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SPOTLIGHT ON Stephen Meredith, General Manager, Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
2 September 2020
5 min read
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Taj Hotels, a subsidiary of the Indian Hotels Company, expanded into the Middle East with the opening of its second hotel, Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Stephen Meredith tells us how the 200 room hotel with views of the Emirates Golf Club, Dubai Marina and the Arabian Gulf, are prepared and ready for their guests. 

What reopening policies have you put in place to make your guests and your team feel safe?
Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers redefined the guests’ journey with the implementation of heightened, government compliant health and safety measures to give greater confidence to guests. This journey begins from the moment the guest enters the hotel until they are bid a fond farewell, with everything in between carefully thought through.

Some of the new measures include mandatory temperature checks of all guests and associates entering the hotel premises, with sanitization of bags for both, hand sanitizers being placed in all public areas, provision of masks and sanitizers on request, deep-cleaning of rooms, 24-hour virtual assistance via WhatsApp, QR coded menus, and social distancing demarcations as recommended by Dubai Municipality throughout the hotel.

All associates have been thoroughly trained on social distancing norms, as well as the latest precautionary hygiene and safety guidelines. Additionally, all guest-facing associates are provided with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and all back of house areas are disinfected continuously.

We have also put in place a ‘Covid Marshal’ program wherein the taskforce meticulously conduct audits on departments which are not under their responsibility to ensure all protocols are consistently adhered to and the evolving precautionary guidelines are implemented.

How have you streamlined your operations to enhance profits?
At Taj, we have taken things positively and enriched the ways in which we have lived our promise of Tajness, a hallmark of our impeccable hospitality for over 116 years. As a business, it has given us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and demonstrate increased efficiency. It has also taught us that the only constant is change. We are positive and confident that we will survive this crisis, moving strongly towards the revival and thriving stage of our business plan.

Our parent company, IHCL, headquartered in Mumbai, India, has defined a five-point agenda named ‘R.E.S.E.T 2020’ to address the challenges posed by the unprecedented global crisis and help the company navigate through these difficult times. R.E.S.E.T 2020 encompasses Revenue growth, Excellence in guest well-being, experience, and operations, Spend optimization, Effective asset management and Thrift and financial prudence.

We as a team have used the extra time on our hands to further learn and develop new skills that can be utilized in both our professional and personal lives.

How will this affect guest experience?
The Taj brand has always been acknowledged as a true hallmark of warm Indian hospitality, globally. For well over a century, our guests, associates, and stakeholders have placed their trust in us, and we remain committed to ensuring the highest emphasis on their safety and well-being. Keeping in mind the present circumstances, we have re-strengthened our brand and service standards to include government compliant health and safety measures; and are leveraging the latest technology to provide a seamless guest experience. We continue to create personalized and exceptional experiences, with Tajness at the core of everything we do.

The ‘new normal’ has put a lot of emphasis on innovation, hygiene, and social distancing, with technology playing an even bigger role in hospitality across all customer touchpoints. In the long term, as guests’ priorities and concerns change, the new normal will also affect the design and operating procedure of hotels, to ensure higher levels of sanitization for guests to feel safe and comfortable.

We reopened our doors with an extremely attractive and value-driven staycation offer wherein guests get to spend 36 hours at the hotel with check-in from 6 AM and check-out at 6PM the next day, ensuring the ultimate rest and relaxation. We are delighted by the success of Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers and are especially proud to have won ‘Favourite New Hotel’ in the Middle East and North Africa region, in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards. It is a beautiful hotel located in a vibrant neighbourhood and we are optimistic that this success will continue as the team continues to deliver sincere warmth and care that the Taj brand is known for.

We have found that it is extremely important to engage directly with our guests and communicate frequently to ensure they remain assured and to find out if they have any worries or concerns that we can address. I find that I spend much more time on the shop floor interacting with our guests, and this in turn has resulted in my team delivering considerably improved experiences and memories.

What are your expectations for the last quarter of this year?
Our current focus is to cater to the domestic demand for staycations, which we expect to continue through the summer months. With Dubai having reopened its doors for international tourism in the first week of July, we are seeing a steady pickup of bookings in the last quarter of this year. We are extremely upbeat and optimistic, and we are looking forward to welcoming our overseas guests back at Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

TAGS: Leadership