Fairmont Ajman general manager Francis Desjardins explains to Hotel News Middle East how the emirate is on the cusp of great things.
It’s obvious that Fairmont Ajman general manager Francis Desjardins (pictured right) isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is. Keen doesn’t even begin to describe his belief that big things are just around the corner for Ajman, calling it the “new staycation away from Dubai and Abu Dhabi”.
“You will be hearing more about Ajman in the months to come,” says a confident Desjardins.
“People have it in their heads that we are so far away from Dubai, but we are only 30 minutes from the airport, we are actually the same distance as Palm Jumeirah.”
In the past, Desjardin says, people have always thought of going to Fujairah or Ras Al Khaimah but Ajman’s time has come thanks to its unique offerings, from fish markets to camel farms.
Hotels in the Middle East need to make sure they don’t make cuts in the wrong places, as they adjust to the challenges of the global economy right now.
This is the message from Desjardins who explains why cutting back is not necessarily the right way to do business in a tough climate.
“I would rather spend ten times longer on how I can generate more revenue to compensate for a lack of profitability,” he says.
“If you keep being innovative or creative then you have different concepts to generate more revenue to get over a bump in the road.”
Like many other hotels, Desjardins says Fairmont Ajman, with 252 guestrooms and suites, has had to re-adjust rates, but he is proud of the fact that it hasn’t resulted in a reduction in the quality of service provided.
He describes himself as “not the sort of guy who comes in each day and cuts and cuts” saying that he would rather put the focus on using creativity to find a positive solution.
“A lot of hoteliers are cutting on expenses everywhere, and damaging their brands and services because of going too far. It has to be done in some ways but you have to be smart about it and careful how you impact the customer satisfaction and brand reputation,” he says.
Desjardins’ optimism is not simply a case of wishful thinking, he points to recent trends in the markets to back up his view, saying that despite talk of “Dubai not being what it used to be” the fact that occupancy rates are so high is indicative of a robust market.
He is even more upbeat when discussing the performance of his own hotel in Ajman, which is owned by HH Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifa AI Nahyan
“It’s been an extremely good year, on 1 May we just celebrated our second year anniversary,” he says.
“We have a strong team in place to get the desired results for 2017, not only is the hotel in its peak performing year but the destination is growing rapidly.”
He puts his hotel’s “double digit growth”, down to a number of factors – not least the location.
“Ajman is continuing to grow as a destination and we are seeing great strides thanks to the team here as well as the support of AccorHotels and Resorts and the Ajman Tourism Board which is taking us to the next level,” he says.
It’s clear that Desjardins has an affinity with Fairmont that goes beyond the typical employee and employer relationship. He has been working for the brand for 20 years, having left school in Canada unsure about what to do with himself.
“I got a summer job and the first hotel was the Fairmont Palm Springs which is a beautiful hotel in the middle of the Canadian Rockies about five hours away from my house,” says Desjardins.
“I pretty much grew up with hospitality and fell in love with it. I was looking for something like a backpacking job, but I wasn’t expecting that.”
After working in Canada, Desjardins spread his wings, helping to open the brand’s first hotel in Asia – the Fairmont Singapore in 2007.
His next posting was the Fairmont Baku in Azerbaijan before he came to the Middle East and Dubai in particular.
“I am very thankful to have worked with some of the top hoteliers in the world and learning from each general manager I have worked with to get the best out of the organisation and the colleagues,” he says.