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Jose Silva, chief executive officer of Jumeirah Group, was trained to be a civil engineer, but his ardor for hospitality and architecture ranks high in his career.
His instinct for the hotel business, apparently, took shape as he spent summer time working with his uncle who ran a Hilton Hotel when he was very young.
“It wasn’t a luxury Hilton — it was the Hilton at the airport in Montreal, but it was a quality hotel,” reminisces Silva.
His association with the hospitality trade started in his youth. He’s passionate about architecture, coupled with a special fondness for food.
“When I was in the hotel with my uncle, I would dip my finger into every sauce. The German chefs would smack me, but it helped me develop that interest (in hotels) at 17. I think my combination of the passion for food and architecture just made me succeed in the business.”
Silva says he has always managed his hotels through an architect’s eye. He kept that as defining who he was in the hotel space and still today as a chief executive officer. He believes he’ll always keep his focus on architecture food and services.
“I could talk a lot more about services, but I think it’s kind of expected today.”
He explains he’s not saying services are easy, but he thinks that in the luxury space, it’s given, and people would expect great service when they pay certain prices.
“But, you don’t necessarily expect celebrity design and destination restaurants. So, when you get those, you’ve got a winning hotel.”
Silva joined Jumeirah Group as CEO in January this year after being tapped by the group through one of his past owner links.
He liked Jumeirah being a celebrity brand that’s going through globalization, and felt he had the relevant experience that could be applied.
“They already have celebrity hotels and have been very successful. And, they own 95 percent of their balance sheet, and when you own 95 percent of your balance sheet, that’s a lot of authority.”
Silva points out that some hotel management companies have lost a bit of control over their hotels as it’s not their money. But, for Jumeirah, it’s their money, they own the balance sheet, so that makes him feel he’ll be able to make decisions and execute them.
Jumeirah has gone on for some 20 years along its track record of success, and now it wants to go global. They’re looking for someone who really understands the operation, so Silva believes he’s a good match.
“I thought I could contribute and they had the right platform for me,” he says.
Silva’s business philosophy is to stay close to great talents and understand they’re the brand, not himself.
“I didn’t make five Michelin stars in Paris, the chefs did that, but I facilitated and organized them. So, to find great talents, you have to be patient with the talents, make them feel special. Giving them what they need to succeed is the key of my philosophy.”