Unlocking Growth – Madinat Jumeirah


o say that the grounds of the Madinat Jumeirah Resort are impressive would be an understatement. The largest resort in the Emirate, this 5-star destination spreads out across 40 hectares. The resort is actually home to four luxury hotels – Mina a’Salam, Al Qasr, Dar Al Masyaf and the Malakiya Villas. These are connected by a covered souq, filled with restaurants, clubs and shops, as well as interlaced by a canal by which visitors can catch a traditional Arabic Abras boat and sail to their destination. Jumeirah Group’s responsibilities do not end at the borders of the UAE. The home grown hospitality power house is now functioning in locations across the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Perhaps one of the jewels in the crown of the UAE, the Burj Al Arab, is also a Jumeirah Group property. Currently Jumeirah Group operates over 20 hotels in the Emirates and abroad. The group is also expanding its properties within the UAE. For example, they plan to add another 140 units to a phase that is currently under construction at Madinat Jumeirah.

However, it is the expansive Madinat Jumeirah that is really a marvel of modern organization and technology. “Madinat Jumeirah is truly the resort that never sleeps,” says Jerome Sumagui,Director of IT, Jumeirah Group. “Besides the hundreds units we maintain, we are also host to conferences and special events. There is literally no downtime at Madinat Jumeirah.”

The guests at Madinat Jumeirah are also, as all technology end-users these days, becoming more demanding when it comes to connectivity and convenience. “Guests come in with at least two devices per person these days,” says Sumagui, “and that includes the children. We need to provide luxury services across the board.” Beyond personal devices, each conference has to provide high speed connections for vendors and guests alike.

When it came to updating the IT infrastructure of Madinat Jumeirah, Sumagui, and his colleague Neil Menezes Vice President Information Technology Operations, knew that it would be no small task. “We needed to provide our guests and visitors with 5-star service, and implement the new systems with as little down time as possible,” says Menezes. “In addition,” says Sumagui, “we have an initiative at Jumeriah Group to go green called ‘Green Globe’. We want to digitize whatever we can, and reduce our resource use as much as possible. As such, we wanted to rip and replace a good deal of our IT foundation, with creating as small a footprint as possible.”

Madinat Jumeirah has been around since the opening of the Mina a’Salam property in 2003, and as such, the IT department realized that the entire infrastructure was due for an update. “We knew that technology has been advancing, and that we had some old switches and systems that simply needed to be replaced,” says Samagui. “Our task is to ensure that all of our technology infrastructure, and the related security infrastructure is all up to date.”

When it came to securing a vendor for such a project, the IT department at Jumeirah Group did not have to look far. The hospitality group has an existing relationship with EMW – one that has been very successful in the past with projects that spanned the company’s properties.

The massive update took place over the summer of 2014, with actual work beginning in June, and finishing up in September. “This was a tricky time for us, as during the summer there are a number of events and we simply cannot afford the downtime that would be the result of something gone wrong,” recalls Menezes. “Not that there is a good time to have downtime here at Madinat Jumeirah,” adds Sumagui, “but summer would have been a very unfortunate time.”

The team avoided costly downtime by working with EMW to create a solid roll-out plan. “There may have been more time dedicated to planning than there was to implementation,” says Sumagui. The extensive prior planning truly paid off, however. There was essentially no downtime during the implementation and the project was a complete success.

The results may seem subtle on the part of the high-demand user, but that is the point. “In hospitality,” explains Menezes, “guests should never see what goes on behind in the IT closets. They should simply have the best experience possible while staying with us.” Thanks to a solid technology foundation and with assistance from partners like EMW, Madinat Jumeirah is able to provide guests with seamless IT services such as high-speed WiFi Internet and premium IP-based television solution. They are able to leverage the new, Internet-based television systems to communicate with guests on offers and activities, which aligns with the ‘Green Globe’ initiative. “We no longer need to use paper-based advertising to reach out to guests,” explains Sumagui, “they can simply switch their televisions on to a guest information channel and be made aware of all of the services that are available to them during their stay.”

In addition, selected luxury villas are equipped with iMacs, and access to Apple TV so that guests can enjoy their own media content, even while on vacation. Select villas are also equipped with multiple data points. “The point is to make guest feel like they are at home, or maybe something better than home,” says Sumagui, “If they can access their own familiar media, that goes a long way to help that goal.”

The changes behind the scenes have also been dramatic. “We are now able to view IT issues as they happen, where they happen,” explains Menezes, “prior to the update it was like finding a needle in a haystack.” Now IT issues can be addressed as they are observed and not when a complaint is received. “Our phones are ringing a lot less these days,” says Sumagui. The fact that the IT team is no longer tasked with chasing down issues and putting out fires translates directly into better services for guests. They have been using their new found free time wisely. “When you stay with us, you can now call our IT department and have your computer serviced. We will deal with viruses or malware installed on your computer, even if it has nothing to do with your stay with us,” explains Sumagui, “We simply have time to provide premium services such as that now.”

Since the implementation, Madinat Jumeirah has been able to do quite a lot. “Basically, working with EMW, we got a new foundation,” says Menezes. “Before, it was difficult to build on a shaky base. Now that we are updated, we are able to accomplish a great deal more.” The IT department at Madinat Jumeirah is using this new foundation as a spring board to accomplish more. “We are hoping to implement new solutions to offer our guests a more personalized experience using the solid WiFi and wired infrastructure we have.” says Menezes.

EMW has continued to provide world-class support to Madinat Jumeirah, continuing their relationship. “I see them more as a strategic partner than just a vendor,” says Samugui. Truly EMW has built upon their existing relationship with Jumeirah Group as a trusted partner. Both companies are growing together, and will continue to do so as both partners make their mark on the region, and the globe.