Event review: The Hotel Show 2018

Gerald Lawless shares positive outlook ahead of The Hotel Show Dubai 2018

Gerald Lawless, Former President and CEO of the Jumeirah Group
Gerald Lawless, Former President and CEO of the Jumeirah Group

The Hotel Show Dubai is set to return in September 2018 — and the organisers are promising its most hands-on hospitality experience to date. Gathering more than 30,000 international decision-makers, the annual exhibition allows GMs, buyers, restaurateurs and developers to get their hands on products for every element of the guest experience — from décor, furniture and in-room technologies, to F&B supplies, gym and leisure equipment, and everything in between. Now in its 19th year, the show will be spread over seven halls at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Former President and CEO of the Jumeirah Group and immediate-past chair of the World Travel and Trade Council Gerald Lawless, in a preview to September’s Hotel Show Dubai, states that he believes the Middle East tourist offering is “on the brink of truly exciting times”.

Often cited as one of the hospitality industry stalwarts who helped to make Dubai the tourist showpiece that it is today, Lawless has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to hotels and to constantly improve the guest experience, taking the reins of the Jumeirah Group in 1997 before the brand had launched a single property.

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In less than three years, the group was up and running — with the launch of the iconic Burj al Arab. The hotel — the world’s first seven-star property — was established to push Dubai’s image as a global destination and invariably kick-started two decades of visitor-driven expansion across the country that transformed the region 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, September 16th-18th — the Irishman insists that anything is possible in the region, now that tourism has proven its worth.

He says: “I think we’re on the brink of truly exciting, but also challenging times.

“The argument has been won and everyone accepts and understands that travel and tourism is a force for good, a great benefit to the economy, to society. To see what is happening not just here in the UAE with the likes of the development in Ras Al Khaimah as an example, but with what is happening in Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince being truly committed to developing the Kingdom 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 developed 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 on the importance of tourism and the benefit of travel and tourism to the global economy and indeed 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 now globally-renowned brand 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.

“So 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 really 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 and stay with my wife and me. We have our little tour around Dubai which always 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 Spice Souk up to the Gold Souk, and then walk back down and walk up by the creek and see all the boats from different regions of the world. This is the magic of Dubai.

“A place like Dubai must never lose that sense of heritage, the sense of culture, and the sense of sustainability to continue with that.”

September’s Hotel Show will gather 30,000 industry professionals to the biggest networking and product sourcing event of its kind anywhere in the Middle East.

Now in its 19th year, the three-day event will feature more than 600 exhibitors, a packed general manager’s leadership conference, and a host of live features.

Lawless says: “The Hotel Show is one of the major events for any hotelier and I can’t imagine why any would not make it a priority to attend.

“It’s not just for hoteliers, but suppliers or anyone with any interest in the business. The Hotel Show is such a great forum that brings everyone in the industry and like-minded people together, and is important for all aspects of hotels. It also has the Hospitality Leadership Forum, which gives the region’s GMs a chance to get exposure to the market, but also the market to get exposure to these influential GMs.

 “The Hotel Show is a true coming together of the industry and a really important one at that, and one that is eagerly looked forward to by everyone in the business.”

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