Dubai’s stupendous Jumeirah Zabeel Saray beachside resort runs with impeccable grace and efficiency under the esteemed management of Egyptian born MD, Mahmoud Sakr. Reena Patel catches up with the highly successful yet diligent and charismatic hotelier to unearth what makes a trip to this Palm Island property so magical and memorable.
Luxurious Magazine: It’s clear to see that hospitality runs through your veins. Tell us about your career journey.
Mahmoud Sakr: I have been working in the hospitality industry for 30 years, during which I have gained significant experience in the Middle East’s hotel sector. In my current role as Managing Director at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, I am responsible for evolving the experiences of guests and strategically driving the future growth of the iconic Ottoman-inspired resort.
Before moving to Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, I developed and ran the commercial and operational strategy for Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel. This included the management of 400 rooms and suites and 530 members of staff, and overseeing Jumeirah’s other city hotels.
I am passionate about hospitality and providing a personalised guest experience. I started my career with Jumeirah Group in 1999 as Director of Rooms for the group’s flagship hotel, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. I was promoted to Executive Assistant Manager – Rooms Division, then to Resident Manager, before becoming Hotel Manager. After eight years working at the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, I was appointed General Manager of the neighbouring Jumeirah Mina A’Salam in 2008, a position where I lead the day-to-day management of the luxury hotel and its five-star facilities.
In 2012, I joined our sister property Jumeirah Beach Hotel as General Manager, a role where I successfully positioned the five-star family hotel as a leading tourist destination.
My remit expanded to include General Manager of the adjacent Wild Wadi Waterpark. Prior to joining Jumeirah Group, I worked for Le Méridien for 13 years. Upon graduating from Sadat Academy for Management Sciences in Cairo in 1986, I joined Le Méridien Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia, followed by Le Méridien Bahrain before relocating to Senegal to open Le Méridien Hotels in Dakar.
LM: How do you inspire and motive your teams to offer the best in five-star luxury to your guests?
MS: We work as one team striving towards achieving a common goal by ensuring all colleagues are passionate and driven in all their interactions with our customers. We continuously deliver personalised experiences to our guests that come from our hearts, thus encouraging our visitors to come back to their home away from home at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray.
LM: With so many luxury hotels to stay at in Dubai, what does Jumeirah Zabeel Saray pride itself in being able to offer? What are the best reasons to stay?
MS: It’s true that Dubai is an incredibly competitive marketplace at the moment, but in terms of what we offer, we’re still unique. There are very few hotels on the Palm Jumeirah, or indeed Dubai, can say that they are inspired by the opulence of the Ottoman Empire, and every day we welcome guests who are wowed by the architecture of the property.
When guests decide to book with us, they are booking an experience, not just another hotel, and that’s key to everything that we think about both strategically and operationally.
Whilst that nod to history is important to us; we are also incredibly forward-thinking when it comes to evolving our product. We are constantly listening and anticipating the needs of our guests, and whether it’s revised food and beverage offerings, a newly launched E-Butler service via WhatsApp, or the creation of bespoke packages, we put our guests’ experience first.
LM: What are the latest developments for Jumeirah Zabeel Saray? What is in store over the next five years? Any dreams you have for the property?
MS: The award-winning Talise Ottoman Spa has opened its grand oak doors to guests around the clock (24 hours). Known for unparalleled luxury, the spa has become the first in the region to launch a bespoke ‘Love Yourself At Every Stage’ wellness programme focusing on treatments and therapies for those touched by cancer and survivors.
A newly refined membership package encompasses access to our gym, spa, infinity pool, pristine private beach, as well as many additional benefits, including our food and beverage offerings.
We will be providing exclusive Wine Dinners hosted by world-renowned winemakers and ‘All Day’ experiences, which include pool and beach access, spa treatment and meals. My vision is for JZS to be the best family resort in the world.
LM: Define what luxury personally means to you.
MS: Luxury is not merely defined by the suites and polished chinaware, but most importantly, the emotional connection we develop with our guests who become a part of our family. To cater to the needs of today’s socially conscious travellers, it has become imperative that green measures are factored into the delivery of all luxury experiences.
Luxury is all about innovating and consistently delivering delightful experiences for our guests, by anticipating their needs and going above and beyond to surprise and delight them by creating memories to last for a lifetime.
LM: Who or what are you inspired by, both in the luxury hospitality sector and personally?
MS: My family inspires me, because every waking day, they are the true reflection of my passion and drive to make each moment aspirational. Robert Kunkler (Chief Operating Officer at Minor Group) was a true mentor and visionary with a flair for excellence, and under his leadership, I evolved progressively within my career when I first became a General Manager at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam.
LM: Where is the most luxurious place to you on Earth and why?
MS: Jumeirah Burj Al Arab is an all-encompassing stimulus of a royalty experience synonymous with the essence of luxury.
LM: Where is your favourite place to dine at when you’re utterly spoilt for choice with 40 hotels to choose from in the Jumeirah group?
MS: The infusion of flavour and spice is what tantalises my palette to indulge and enjoy a variety of cuisines through the art of exploring multiple cultures. Trattoria Toscana (the Italian eaterie) is a true depiction of casual luxury with a vibrant ambience and takes al fresco dining to another level.
Jumeirah Zabeel Saray – Where and How?
Jumeirah Zabeel Saray resides on the West Crescent of Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. The resort boasts 405 rooms and suites, 38 royal residences, a multi-international award-winning Talise Ottoman Spa, a 29-seater private cinema, as well as eight restaurants. For more information, including the latest safeguarding measures in place at Jumeirah Hotels in relation to COVID-19, visit www.jumeirah.com/en/stay/dubai/jumeirah-zabeel-saray.
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