Key Insights: The Future of Luxury Hospitality

Fascinating Insights into Tom Arnel and Jeremy Jauncey's Personal Journeys and Successful Ventures

We had the pleasure of hosting our Autumn Circle lunch last week at The Guild in Dubai.

Thanks to all our members and guests for joining us, and a special thank you to our esteemed panellists, Tom Arnel, Chefpreneur and EatX Founder and Jeremy Jauncey, entrepreneur and Founder & CEO of Beautiful Destinations and our moderator, Georgia Tolley, Presenter of The Agenda News Programme on Dubai Eye. Tom and Jeremy shared fascinating insights into their personal journeys behind their successful ventures and a thought-provoking discussion led by Georgia on the role of sustainability in the future of luxury hospitality – for further insights, please read on.

A Bit of Background

The Guild is a unique offering and is among Dubai’s most ambitious restaurants to date. Located at the base of the towering Dubai skyscraper, ICD Brookfield Place, the concept is the brainchild of Australian chef Tom Arnel, whose company EatX is responsible for 21 multi-purpose dining destinations in Dubai, with The Guild being the company’s first foray into fine dining. Considered to be one of the most luxurious restaurants in Dubai, a tall order as Dubai is renowned for its luxury experiences, The Guild offers several venues under one roof, situated in a free-flowing space. Guests can enjoy a patisserie, a brasserie, a champagne bar, a seafood restaurant, a grand dining room, a piano bar and a chocolatier, all in one coherent space spanning 20,000 sq ft. 

Tom signed the lease end of 2018, with the idea of launching a gourmet food hall. Subsequently, Covid-19 hit, which was an unforeseen challenge even the most experienced restaurateurs had difficulty navigating. Concerned people may not go back to offices, Tom changed the concept to an elevated night-time offering. One which set out to appeal to the DIFC and the rest of Dubai.

Ten years ago, Jeremy saw a gap in the market to monetise his passion for travel and make it his trade. Today, Beautiful Destinations is an award-winning creative agency behind some of the world’s most innovative travel brands. Beautiful Destinations was a pioneer in a new style of introducing beautiful destinations to the public. Through alluring and exceptionally stunning video content on Instagram, a new audience was experiencing luxury travel. This may be mainstream today, but when Jeremy began, Instagram was considered a platform for the younger generations and was not considered to be a marketplace for the travel industry to generate business. His perseverance and business savvy approach paid off when he was invited to collaborate with the Dubai Government to launch the world’s first tourism board campaign around the hashtag #myDubai, which became one of the most successful tourism campaigns around the world. The Burj Al Arab was his first client, and today the global company consults World leaders on how they too can build their destinations online. 

The Evolving Landscape of Instagram and TikTok

According to Google’s data, as much as 40% of Gen Z prefer searching on TikTok and Instagram over Google Search and Maps and choose to use video to judge experiences. We can see our future customers are visually led and TikTok is not just a platform for the younger gen. Savvy brands can see that having an active and engaging presence on TikTok is essential to keep up.

Beautiful Destinations invests heavily in video, especially short-form cuts between 6 -15 seconds. They mix the cinematic and beautiful cuts you would expect from ads on luxury websites, transforming that essence into shorter, snappier, and vertical videos for Instagram. TikTok is different. The content shown is delivered in the first person, shot on your mobile, giving a raw behind-the-scenes preview. Just look at how the big brands during fashion week recently operated. Instead of the traditional well-known creative director and photographer being in charge, their TikTok channels instead featured young influential people using their phones – and it works. It’s a way for younger consumers to discover their brands. So, if there is one take home to stress, it’s the importance of brands who want to make an impact to seriously invest in content marketing. 

What do Luxury Customers Want?

Visually, there’s a demand for locations to be beautiful, whilst authenticity also is highly regarded. From a dining perspective, people expect the best ingredients and care about provenance. At The Guild in the main dining area, customers enjoy a full open view of the kitchen, the chefs on display and the theatre of cooking makes for a great spectacle. The demand for the highest quality, specifically in Dubai, is often reflected in the menu. Customers want to see truffle, Wagyu, and other luxurious ingredients. At The Guild, there are Dubai favourites which are intentionally on the menu, however being creative is important as customers also want differentiation. 

At Beautiful Destinations, their brand offers a gateway for the next generation of travellers keen to discover the world. There’s a generation of affluent customers whose first discovery of a luxurious hotel/ new destination will come from a small screen. Most likely they will be doing something else, so you must capture their attention, and inspire them to stop scrolling and focus.  


Luxury X Sustainability

It’s the year of Sustainability in the UAE, with COP28 taking place from 30 November until 12 December 2023. Can luxury and sustainability go hand-in-hand? From a fine dining perspective, there is a demand for ingredients that are globally sourced. We are seeing consumers care about traceability, however not so much on food miles which is reflected in the price and that is not something that causes much concern. EatX does have a no single-use plastic policy, and they are seeing their customers care about brand ethics and need to see the effort being put in.

When it comes to Luxury travel, are people willing to pay more to ensure they are on a green holiday? In short, this is not a popular trend. Travel undoubtedly has an impact on the environment, and whilst we are a long way from having fuel that’s efficient and equally long way from when hoteliers can be completely sustainably when you consider the total supply chain, there are groups of consumers who make conscious decisions on where they stay and visit based on sustainable tourism. To travel with consciousness then move away from the mass visited areas and give the locals their cities back. Travel may have negative environmental implications, but financially travel and tourism provide global economic development and job creation. 

Future Trends – Hospitality, F&B, Travel

We are seeing the demand for restaurant offerings that can become part of consumer’s daily routine. EATX is founded on the premise that wherever you are in Dubai, you can find an EATX venue and use it for breakfast lunch and dinner. Restaurant with purpose is the idea that hopefully will be rolled out elsewhere, most likely beginning in Saudi. We are seeing people cooking less at home, and relying on restaurants more. The standard of the offering has also skyrocketed. Thanks to social media you can see what everyone else is doing which inevitably raises the bar. There’s more competition which is unanimously raising the standard for all.

Trends in travel are focusing on health, wellness, fitness and medical services. The days of flying and flopping on a beach are gone. The next evolution of hoteliers is not just thinking about their wellness offering, this is an absolute priority. Perhaps today’s consumers are more stressed, or post-Covid people want to get healthy and make themselves feel better. Gyms used to be tiny windowless boxes, with old equipment. Now big players in the health and wellness space are moving into hotels. Technogym for instance is doing deals left right and centre, building incredible wellness destinations in hotels.

Similarly, Hoteliers moving into the wellness space. One&Only Desaru in Malaysia has a medical health and wellness retreat operated by Henry Chenot. The Equinox Hotel in NYC is a complete wellness-focused destination. Here we aren’t just talking gyms, consumers are receiving blood work and tailored health and wellbeing consultations. This is going to be an area where we will see growth from strength to strength. Closely tied to this movement is the beauty industry, an area we are expecting to see enormous growth in the not-too-distant future. 

What’s Next and Where?

For Tom, it’s been an intense past 2 years. At one point, 10 sites were under construction at the same time. That doesn’t mean to say he is stopping. Eyes and ears are on Saudi, it’s a booming market where the EATX model could be replicated. 

 For Jeremy, during COVID the company employed experts to look at different cities in the world – looking at the liveability index and economic growth index. On paper, it was Dubai and Singapore. So Beautiful Destinations moved to the Middle East as this is where he is seeing the future, and hosting our Circle lunch here is a testament to that.

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