Gerald Lawless is to move on from executive leadership of Jumeirah Group after 18 years in which he helped build the company into Dubai’s flagship leisure group and one of world’s fastest-growing hotel chains.
Dubai Holding, Jumeirah’s parent, announced on Monday that Mr Lawless would head up tourism and hospitality strategy at the government-owned company. In recognition of his achievements at Jumeirah, he will become the honorary president of the Jumeirah Group.
He will be replaced as Jumeirah’s chief executive by Stefan Leser, who for the past 10 years had been in senior executive positions at Kuoni, the Swiss-based travel business.
With 30 years’ experience in the Dubai leisure industry, Mr Lawless has been closely involved in the emirate’s drive to become a leading luxury tourism hub. Some of Dubai’s best known hospitality landmarks – from the Burj Al Arab hotel to the Madinat Jumeirah complex – were launched on his watch.
He spearheaded the expansion of the Jumeirah portfolio to become an international brand, with 23 hotels in 12 destinations from London to Shanghai, and with an ambitious pipeline of ventures planned. It also operates 100 restaurants in the UAE.
Mohammed Al Gergawi, the chairman of Dubai Holding, said: “We appreciate the role that Gerald has played as the founding CEO of Jumeirah and its subsequent expansion. As a tireless ambassador for tourism and hospitality in Dubai, he is a leader admired across the industry for his commitment to innovation and excellence in the field of luxury hospitality, and has been an inspiration to Jumeirah employees, to guests and to other stakeholders in the sector.
“Jumeirah has been a consistently valuable engine of international growth for Dubai Holding, and its future expansion will further enhance that impact. We are delighted to have the opportunity of benefitting from Gerald’s expertise in building our own integrated vision for the hospitality sector,” he added.
Mr Lawless said: “It has been an immense honour and privilege to have been entrusted with setting up the Jumeirah Group, with the development of its outstanding portfolio of luxury hotels and other businesses.”
He will also become chancellor of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.
Mr Leser managed a team of 8,000 employees at Kuoni. There has been speculation the Swiss company is looking to sell the UK travel business it operates, with the Dubai-based air services operator Dnata seen as a possible buyer.
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