• Interview: Guy Crawford, CEO of Hotel Group Jumeirah
  •   Described as Jumeirah’s “global brand ambassador” – strikingly similar to the moniker given Crawford and other GlobalScots – McIlroy played a key role in the launch of the newly-opened Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel in Shanghai. In the wake of his win at the Shanghai Masters, McIlroy joined 20 Jumeirah corporate guests for a day of golf last month.

      Kristy Dorsey meets the Scot who is flying the flag for hospitality around the world

      JUST shy of 4pm, Guy Crawford’s chauffeur-driven car finally arrives in the centre of Edinburgh after a blustery flight from Dubai into Glasgow.

      Though he and fellow passengers were eventually cleared to disembark through high winds, the day’s exceptional gales have left his bags stranded in the Emirates aircraft, and the CEO of luxury hotel group Jumeirah needs a change of attire before evening.

      “I need to go in and buy myself a shirt and tie, because my clothes are still in the baggage hold,” Crawford explains as our conversation is cut short.

      He comes back about 20 minutes later with jacket, trousers and appropriate accoutrements, leaving a few minutes to finish our interview before he must prepare for a night of hastily-rearranged events. “I have a suit now, so we are making progress,” he says with a gentle chuckle.

      Crawford is due in Edinburgh to receive the Ogilvy Award, a newly-launched commendation from the Scottish Marketing Society in partnership with the Scottish Government. Named after David Ogilvy, the “father of modern day advertising”, it is designed to honour Scots who excel at international marketing.

      As the head of a group with more than 20 luxury hotels across three continents, Crawford certainly fits the bill.

      He was to have received the award at a black-tie gala dinner at the George Hotel, but with police advising against travel across central Scotland, the event was postponed in favour of a smaller presentation ceremony.

      Like Ogilvy, Highlands-born Crawford is passionate about the best his home country has to offer on the world stage. Recently the first member to be inducted into the GlobalScot hall of fame, he has worked with food, drink and textile firms across the country to promote their products at Jumeirah hotels in Dubai.

      He also displays a keen knack for advancing his own group into new territories. When Jumeirah chief financial officer Alaister Murray suggested the group sponsor a young player from his home course at the Holywood Golf Club in Northern Ireland, Crawford signed off on the agreement that has seen Rory McIlroy sporting a Jumeirah cap since turning professional in 2007.

      Described as Jumeirah’s “global brand ambassador” – strikingly similar to the moniker given Crawford and other GlobalScots – McIlroy played a key role in the launch of the newly-opened Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel in Shanghai. In the wake of his win at the Shanghai Masters, McIlroy joined 20 Jumeirah corporate guests for a day of golf last month.

      “We are incredibly privileged to have Rory and to be his principal sponsor,” says Crawford, who struck a few balls alongside the world’s second-ranked player. “He is absolutely one of the nicest young men you could hope to meet.”

      Not only that, but McIlroy has considerable cache among the audience Jumeirah targets with its super-high-end luxury accommodation.

      The group has four more hotels opening across China in the coming months, and McIlroy’s presence alongside select guests from that country would have done nothing to harm operational prospects. “It is a very exciting place to be right now,” Crawford says of China.

      Jumeirah, owned by the Dubai Holdings investment vehicle of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, ran just five hotels when Crawford joined as director of operations in 2002. Previously managing director of Macdonald Hotels, with more than 100 UK properties under his control, Crawford was handed the mandate to extend Jumeirah’s international brand. Predictably, this work involves extensive travel, including two or three trips annually back to the UK where the Dubai group runs the Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London. This gives Crawford the opportunity for side-trips up north to Elgin, where his father lives and is about to celebrate his 91st birthday.

      Though the hospitality market in Europe has been more difficult than that of Asia and the Gulf, Crawford remains keen on launching a Jumeirah hotel in his home country. With plans for a £125 million establishment in Glasgow’s international financial services district having apparently ground to a halt, the chief executive remains open to proposals in either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

      “There is an emotional tie, yes, but I would very much hope that my commercial hat would be in place as well,” Crawford says. “Our presence would complement either city.”

      Without giving too much away, he indicates that alternative proposals which have emerged since the Glasgow development hit the buffers look unlikely to yield any immediate progress. It seems his agenda on this trip is relatively limited, with the chance of getting back to his adopted home city in time to catch the closing rounds of the Dubai World Championship.

      As a golfing enthusiast, Crawford is understandably hoping for a strong showing by McIlroy. However, he entertains no notions of emulating the star’s game.

      “I am just trying to hit the ball one-tenth of the distance that he hits it,” says a self-effacing Crawford. “I love the game. I don’t play it very well, but I love it.”