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Interview: China is an extremely important market for Jumeirah Group: CEO

HONG KONG, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) — China is an extremely important” market for Dubai’s luxury hotel group Jumeirah as the wealthy Chinese consumers and international tourists keep rising, President and CEO Gerald Lawless said.

China’s domestic tourism will grow significantly in the coming years and will also attract more foreign visitors coming to China, creating a huge demand for luxury hotels in the country, Lawless told Xinhua in an interview.

On the other hand, China is also an important source market for Jumeirah Group, as higher awareness of the brand in China will probably make the Chinese guests choose to stay in Jumeirah hotels overseas, he said, adding the group has already benefited from that, particularly in Dubai.

Jumeirah Group attracted global headlines in 1999 with the launch of the Burj Al Arab, an iconic symbol of Dubai. The colossal sail-shaped hotel is very popular among the Chinese visitors, who account for more than 70 percent of the room nights sold during the week-long National Day holiday and the Chinese New Year, Lawless said.

As to the overall room nights sold for all the Jumeirah hotels around the world, Chinese guests currently account for about 7 percent, up from 3 percent four years ago. “So it is doubling every couple of years,” he said.

Lawless expected the Chinese percentage would rise to about 10-20 percent in the next few years, while Britain represents a total 15.2 percent as the group’s largest single source market.

According to the data from the World Traveling Tourism Council, there will be about 100 million outbound Chinese tourists by 2020. Meanwhile, China’s tourism expenditure has also seen an unprecedented increase, with the Chinese visitors having spent 162 billion U.S. dollars overseas in 2014.

“The potential for more and more visitors come from China is great,” Lawless said. “What we see from the research we have, the spending per head from the Chinese continues to go up.”

“People talk now there is a downturn in China, but I keep reminding, there is a slowdown in the rate of growth, but it is still growing,” he said, adding the Chinese would have more disposable income as there are more jobs and better economy around.

The 63-year-old hotelier, who joined the company upon its foundation in 1997, has helped Jumeirah Group establish 23 luxury hotels, resorts and residences worldwide, with a further 20 more hotels under development, and almost half of them located in China.

The Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai opened in 2011 as Jumeirah’s first hotel on the Chinese mainland. The group now has a pipeline of eight hotels in Sanya, Haikou, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Qiandaohu.

“In our listed cities where we desire to be in, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong are high up there,” Lawless said. “They are very important for us in our Chinese context.”

He said Jumeirah Group would seize any opportunity to enter the hotel market in those cities, with a view to further implementing its ambitious expansion plan in China.

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