JA strengthens its foothold

With a positive year in the Indian market, JA Resorts & Hotels is leaving no stone unturned in making the brand a known name amongst Indian travellers.

NISHA VERMA

For JA Resorts & Hotels, it has been a year of having representation in India and the going has certainly been good, claims William Harley-Fleming, Cluster General Manager, JA Manafaru Maldives, JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, JA Shooting Club & JA Centre for Excellence Dubai. “The last one year for us in the Indian market has been very successful. Kunal Munshaw and Pooja Wadhwa from Avante Garde Consulting have done a fantastic job. We have seven properties within the portfolio in Dubai, Maldives and Seychelles, and for us it’s about getting the message out that we are different from any cookie-cutter hotel and have a brand that is unique with a heart of hospitality, attention to detail, and personalised service. For us, it’s not just about putting it on a piece of paper, but also having one-on-one meetings with the travel agents, our partners, corporate clients as well as the media,” he said.

He added that they have got a number of Indian guests through all channels including the trade and individual bookings. “We’ve seen massive uptake in Indian travellers to the Maldives, with over 500 per cent increase yearon-year. There is about 100 per cent increase for Dubai and about 150-200 per cent increase in Seychelles. Since we started with a very low occupancy from India, it’s a very good increase. However, we are looking to continue that growth,” shared Fleming.

In order to push the brand further into the Indian market they have on board Thomas Grundner as Group Director of Sales & Marketing, JA Resorts & Hotels, who said that they are looking at all sectors from India including FIT, MICE, weddings and incentives. “If we are getting an incentive, wedding or MICE group, it would increase the occupancy rapidly because everybody comes from the same source market. For JA Manafaru Maldives, it’s more of the FIT business, but we are also targeting the wedding market. We want to make sure that people come for their honeymoon to the property as well as to celebrate special occasions. Dubai, on the other hand, gives all the segments the opportunity, especially with the JA Oasis Beach Tower apartments, where we have a very strong Indian base. It offers perfect space with the way the apartments are split as well as a good location that is close to the city as well as the beach. Then there is our prime product— JA Palm Tree Court and JA Jebel Ali Beach Hotel, where one can have the best beach that stretches 800m, a golf course, marina, shooting range as well as stables. It is a destination in itself,” he said.

JA Jebel Ali Beach Hotel and JA Palm Tree Court are quite close to Dubai Parks & Resorts, which is one of the latest attractions in Dubai. Grundner revealed that they are working closely with the attraction and once it becomes popular, the business to the properties would also see a rise. “We are also trying to bring the popularity of Dubai Parks & Resorts into the market, which would not only help us in driving more room nights, but also drive more traffic into the park. We have a free shuttle service between the resort and the hotel, and guests at our properties get free entry to the parks,” he revealed.

Elaborating further on the wedding business from India, Grundner said, “While we are reaching out to key players in the wedding business, the biggest challenge for us is the size of the weddings because based on our inventory, some of the weddings are too big. However, the wedding market is one of the key source segments we want to tap, not only because we have fantastic hotels, but also because we have a desert retreat, Al Sahra Desert Resort, where we can host up to 10,000 people with an amphitheatre set up right in the middle for concerts and other functions.”

The key focus for JA Resorts & Hotels, however, is establishing the brand and creating awareness for it in India. “We knew creating awareness of the brand is going to be a challenge in India when we entered the market. However, I think seeing is believing and we have seen positive results from this market,” said Fleming. “We are willing to look at an opportunity in India, but first we want to establish a name in the market because we want to build a strong foundation and make sure that the day we come into India, we have a good recognition and understanding in the market,” he added.

Now, the focus for their India strategy will be having a brand ambassador, which would be key in creating awareness about the brand. Grundner said, “We have stronger presence in the market through regular sales trips, functions for our partners, stronger relationships with the trade, content sharing and a brand ambassador to get better exposure. We have started discussions on the same and are looking at Bollywood celebrities as well. There needs to be a right person who fits in with the brand, understands the ethos behind it, and appreciates what we are trying to achieve.

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