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Asia offers new potential for palace hotels, high-end goods: luxury group

PARIS -- Asia is the most dynamic market for luxury products and services and is the next target for palace hotels under the brand of Dorchester Collection, company chief executive Christopher Cowdray told AFP in an interview about strategy.

“We have now nine hotels, they are all iconic. We own all of them except the Richemond (in Geneva). The aim is to have 15 hotels by 2015 — it's ambitious but that's the plan,” Cowdray said.

The Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Investment agency, the sovereign wealth fund of Brunei.

Cowdray ran through a list of cities that the group targets as suitable for its palace hotels, widely regarded in the world of luxury hotels as being in a class of their own.

“We're looking at key cities in Europe, in the Far East and in America,” Cowdray said.

“To be precise, one in each of these cities, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney. We're also looking at the Middle East as well, Dubai, Doha and probably Abu Dhabi, but also in New York or Washington.

“It depends where the opportunities arrive. It's not a science, it's all about opportunity.”

Cowdray, a 56-year-old Zimbabwean who ran the Dorchester hotel in London before becoming head of the London-based Dorchester Collection in 2007, said that several projects were under review and it was hoped that an announcement could be made by the end of the year.

The focus was on Asia because that was where the future development of the business lay, and with the Chinese in particular because “the Chinese will be the biggest travel group in the future. They're looking for luxury and the very wealthy are discerning, they know what true luxury is.”

In Paris, the Chinese were still hesitant to stay in palace hotels but growth of the world market for luxury products and services was already being driven largely by demand from the Chinese.

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Christopher Cowdray, CEO of London-based hotel management company Dorchester Collection, poses at the Plaza Athenee hotel in Paris on Wednesday, Oct. 17. (AFP)

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