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Refurbishing Hotels Successfully


Brian Rafferty, a speaker at the marcus evans EMEA Hospitality Summit 2013, on refurbishing hotels.

Interview with: Brian Rafferty, Vice President - Engineering & Projects, Jumeirah Group


“Refurbishing a hotel is completely different from building a new one, especially if done in a live environment,” according to Brian Rafferty, Vice President - Engineering & Projects, Jumeirah Group. Hotel operators have to take sufficient time to plan a project, otherwise they could drive customers away and damage their reputation, he adds.

Rafferty is a speaker at the marcus evans EMEA Hospitality Summit 2013, in Montreux, Switzerland, 11 - 13 November. 

How should hotel operators decide when to refurbish?

Generally, companies should do a soft hotel refurbishment every seven years and a full refurbishment every 10 - 12 years. Of course it also depends on the quality of the build and materials used - high quality always lasts much longer.

Hotels must be kept modern, current and fresh-looking. Many companies try to get every last penny or value out of their property, taking too long before they decide to refurbish. So timing and keeping the customer experience at the centre of every decision is critical.

What mistakes do they make when refurbishing properties?

They underestimate the impact that the works can have on an operating hotel. They do not always consider how the building will be accessed, the noise level, and dust and disturbance in general. They think of it as just a regular building site, when people will be on holiday and spending thousands of dollars to stay in the hotel. It takes a unique skill to understand these issues and organise around them so that disruption is kept to a minimum.

How should they plan such works?

They have to take sufficient time to plan the project and not jump into it without understanding the implications and opportunities, good and bad, because they impact customer satisfaction and loyalty. If they plan it right and consider the needs of hotel guests, they will buy themselves some brand loyalty. If not, they will drive customers away and do their reputation a lot of damage.

Refurbishing a hotel is completely different from building a new one, especially if done in a live environment.

What service and experience are guests looking for?

People are looking for a comfortable, clean room, with IT services that are easy to use without the need to call a technician or wait an hour. They want to open their laptop or iPad and get connected instantly. I am a firm believer in keeping technology as simple as possible. They also want a good quality TV experience and a broad range of channels. The bathroom experience is also important. These are some of the areas we consider when designing or refurbishing rooms. Our overriding concern is to deliver what we call the STAY DIFFERENT experience, which is our brand promise.

The Burj al Arab, which is part of the Jumeirah group, has come to symbolise Dubai. What is your “magic formula” and how can it be replicated?

The Burj al Arab has become an icon. It is a 202 all-suite hotel with extremely high quality build. The product is so superior that some call it a seven-star hotel. The combination of product, experience and iconic building means many people aspire to stay there.

However, you can have a high quality product but you have to work hard to ensure a consistently excellent service experience. That is the basis of Jumeirah’s existence. We try to treat guests individually, better than any other hotel can. It is hard to teach in college how someone can be intuitive and impulsive when it comes to service and satisfying guest needs, but we have given staff the authority and confidence to resolve guest situations. Instead of going through multiple layers of management, they are empowered to make the decision to satisfy the guest there and then. What differentiates properties from each another is the guest experience and service.
Interview by:
Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian

For more information, contact: Jennifer Keljik, marketing manager
Tel: +1.312.540.3000 x6592

About the EMEA Hospitality Summit 2013

This unique forum will take place at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux, Switzerland, 11 - 13 November 2013. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on crafting a distinctive guest experience, driving ROI, adopting the latest design trends and integrating green building strategies.


About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, case studies, roundtables and one-to-one business meetings. All rights reserved. The above content may be republished or reproduced. Kindly inform us by sending an email to

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