We speak to Dubai hotel GM Joseph Karam about key source markets, travel industry recovery and his future plans
Joseph Karam’s love for hospitality was ignited in childhood while playing at Lebanon’s historic Belmont Hotel. His first job was as a waiter in Abu Dhabi. From there his passion – and his prospects – grew. Today, he’s the proud cluster general manager of newly renovated Crowne Plaza Dubai Jumeirah, as well as Crowne Plaza Deira and Holiday Inn Express Jumeirah – and he remains on a mission to deliver the best possible service to guests.
Connecting Travel: What makes you a good hotelier?
Joseph Karam: I started as a waiter two decades ago and have worked in HR, Front Office and commercial departments. This diverse background has given me the necessary experience to become an all-round hotelier.
I’ve worked with over 100 nationalities and each culture requires a different management approach, which is a skill that only comes with experience
CT: How do you attract and maintain good staff?
JK: The team members’ happiness and passion reflect on the service they provide, and it’s, therefore, essential to foster a positive working culture, driven by learning, development and appreciation. In the current situation, with countries in lockdown and travelling still difficult, it has become more challenging to attract new staff as the supply is less than the demand. However, with Crowne Plaza Dubai Jumeirah being a newly renovated hotel and part of a renowned and reputable chain, we do feel the excitement among the candidates that we interview to become part of our young and passionate team.
CT: Tell us about Crowne Plaza Dubai Jumeirah.
JK: The property is located between old and new Dubai, in the heart of Jumeirah 1, just a stone’s throw away from Trade Centre and La Mer beach, making it ideal for both business travellers and leisure tourists. Our newly renovated rooms and suites include connecting family rooms and we have the Pan-Asian restaurant Ginger, The Docks Pub and The Plaza Lobby & Café.
A renovated room at Crown Plaza Dubai Jumeirah
CT: What are your strategies for increasing occupancy and revenue?
JK: With our newly renovated rooms, the uplifted F&B outlets and the backing of a strong global brand, Crowne Plaza will be able to target new markets in a higher segment, which will help to increase both occupancy and average rate.
CT: What are your key source markets?
JK: Currently our key source markets are Europe, with France and Germany leading, followed by Russia and Egypt. We’re also aiming to attract local residents for staycations.
Crown Plaza Dubai Jumeirah’s rooftop pool
CT: How do you attract guests from the GCC?
JK: The majority of visitors from the GCC come with their families – taking this into account, we’ve created comfortable and private family rooms to allow quality family time. We also have chefs who prepare authentic Arabian dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, making sure guests’ needs are not only met, but exceeded.
CT: What percentage of guests are from the GCC?
JK: Before Covid-19 hit and before our renovation, approximately 30% to 40% of our guests came from GCC countries. However, with the current restrictions and border closures, this percentage has come down to around 10% to 20%.
CT: Post-pandemic, how is the hospitality sector currently performing?
JK: Dubai is recovering faster than most other destinations, but it’s, therefore, more sensitive to sudden changes in the market. We’ve seen promising peaks in the last few months that show people are eager to visit Dubai, but travel restrictions in key feeder markets are still affecting the sector.
CT: Are there any expansion plans for your cluster?
JK: We’re about to start with a terrace extension for The Docks Pub, which will provide our guests with a comfortable outside seating area while watching sports on big screens. In addition, we have some exciting plans lined up for next year, with the focus on upgrading our banqueting and events facilities and other F&B outlets.
CT: What steps can hoteliers take to drive industry recovery?
JK: It’s crucial to create an environment where guests feel safe. We have implemented the extensive IHG ‘Way of Clean’ programme to ensure our guests feel that we’ve taken stringent measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. At the same time, all of our team members are vaccinated. If every hotel implements the same, I’m confident that Dubai will recover quickly and will be seen as a safe destination.