DEAD SEA, JORDAN // Jumeirah Group is planning a global push that involves more than 70 new projects round the world, its chief executive said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the Dead Sea in Jordan, Gerald Lawless said the strategy of the Dubai hotels and resorts chain was to enhance its position as a global brand in the upmarket hotels business.
“The market for global tourism will continue to grow, especially in the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. We’re involved in 62 new projects in those regions, backing up the strategy with action,” he said.
In particular, he said, global tourism operators should exploit the rise of the Chinese tourism industry. The potential travel market has been swelled by 100 million new Chinese tourists in recent years. Jumeirah has eight developments in China, including a new hotel planned in Nanjing.
Chinese visitor numbers to Dubai are predicted to surge 98 per cent in the 10 years through 2023 to 545,000, according to a March report from Oxford Economics and InterContinental Hotels Group.
Jumeirah has also prioritised expansion in the Middle East. Mr Lawless said he was in advanced talks with authorities and potential partners in Saudi Arabia, which Jumeirah has long considered to be the next big market in the region.
“We’ve been very careful about how we approach Saudi Arabia, but we’re close. The next few months should see some news,” he said.
Jumeirah is also involved in two hotel projects in Aqaba in Jordan.
Mr Lawless, who is also vice-chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), repeated his call for a common electronic visa system valid around the world, similar to the American “trusted traveller” system.
He also weighed into the row between Arabian Gulf airlines and some American aviation lobbyists over “open skies” flying rights to US cities.
“I don’t see why flying rights should be restricted by government protocols,” he said. “There is no such thing as ‘hotel rights’. If I open a hotel in China I don’t have to offer a Chinese company the right to open a hotel in Dubai.”
“The hotel industry … is very much in favour of as much freedom as possible in flying rights,” he added. “It makes perfect business sense. Why would hoteliers want to take steps to reduce the number of tourists who can visit a city or country? It was discussed at the recent WTTC annual meeting in Madrid and all the big hotel chains were strongly in favour of the Gulf carriers’ position.”
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