Jumeirah Group eying Saudi expansion in 2014
430 room final extension to Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai also well underway
In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, Jumeirah Group president and group CEO Gerald Lawless outlined the hotel group's plans for 2014:
We started to see the recovery in 2012 and it was consolidated in 2013, particularly with our hotels in Dubai, London and Frankfurt.
We definitely are pleased with performance all round and feel the economy is well set to continue to grow this year. In Dubai, the awarding of the World Expo 2020 has given a lot of confidence in the marketplace and I think we will see Dubai continue to grow as a commercial hub for the region.
We didn’t do too many openings in 2013 but signed a lot of contracts. We have five projects under development in China as we speak, three of them are under construction and the first part will open the end of 2014, which will be serviced apartments, and six months later we will open our hotel.
The owner has also started on a new hotel in Bali, which will be a lively property with individual villas. We are constructing the final extension to the Madinat Jumeirah, which is well underway and that will have 430 rooms and will be a substantial hotel, complementing Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Madinat Jumeirah.
We have also signed for two lovely hotels in Oman, so we look forward to that. With the same company, Saraya, we are developing on a hotel in Aqaba in south Jordan, which is well under way. We also signed St Petersburg, so our pipeline is very healthy and we continue to be active in this region.
Our big focus is on a number of contracts in Saudi Arabia in 2014. We have potential there and we look forward to finalising some negotiations that are currently under way.
Last year we signed in Mumbai and the hotel component will be significant near the Four Seasons hotel in the business district of Mumbai. We are in negotiations with the owner for another project in Goa.
Dubai and Saudi Arabia are our big priorities for the Middle East for the next few years and certainly we are looking at further development and we think we have capacity to grow further in Dubai and we would like to maintain our market position as one of the leading hotel operators, so we look forward to having more projects.
We don’t have any specific talks regarding World Expo 2020 but we look forward to being involved wherever is appropriate for our brand. We see a lot of development coming up in Dubai World Central and also the new Design District which was announced by Tecom, which will be very interesting.
In terms of guests, we find the Russian market is now extremely important and we are delighted to see there is so much airlift supplied by Emirates and FlyDubai from places like Ukraine and Russia. It is a highly valuable market and it is a big spending market and we are pleased to see that developing.
On the overall travelling we have been lobbying for various visa waivers and it is encouraging to see the UK has now announced a programme for the UAE and for Oman and Qatar, which will help our hotels in London. For sure, any relaxation of the visa visitor rules will always be helpful.