The Dubai luxury hotel company Jumeirah Group said it plans to significantly expand in China over the next couple of years, because the rising number of wealthier domestic consumers and international tourists are expected to create a huge demand for luxury hotels in the country.

Gerald Lawless, executive chairman of Jumeirah Group, said the company plans to sign up approximately 12 new hotels in China by 2012, accounting for one fifth of the 60 new hotels that it hopes to sign up worldwide.

"There is a huge opportunity within the luxury hotel market in China," said Lawless. He said although Chinese customers only contributed a small part to Jumeirah’s business, China is one of Jumeirah’s biggest growth markets.

Jumeirah have signed up hotels in several Chinese cities including Macao, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Hainan, according to the company. Earlier this year, it introduced a new hotel brand, Venu, signing up the first one in Shanghai.

"Chinese customers are still too small relatively speaking (for our business), but it’s one of the biggest growth markets we have," said Lawless.

He said China contributed about 5 percent of Jumeirah Group’s global revenues, up from less than 1 percent two to three years ago. "In places such as Dubai, I would see within five years our Chinese business would be at least 10 percent of our revenue, probably more," he added.

China is likely to see the highest growth in Asia as domestic tourism has seen an unprecedented increase in the country. Tourism expenditure has risen on average 14 percent annually, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The rapid growth has attracted many major hotel operators to open new hotels in the country. For example, Hilton announced in October that it plans to open 100 new hotels in China over the next five years.

Marriott International said it plans to open 60 new hotels in China over the next five years.

Michael D. Johnson, dean of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, was quoted by Shanghai Securities News as saying that China’s hotel market will maintain rapid growth in the future despite the negative effects of the global financial crisis.

Johnson holds a positive view towards China’s hotel market and noted that it is very likely to surpass the US market in five to 10 years.

Lawless said Jumeirah plans to stand out in China’s competitive luxury hotel market by providing diversified services in which each of its hotels "has to stay different". He also said the company is considering bringing more services, such as a restaurant business, to China in the future.

SOURCE: China Daily
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