Juma Al Majid Group and Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces, South Asia's largest and finest hotel chain, has appointed Helmut Horst Meckelburg, general manager for the Taj Palace Hotel, Dubai.
After several years away from the Emirates, mainly in Egypt and in India, Helmut Meckelburg is returning to oversee the operations of the Taj Palace, and give a new impetus to one of Dubai's premium Hotels.
With the Taj group now for almost six years, Helmut worked as the area director of the Goa region (four hotels) in India, and was also the general manager for the Taj Exotica, Resort and Spa in Goa. He helped transform the Taj Exotica to India's 'Number One Resort' (Business Traveller-Thomas Cook) and one of Asia's 'Top Ten Spas' (Conde Nast's Traveller). Helmut was later asked to also look after other Taj Resorts in India. He has welcomed the opportunity to return to Dubai after seven years.
A native of Germany, Helmut started his career young, at the age of 16. While finishing high school and college, he worked after hours in hotels and learned basic operational techniques. This early start was complemented later by extensive studies at the well-known Tegernsee School for Hotel Management, from where he graduated in 1980, followed by studies at the Cornell University - School for Hotel Administration in the USA.
Highlights of his international career, spanning four continents, were the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel (2,200 rooms) in New York City, the El San Juan Hotel and Casino in Puerto Rico, the Westin Chosun Beach Hotel in S Korea, the Los Angeles Hilton and Towers (1200 rooms) in LA, the Royal Abjar Hotel in Dubai, the Golf Hotel Sharm in Egypt and the Hotel Bachmair in Germany-Bavaria.
This ex-chef hotelier consistently rose from the ranks and has proudly received many awards such as Hotel of the Year 2003 Taj Hotels, the company's Award for External Recognition 2004, Best Winter Long haul Destination 2003 by Thomas Cook, Partners in Excellence Award 2003 for best hotel in Goa, Financial Express and Business Traveller Award for Best Leisure Hotel in India 2004, Marque of Excellence Award 2004 by Thomas Cook and the Conde Nast Readers' Choice Award for Taamra Spa (amongst Asia's Top 10 Spas) 2005. Helmut's hotel very recently won, for the second time, Hotel of the Year 2005.
Previous awards include the President's Benchmark Award of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Beverly Hills, for outstanding achievements in new restaurant concepts. He was later selected to receive the 5 Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Science during his tenure as general manager at the Royal Abjar Hotel in Dubai in 1996 and 1997 consecutively.
In 2000, Helmut joined the Taj Group of Hotels, and his high-energy, high quality service and guest recognition approach were the primary engines for the successes of the company, especially in the Goa region.
Back in Dubai, Helmut is facing a different kind of challenge. In a buoyant business environment like Dubai, it is very important to keep a clear view of short and long term objectives, and also to maintain an even stronger focus on the quality of product and services and value ratios from the viewpoint of the customer.
The Taj Palace Hotel, located in one of Deira's best locations, directly on Rigga Road and in walking distance to restaurants, clubs and shopping has done well during the past year. In addition to its favourable location, it also features Dubai's best Indian restaurant, Handi, well known for its delicious curry, and Dubai's first Turkish restaurant. The Taj Palace Hotel also features a Japanese restaurant, Sakura and an Italian bistro, Verdi. Another attractive feature of the Palace is the Taj Ayurveda Spa, which offers international therapies and applications, and authentic ayurvedic treatments from India in a most soothing and elegant environment.
Taj Palace Hotel, Dubai's short and mid term plans?
"An increased focus on public relations, an area one can easily fall behind when involved in day to day operations," says Meckelburg, "and of course, a fresh approach to our F&B activities in our restaurants," which he feels are of excellent quality and will therefore need to see an increase in daily covers over the next few months. "With the advantage of a superb location, Taj Palace has many opportunities. Given the traffic situation in the city, and its large underground parking area and proximity to Rigga Road, many of our guests will choose to walk rather than sit in traffic jams."
About future expansion he adds, "The Taj Group is currently in a very interesting phase of its expansion in the Middle East. In the coming years, we look forward to having additional properties in Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Oman and Morocco. We are also looking to increase the number of local and Arabic speaking staff. Attitudes have changed, and young people from the region are interested - more than several years ago - to begin a career in the hospitality industry. The Taj Palace, with its excellent training programme in place, will actively pursue this objective.
"While in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, Taj has been the leading hotel company for years. It is sad that we did not have a stronger presence in this region. Known for our supreme services in Asia, Taj will now move forward in its ambition to position itself as a leading hospitality player at the top end of the market along brands like the Shangri-La and Ritz Carlton.
Confident in meeting his objectives and visions for the hotel, Helmut Meckelburg is particularly delighted with the support he has received from all fronts, the hotel's loyal guests, the Taj group and the owners, Juma Al Majid Group of Companies.