Dubai’s Jumeirah Group, operator of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, is to open its first hotel in India in 2017, it was confirmed on Monday.
The hotelier, a subsidiary of government-owned Dubai Holding, has signed a management agreement to operate a luxury hotel in the Lower Parel district of Mumbai. The 470-room hotel is expected to be completed in 2017.
“The demand for five-star hotels in the Indian market has been robust and we are delighted to have initiated the first phase of our expansion into India with this landmark project in Mumbai,” said Gerard Lawless, president and group CEO of Jumeirah Group, in a press statement.
The Mumbai property will be the first of a series of hotels Jumeirah is planning as part of expansion into the Indian market.
“India is a sector of strategic importance for Jumeirah Group, both as a source market for guests to our global portfolio of luxury properties and as a target location for our development plans,” Piers Schreiber, vice president of corporate communications at Jumeirah Group, told Arabian Business in July.
“We are in discussions with a number of potential partners for development projects, including developers in India who are interested in bringing Jumeirah to Delhi, Mumbai and other key destinations,” he added.
Tourism is a fast-growing sector in India. In July, the UAE and India signed an agreement to double the flow of tourists between the two countries.
Around 6.29m tourists from the Gulf visited India last year and India's tourism minister said he is looking to increase the share of foreign visitors from 0.6 percent to one percent by 2016.
While visiting the UAE, an Indian ministerial delegation said India currently needs another 230,000 new hotel rooms, which it said will require private investment of around INR400bn (US$7.23bn).
Jumeirah currently operates 20 luxury hotels and serviced apartments, including ten in the UAE, seven in Europe, two in the Maldives and one in China.
A further 15 hotels are currently under development and Lawless told Arabian Business in September he plans to have more than 30 hotels under operation within the next four years.
“We are focusing on places like Saudi Arabia… We don’t have anything signed up but there are some very real possibilities,” Lawless said.
“Location-wise, we would very much aspire to be in Makkah, Medina, Jeddah, Riyadh and Khobar. They are the main centres and I think that there is a very strong possibility that Jumeirah will achieve its goals there very rapidly,” he added.
“At the moment we are operating 22 hotels and really we have gone from ten or 11 hotels in about 18 months… It is hard to give a number but in four years time… opened and under operation, we should be well into the 30s.”
Within the Gulf region, Saudi is not the only market on Lawless’s horizon. “We would also like to be in Doha and Qatar… We have projects that are coming up in Muscat that will take another two years… Kuwait will open very soon, we are still waiting on final information on that from the developer but I would hope that during the next eight months [it will open].”
Elsewhere, Asia, Africa, Russia and India are on the company’s agenda. “All the opportunities are there… We are still trying to get a deeper understanding on how to approach the African market,” Lawless said.