Luxury Hotels

Dubai-based hotel group Jumeirah sets sights on Hong Kong as China expansion rolls on

José Silva, the CEO of the company that operates the iconic Burj Al Arab five-star hotel in Dubai, says he would very much like to own a property outright in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 9:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 9:02am

Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based high-end hotel operator known for its iconic sail-shaped property, is eyeing Hong Kong after laying the groundwork for expansion in China even as the city’s luxury hotel scene gets overcrowded with some of the best-known names in the world.

In January, Niccolo Hotels opened The Murray in Central. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will soon open its first ultra-luxury property this winter in Tsim Sha Tsui, while Marriott International will debut its St Regis brand in Wan Chai early next year.

But Jumeirah’s CEO José Silva is unfazed.

And there’s good reason for it. Revenue per available room – a key industry measure – has increased more than 10 per cent in Hong Kong in the past 12 months through July, according to the latest CBRE report.

“From the moment you sign a deal to the moment you start operations, there will probably be 20 more hotels,” said the veteran hotelier, who took over in March. “You should be well prepared for a lot more competition when it comes.”

The operator of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai is considering a move into Hong Kong not only through managing hotel management but also through owning a property.

“We will be more comfortable as an investor, buying a building, running and managing our own hotel here,” said Silva. “Hong Kong has a very stable and mature property market, where price keeps on increasing; thus our asset will be secured from the gains in the value.”

He however did not provide a timetable for the entry or reveal details about any ongoing talks.

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While the company scouts for the right property in Hong Kong, Jumeirah has been slowly making inroads in China.

The company recently opened a hotel in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province.

Situated on the 39th to 67th floors in the prestigious International Youth Cultural Centre designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the Jumeirah Nanjing has 212 rooms and 49 suites with views of Yangtze River.

It is Jumeirah’s second ultra-luxury hotel in China, seven years after its first, Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel, in Shanghai was launched.

Compared to other international hotel chains’ high-speed pursuit in China, Jumeirah does not seem be in a rush. Jumeirah has had to abandon plans for a second hotel in Shanghai because of differences with the landlord.

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“So many people now have money to build towers, but it’s just not towers that we are looking for. We are looking for something unique that makes Jumeirah stand out,” said Silva. “If, as the deal evolves, it becomes untenable for either one or both sides, it is better to comfortably enable the parties to withdraw.”

Next year, the company will open another hotel in Guangzhou and a resort in Hangzhou, known as China’s Silicon Valley, as it sees an ever increasing appetite for luxury hospitality in China.

“They [Chinese tourists] are moving from acquiring goods to acquiring experiences,” said Silva. “The next wave of tourism among the Chinese will be national leisure instead of international and the demand for resorts in China will be tremendous.”