Fredrik Reinisch, regional general manager of the UAE and Seychelles, JA Resorts & Hotels tells Sophia Soltani what factors he credits his successful career to, differentiating hospitality markets and the pressures of his role.
“People telling me that it is difficult or impossible only motivates me further.”
Your first step into the hospitality industry was as assistant front office manager, how would you say this attributed to your career path to date?
My early career was in restaurants, mainly in service. Then I did a two-year stint in the army, first in Sweden and then a spell as a peacekeeper in Bosnia. I also studied Hotel management in Sweden and in the UK. I think that front office is a good learning ground; you are constantly in touch with all departments so you get a good overview of the hotel.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievements within the history of your career and why?
I think leading the team as general manager at JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, especially when the property was expanded and improved in 2012-2013. We added inventory, separated the two properties and implemented world-class sports and leisure facilities. We also came up with the ‘hotel-within-hotel’ product concept at JA Palm Tree Court called The Residence, which is now popular amongst celebrities and royalty. During this period we also rebranded the company to JA Resorts & Hotels so it was a very hectic time. I remember saying to the team when reviewing the deadlines, “this is impossible but we just have to do it anyway”, and so we did!
What would you say are the challenges and pressure points of being the GM for the UAE and the Seychelles?
The main challenge is that we really have one of each property type, one beach resort, one mountain hideaway, one city hotel, one luxury hotel apartment and one Private island resort.
Bateaux Dubai also belongs to us and we have Al Sahra Equestrian Resort in Dubailand. We own properties, lease them and operate others under management contracts so the circumstances vary between the properties. All of this ensures that two days are never the same.
Being in charge of two completely different regions, how does the market in the Seychelles differ to the UAE?
The Seychelles is a boutique market relying heavily on the luxury segment. Luckily, our resort has been welcomed by high net-worth individuals who seek a hideaway experience and appreciate the private pools and beach that all the villas feature.
In general, I would say that the luxury segment is more bullet proof as high net-worth individuals will always travel, even if they come from some of the markets that are currently going through a downturn. The Seychelles will now also benefit from new direct flights from China and India, which is very good news indeed.
Having recently announced that the new JA Jebel Ali Hotel is set to open in 2017, at present, what would you say are the top priorities and major ambitions for this project due to open in 2017?
Actually it is a hotel in addition to JA Jebel Ali Beach Hotel, so a third property within the resort which will bring our inventory close to 700 keys. Hopefully we will be in the ground at the middle of this year. We know that there will be huge demand for rooms in the Jebel Ali area once the theme parks open up in 2017.
Al Maktoum International Airport is also picking up pace and we are starting to see demand from that area, especially corporate business and FIT’s. We are also planning to add approximately 20 luxury villas with private pools at a secluded area of the resort, which will be a standalone concept catering for the GCC market and HNI’s. We cannot wait to get these ready as the demand is already there and we have to turn the business away at the moment. Expo 2020 is of course also in the background but we are not using this as a key component of any feasibility studies.
What do you think that 2015 will be like for the UAE’s hospitality sector?
We will certainly have some challenges in the hospitality industry due to the lack of travellers out of the CIS market, which in the past has been a very active travel market. Hospitality is becoming an even more competitive industry in the UAE especially with rates and promotions; I think that caution is required. We must refrain from going too far and simply treating our rooms as a commodity. I would recommend offering added value to the guests and focusing on your unique competitive advantages, nobody wins in a rate war.
How would your employees describe you?
Firm, fair and friendly, I hope! Also curious and stubborn, people telling me that it is difficult or impossible only motivates me. I also focus on being a good listener as it never fails to surprise me how you can pick up ideas or solutions from people, even outside their area of responsibility or from more junior team members.
What do you do when you are not busy at work?
I like to spend time with my family, especially going camping around the UAE. My wife and I also like to go out and try new restaurants in Dubai. I also do Thai Boxing three times per week, a great way of getting any stress out of the system.