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Thomas Grundner Thomas Grundner

Q&A with Thomas Grundner, VP of sales & marketing, JA Resorts and Hotels

Thomas Grundner talks to Travel Trade MENA about hotel upgrades, hotel openings and environmental initiatives.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: How many properties does JA Resorts and Hotels currently have under its portfolio? How many properties are in Dubai, and do you have any properties outside of the UAE?

THOMAS GRUNDNER: JA Resorts & Hotels currently has eight distinct properties in the portfolio, six across the UAE and two in the Indian Ocean. Each one is different to the next and all are dedicated to curating unique experiences and creating unforgettable memories. This is the core vision of our brand.

Within the UAE, we have the five-star JA Ocean View Hotel, which offers beautiful unobstructed views of the ocean, as well as the spacious, serviced hotel apartments of JA Oasis Beach Tower, both located along The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residence. JA The Resort in Jebel Ali is perhaps our best-known asset - Dubai’s largest experience resort, with one million square metres of thrilling activities and three unique hotels offering 795 suites and rooms between them. We have the JA Beach Hotel, which will undergo extensive renovation this summer, the all-suite JA Palm Tree Court and new JA Lakeview Hotel, a stunning new Golf Course adjacent property due to open on September 01. The recently renovated JA Hatta Fort Hotel completes the portfolio as Dubai’s only mountain resort, a secluded getaway set amongst the Hajar Mountains.

Our tropical escapes include JA Manafaru, the idyllic luxury island resort in pristine, lagoon-ringed Haa Alifu Atoll, at the northern tip of the Maldives and JA Enchanted Island Resort, an ultra-luxurious hideaway of 10 exquisite villas on a private island, in the middle of the protected Saint Anne Marine Park. Both properties are multi award-winning and have to be seen to be believed.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Can you tell us about the philosophy of the positioning of these properties? And, do you plan to open any other out of Dubai and international properties?

THOMAS GRUNDNER: JA Resorts & Hotels is a UAE legacy brand, a homegrown boutique portfolio of exceptional properties. Each one of the hotels is genuinely unique, miles away from the cookie- cutter approach of other bigger hospitality providers. However, the thing that ties them all together as a portfolio is related to the overarching vision of the brand; that each property offers unique experiences which help create unforgettable memories for our guests.

We know that modern travellers are looking for experiences that mean something, something they can’t get every day. That’s why we offer everything from seaplane tours, to golf academies, to horse riding in the sea to night snorkelling. We have professional sized football pitches, shooting clubs, marine conservation centres and underwater wine caves. Essentially, we can create a mind-blowing itinerary at any of our properties and this is what we want to be known for.

We do have major plans for expansion and several exciting developments which we will be discussing in the coming months. Watch this space!

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: The company will be having the opening of JA Lake View Hotel, scheduled for September. Can you tell us more about the property?

THOMAS GRUNDNER: The JA Lake View Hotel will add another 348 luxurious rooms and suites to the area, as the third unique property in the 128-acre experience-packed JA The Resort in Jebel Ali. We will be introducing exciting restaurant concepts driven by chefs with Michelin-star acclaim, three additional outdoor swimming pools and a spectacular contemporary rooftop bar with views over the golf course and Arabian Sea. The property also offers five meeting rooms with floor to ceiling windows and superb views, ideal for forward thinking companies who wish to bring energy and focus to their meetings and events.

JA Lake View Hotel will join the award-winning JA Beach Hotel and the all-suite JA Palm Tree Court to become Dubai’s Largest Experience Resort. In total JA The Resort has seven landscaped swimming pools with four swim up bars, a choice of 23 restaurants and bars, a nine-hole, par 35 championship standard golf course with floodlit driving range, putting and pitching greens and Leadbetter Golf Academy Dubai, four floodlit tennis courts and a tennis academy, squash courts, badminton courts, beach volleyball facilities, horse riding stables, nine-hole mini-golf course, a watercooled watersports centre with water-skiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, banana boats, catamarans, laser sailboats and a private 85-berth full service marina offering fishing trips, boat trips and sea plane flights. It also boasts six shooting ranges, Calm Spa, a 1,100 m2 bio-garden, a crèche, CoolZone Kids’ Club and babysitting service. JA The Resort feels like a true escape from the city, yet it’s located just 10 minutes away from Dubai Parks & Resorts, 20 minutes from Dubai’s buzzing JBR and 30 minutes from the iconic Dubai Mall.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: The refurbishment of JA Beach hotel will also be taking place over the summer. What has the upgrade entailed and what will the changes offer?

THOMAS GRUNDNER: The renovation plans for JA Beach Hotel include an enhanced façade with new, all-glass balconies for the rooms and suites which will further improve the panoramic sea views and effectively showcase the stunning 800 m vista of private beach. The bedrooms will also be given a new look this year, with modern wood tile flooring, new beds and furniture in a fresh colour scheme of soft greys, neutrals and relaxing royal blue. All food and beverage outlets will be refurbished with new concepts.

Perhaps most exciting for the many families who love to visit JA Beach Hotel is the fact that the CoolZone Kid’s Club will be doubled in size, offering a huge 450 m2 area, divided into different zones for children aged four and 12 years. Adjacent to the new kids’ club facility will be a new wet recreation area with an interactive Splash Pad, providing hours of fun for kids. The four-month renovation process will take place from May to August and the hotel will re-open on September 01.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: For what kind of traveller do your properties cater for and from where are the main markets from? Have you noticed a change in these sectors over the last decade?

THOMAS GRUNDNER: Our properties promise to ‘thrill all generations’ so we do attract a lot of families to JA The Resort, JA Oasis Beach Tower, JA Hatta Fort Hotel and JA Ocean View Hotel. JA Manafaru and JA Enchanted Island Resort are exceptionally romantic, so in these properties we get a lot of couples too. Target markets do vary by hotel but our primary sources are Europe, CIS, GCC and China.

TRAVEL TRADE MENA: Anything else you would like to add?

THOMAS GRUNDNER: We have recently made a big announcement which touches on a current issue and we are very proud of. JA Resorts & Hotels will be taking major steps and making a significant investment to reduce our plastic waste for this year and beyond. We have pledged to replace all plastic water bottles in the rooms and suites in the seven unique properties with environmentally-friendly and reusable glass bottles instead.

Over the course of one year in Dubai, we tracked the disposal of plastic water bottles, which amounted to a staggering 1, 7 million pieces of various sizes. We will install new water treatment systems, along with cleaning and bottling systems which will instantly make a huge reduction to the carbon footprint and environmental damage in terms of plastic.
An investment of more than 1 million AED will be made to install systems in JA The Resort, JA Ocean View Hotel and JA Hatta Fort Hotel. 1 litre glass bottles will be placed in all rooms across these 3 hotels and in the luxury serviced apartments of JA Oasis Beach Tower.

We will also install 40 back-of-house digital water dispensers, serving fresh filtered water to customers free of charge, as well as all the JA associates. Many Dubai visitors and indeed residents, do not realise that Dubai water is very safe to drink and once filtered has a fresh and palatable taste. Water quality can vary from zone to zone in the UAE, so JA Resorts & Hotels is working with an experienced partner who analyse water quality and use state of the art technology to implement microfiltration, reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, chemical free disinfection and activated carbon depending on the specific water requirements. This is the first step for 2019 in our commitment to Sustainability with a lot more to follow.