Jumeirah looks to India for hotel expansion

Dubai’s Jumeirah Group, which operates luxury properties including the Burj Al Arab, is in talks to open hotels in various locations in India, its next key market for expansion.

“We are in discussions with a number of owners and developers about opportunities right across India, including Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru and New Delhi,” said Linda Lewis, Jumeirah Group’s vice president of global sales, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

“India is an important market for Jumeirah and one we’re increasingly focusing on now that our Asia Pacific pipeline is firmly established.

“Jumeirah has ambitions to grow its portfolio and establishing a presence in India seems a natural next-step for expansion.”

Jumeirah already has one property under development in Mumbai, but progress on that has been slower than expected.

It signed an agreement in November 2012 to operate the planned 470-room hotel. At the time of the announcement, it said that the property was slated to open this year.

Jumeirah said that the property was “still in development” but it did not have an opening date.

The company at that point also said it was looking for other opportunities to open hotels in India.

Global hotel operators are ­eager to expand in India because of the country’s growing wealth and burgeoning travel market amid a population of more than 1.2 billion. India has relatively few luxury branded hotel rooms per capita.

A lot of the leading hotel chains have been expanding at “a fairly rapid pace” in India, said Abhijeet Umathe, the associate director of hospitality and leisure advisory at Knight Frank India.

However, there had been “a bit of a pipeline shortfall in the last two to three years because of economic constraints”.

Jumeirah had perhaps been held back in terms of advancing its development plans in India by their “positioning” at the luxury end of the market, he said.

“In the cities in India where Jumeirah wants to be present, the real estate costs are extremely high, so if you have to build over a very large average build size per room, the return is not there for the owner.”

Most of the expansion in India’s hotel market is taking place at the mid to upscale segments of the market, but not at the very top end of luxury, Mr Umathe added.

Jumeirah, which operates ­hotels in locations including London, Istanbul, Frankfurt, and the Maldives, as well as several properties in the UAE, regards India as an important feeder market.

On Sunday, it announced that it had opened a representative sales offices in India to target the luxury travel market for its existing hotels.

Passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport was up 8.8 per cent year on year in February helped by India, its largest destination market, which accounted for 937,962 passengers.

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