Janet Harmer how her role - which currently involves overseeing 2,700 staff across three hotels - is about to get even bigger
What and where was your first job overseas?
I come from a small town in Scotland and my first overseas summer vacation job was as a room attendant at the Hotel DornrÁ¶schensloss Sababurg in Germany. I had a variety of responsibilities including sweeping terraces, making up rooms for guests and serving coffee.
What inspired you to go abroad?
I was studying French and German at university - the best and the fastest way to learn is to immerse yourself in the language. During my five years of study I spent every summer vacation working in hotels, mostly in Germany and Switzerland. This gave me my first taste of hospitality.
What was your first experience of working in Dubai?
When I was with Le Meridien I applied for a food and beverage director role at the Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, but they were originally looking for a male candidate. Luckily for me, that person pulled out at the last minute and I took up the position in 1999 and have been here ever since.
What is the biggest challenge of working in Dubai?
The biggest challenge most people experience when they come here is to understand the cultural complexity of working alongside so many diverse nationalities. This can be difficult at first; however, if you are open minded, patient and tolerant, it is easily overcome.
What do you not like about living and working in Dubai?
The summer months are my least favourite part of the year, where the temperatures and humidity are very high.
How has Dubai changed during your time there?
Dubai is a vibrant city which is constantly evolving and developing. Much has changed since I first arrived here. With the Expo 2020 only a few years away now, Dubai is shifting to become a cultural capital in the Middle East, with a number of new landmarks being developed including the Dubai Design District, Dubai Opera and the Dubai Canal.
Jumeirah has grown considerably since I joined the group and has given me the opportunity to work on many exciting projects.
Describe the properties you are responsible for
The recently renovated Mina A'Salam offers guests a family-friendly, relaxed experience. The hotel is also the closest property to our conference centre and Fort Island, which can host events to up to 1,400 guests.
Guests staying in Jumeirah Al Qasr will encounter a palatial experience - from the majestic arrival and breathtaking lobby, to the Arabian style guestrooms.
For those looking to have a more personalised and intimate escape, the newly refurbished summerhouses at Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf, with dedicated butler service, offer an understated luxury experience.
Then we have a fourth hotel opening before the end of the year, Jumeirah Al Naseem, which will increase our total room count to 1,300, will feature large terraces and spectacular views across Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and the Arabian Gulf.
What about your staff?
Some 86 nationalities work across the resort. They are our greatest asset and one of the reasons our guests keep returning.
And the food and beverage?
We have over 50 restaurants and bars in total. Guests and visitors can enjoy worldwide cuisine including Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Spanish tapas, and aged meats at our American style meatery. Dubai is famous for its Friday brunches and Madinat Jumeirah is one of the 'must try' brunch spots in the city.
How do you keep on top of such a large operation?
Having a good internal communications plan is key to ensure that all my executive committee members are aware of what is happening at the resort. I have monthly leadership forums with the senior team where we discuss all non- operational issues. We focus on targets and strategies.
Do you intend to return to work in Scotland?
I would definitely never rule it out. I am currently a member of the Global Scot organisation and do what I can to assist in promoting Scotland in the Middle East.
- 2012-present Resort general manager for three hotels, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts
- 2008-2012 General manager Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai
- 2006-2008 Pre-opening general manager, Jumeirah Business Bay & Jumeirah Al Khor, Dubai
- 2004-2006 Hotel general manager, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai
- 2002-2004 Hotel manager, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London
- 1988-2002 Progressed from restaurant manager in Edinburgh to director of operations in Dubai, Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts