that brings everyone in the industry together, and is important for all aspects of hotels. It also has the general manager’s forum, which gives the region’s GMs a chance to get exposure in the market.
“The Hotel Show is a true coming together of the industry and one that is eagerly looked forward to by everyone in the business.”
To register to attend for free, visit www.thehotelshow.com