Dubai luxury hospitality group Jumeirah is looking to expand its portfolio in the United States, executive chairman Gerald Lawless has revealed.
With a total of nine new properties set to open this year, the Jumeirah Group is set to almost double its portfolio but Lawless has earmarked the US for further expansion.
The company already runs the Jumeirah Essex House near Central Park in New York but Lawless has targeted Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Washington as future locations for hotels.
"We've always felt as well that we need to try to get some more locations within the United States," he said in an interview with Hotelnewsnow.com.
"We would take our key cities, not unsurprisingly, but if you go in a circle around Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Washington - these would be our key target areas to have representation.
"And in the next few years even if we got two or three of these locations, we would be very happy."
Lawless added that Jumeirah is also keen to develop properties in the Caribbean.
"We've entered in negotiations in Anguilla and Antigua, as well as we're quite active further south in Costa Rica," he said, adding that the company was still waiting to hear about a possible project in the US Virgin Islands.
"So yeah, we're very interested in developing further within this part of the world within the United States and the Americas generally."
So far, Jumeirah has opened three hotels this year - Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on The Palm Jumeirah island; the Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel in Shanghai; and Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Maldives.
Six others in Baku, Azerbaijan, Frankfurt, Germany, Kuwait, Maldives, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are planned to open before the end of 2011.
The wave of openings was a result of some projects being delayed during the downturn, Lawless said.
The Jumeirah chief also said that the company saw a "really strong resurgence" in performance towards the end of 2010, almost back to the levels seen prior to the global slowdown in 2008.
"We had thought that we wouldn't really see average room rates coming back to the same levels that we had previously. But there were periods in the first quarter of this year where we actually exceeded our best average room rates of 2007," he said.
The best performance was seen at Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah, where the company has three hotels making up a total of 874 rooms.
"We are greatly encouraged that these kinds of numbers are coming back, and it bodes well for the future that we will be able to get back to levels that we have had in 2007 and early in 2008," he added.
On plans to postpone the launch of a new brand called VENU Hotels, Lawless said: “We've decided for the time being to concentrate on the single brand proposition of Jumeirah as our top-end luxury brand.
“In retrospect, this was the right decision to have made, that with the markets as they are worldwide, having just come out of recession, I pretty much am keen — and my board — that we concentrate all the executive team's energy and focus of sticking to the core brand of Jumeirah.”