Hotel operator Sangri-La Asia sees great potential in expanding its holdings in the United States despite forecast of slowing growth in the American hotel market over the next 10 years. The luxury hotel chain yesterday announced that it would assume management of a new 147-room hotel in Miami in 2008 and a new 200-room hotel in Chicago in early 2009. It also has plans to manage hotels in others US cities. Stephen Darling, the company's vice-president for North America, said analysts projected industry growth in the supply of hotels in North America would be less than 5 per cent for the next five to 10 years which would be the lowest projected increase in recent years. But Mr Darling remained upbeat. 'We see in North America a rebound in corporate travel which had dropped off in the last two years,' he said, adding that the strong growth in travel had added to the country's market potential. The Chicago hotel, which will cost US$180 million, will occupy floors 12 to 27 of the 90-storey Waterview Tower, a new mixed-use building near Millennium Park. The Miami hotel, in Biscayne Bay, is part of a US$480 million mixed-use Island Gardens property development. Mr Darling said many of Shangri-La's customers were Americans and this had boosted the company's confidence in managing more hotels in the US. 'They know who we are,' he said. Cities under consideration for new hotels include Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He said Shangri-La had opted to team up with developers to build new hotels because taking over other hotels would be risky for the company's brand. Regarding business in Hong Kong, chief executive and managing director Giovanni Angelini said the opening of Disneyland had little positive impact on the hotels business. Mr Angelini expected the group's Hong Kong hotels' occupancy to reach more than 80 per cent by the end of this year. He forecast growth of 10 per cent in room charge rates and a 3 to 4 per cent increase in occupancy for its Hong Kong hotels next year. Mr Angelini said the company, which had spent about US$30 million in renovations since 2003, would not cut room rates despite new hotels opening in Hong Kong. He said the company had received 'many' bookings from delegates attending the World Trade Organisation conference to be held in December.