Jason Harding is the general manager at the Taj Dubai hotel. He talks to Janet Harmer about the booming hospitality industry in Dubai and about working with a diverse multinational workforce
Describe the style and setting of the hotel.
Taj Dubai is an exciting location in Dubai, as 60% of the 296 bedrooms offer uninterrupted views of Burj Khalifa [the world's tallest skyscraper]. It brings together the best of 112 years of Taj hospitality, authenticity, global cuisine and personal service in an urban setting.
We have five outlets: Bombay Brasserie is our signature Indian restaurant, Tesoro offers a variety of flavours from Peru to the Mediterranean, the Eloquent Elephant is a gastro-pub, Byzantium Lounge offers afternoon tea and cocktails, and the Treehouse is an open-air evening lounge-bar and the perfect place to watch the sun set.
Why did you decide to move from the UK to work in Dubai in 2010?
It was an easy decision, having heard so much about Dubai's booming luxury hospitality business and, more importantly, my wife was living and working there. It has been six years now and there has been no looking back.
What are the key challenges of working in Dubai?
Dubai is a transitional place, as people move back home or abroad as more opportunities open up. Maintaining continuity in client relationships are therefore key.
What do you like about Dubai?
The multinational workforce is a joy and compares to no other nation.
There's nothing to dislike. Even in the summer, we have plenty of opportunities to find relief!
What can UK hospitality learn from the industry in Dubai?
The pushing of boundaries, a can-do attitude and an unwavering and committed attitude to excel.
How easy is it for Brits to obtain hospitality jobs in Dubai?
There is great opportunity for Britons with hospitality backgrounds. The industry is still expanding, with one of the largest development pipelines in the region. The business language is English and there has been a natural affinity commercially and culturally between the UK and the UAE for several decades now. The largest Western expat population in UAE are British.
How many staff are employed at Taj Dubai?
We have 300 incredibly talented associates from 34 countries.
It's unusual to move from being a carpenter at London Hilton on Park Lane to your career in hotel operations. What inspired you?
One of the great things about this industry is that it provides so many opportunities, and I have been lucky to have had such great mentors and to have been presented with so many opportunities.
What has been the impact of the fire at the Address Downtown on New Year's Eve?
That tragic event had a very sobering effect on hoteliers and residents in Dubai. We witnessed the fire go up from the Taj Dubai and immediately reached out to the team at the Address, offering assistance in any way we could.
Safety and security has always been paramount in our business, and now more than ever before. I believe it will raise the standards and regulations within the construction industry and make the authorities work even closer together to ensure the highest standards are being followed.
Will your long-term career be overseas?
For the foreseeable future, we are likely to remain in Dubai. I also have a regional responsibility with Taj Hotels, and we have a strong and diverse growth pipeline over the next two to four years.
2014-present General manager, Taj Dubai
2010-2014 General manager, the Palace Downtown Dubai, to regional general manager, Armani Hotels & Resorts, Emaar Properties
1999-2010 Director of rooms, Balmoral hotel, Edinburgh, to general manager, Lowry Hotel, Manchester, Rocco Forte hotels
1997-1999 Estates manager, Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire
1991-1993 Carpenter, London Hilton on Park Lane
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