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UPDATE 1-Mandarin Oriental plans for Chinese luxury demand

* Luxury hotel group almost doubling number of properties

* Chinese travelers will be a focus

* Travelers seek deals and stay for shorter periods

(Adds comment about deal seeking in last paragraph)

By Chelsea Emery

NEW YORK, June 28 (Reuters) - Luxury hotel chain Mandarin Oriental International Ltd MOIL.SI is planning on almost doubling its international presence in the next three years and sees China as a major focus, the company said on Monday.

“It’s a huge leap for us,” said Jill Kluge, group director of brand communications.

The hotel investment and management group will grow from about 24 deluxe hotels and resorts currently, to about 42 in the next 36 months, Kluge told Reuters at a media luncheon in New York.

The hotel chain is also turning its attention to a small but growing group of high-income Chinese travelers.

“We are aware of how important China is going to become,” said Kluge, adding that hotels in Taipei, Milan, Moscow and Costa Rica are all under development.

“We’re always looking,” said Kluge, adding that the group is “actively pursing” a possibility in Bali.

Also on Monday, Mandarin Oriental announced it would manage a new luxury hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The Doha location will help build the hotel chain’s name recognition in the Middle East and there will be a “superior return” on the development, said Chief Marketing Officer Michael Hobson, in an interview. Hobson declined to be more specific on projections for financial returns.

TRAVEL RETURNS

Luxury business and leisure travel is returning, although travelers’ enthusiasm is tempered by worries of another financial downturn, said managers from hotels in Barcelona, New York and Tokyo.

“People are traveling, but their durations are shorter,” said Christian Hassing, general manager at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. “(Travelers) would allocate a week or 10 days. Now it’s four to six days.”

And hotel customers are looking for deals, said New York general manager Rudolf Tauscher.

“It’s all the old guests,” said Tauscher. “Just $200 less.” (Reporting by Chelsea Emery; editing by Matthew Lewis and Andre Grenon)

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