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Jumeirah plans to add 60 hotels by 2012

Tianjin (China), September 26, 2008

Dubai-based hotel operator Jumeirah Group said on Friday global financial turmoil had so far had little impact on investment sentiment in the luxury market, adding it expects to have 60 hotels in operation or under development by 2012.

Jumeirah now manages 11 hotels for investors - eight in Dubai including the sail-shaped Burj Al-Arab hotel - and expects growth to remain strong for the foreseeable future.

"In the luxury end of the business, we are still holding up very strongly," executive chairman Gerald Lawless told Reuters in a interview on the sidelines of an economic conference.

"We haven't seen any fallout whatsoever," he said, talking about the global financial crisis.

The group, which is controlled by Dubai's ruler through his Dubai Holding investment arm, is also expanding from the oil-rich Gulf region to other resort islands in the US Virgin Islands, the Maldives, Majorca and Thailand.

In addition to the 11 hotels now operating, the group has another 11 under construction, a dozen or so partners that are signed up and a host of other deals in the pipeline.

"We are looking to have 60 hotels in operation or under development by the beginning of 2012," he said. "We are very busy," said the Irish native.

Jumeirah's rise comes as the oil-fueled economies of the Gulf are becoming an international force using windfall profits to diversify away from oil.

"We will need to go from the current 11,000 to about 55,000 employees in the next four years as we open hotels around the world," he said.

The group is in talks in the Philippines and Shanghai to establish vocational institutions that would train hotel staff for its expanding stable of hotels.

In China, Jumeirah will open its first hotel in Shanghai early next year, and hopes to eventually open 10 in the mainland, but it did not provide a timeframe for that expansion.

"China is very, very important for us. The potential for the luxury market in China is immense," he said.
While the group's expansion is focused on the Middle East and Asia Pacific, 75 percent of Jumeirah's guests come from Europe, United States and the Middle East.

In addition to hotels, Jumeirah is also looking to expand its newly created restaurant arm, which currently has 10 stores, a number that could hit 150 within three years as it begins to expand outside of its home Gulf region. "Who knows, maybe one day we could come to China," he said.-Reuters




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