Gulf-based Jumeirah Group is looking to expand its UK portfolio, according to group chief executive Gerald Lawless.
The group runs three hotels in London and Lawless says that the company would like to grow its footprint in the capital and in the wider UK, including in the north of England and Scotland, on an “opportunistic” basis.
“We would be very interested to see which other cities would sustain a Jumeirah hotel,” he told the Telegraph. “Edinburgh would be very interesting for us and Manchester for sure.”
But for tourism to continue to grow the UK the country will have to continue to invest in a world-class infrastructure, including in the expansion of one of the major hub airports near London.
However, the decision on whether to expand either Heathrow or Gatwick could be years away and Britain is already falling behind other global aviation hubs including Dubai, which has just approved the $32 billion expansion of the emirate’s second airport.
“I think that definitely, if I had my way, that a third runway in Heathrow is essential and a second runway at Gatwick is required,” Lawless said.
Although the Airports Commission has ruled out building both until 2050 at least, Lawless said: “You need both. I do not know why they keep thinking that it’s one or the other.”
He called for the visitor visa process – not just in the UK but also across Europe – to be streamlined along the lines of the US online ESTA system,
“It’s not a question of whether places like Dubai will take visitors away, it’s much more what the governments of the EU and very much the UK will do to facilitate this travel,” Lawless told the newspaper. “We’re not saying ‘open your borders and don’t worry about immigration’.
“What we’ve been saying is that governments should think firstly about a common platform for visit visas, just like the US has done with ESTA.”
A 435-room extension of the Madinat Jumeirah property is underway in Dubai and the company has the go ahead to expand the adjacent Jumeirah Beach hotel.
Jumeirah is also expanding its footprint in Asia.
Lawless said: “We have really big hopes for the economic development in India.
“We have two hotels about to start construction, one in Mumbai and one in Goa, and we hope to get more. Look at the very business friendly government that is in power at the moment and what it is doing to try to improve the economy of India and improve the wealth of its citizens.
“Like China it has a rising middle class and these people will increasingly want to travel.”
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