Dubai is set to welcome its newest ultra-luxury hotel, the $700m Emerald Palace Kempinski on Palm Jumeirah, later this week.
The property, which has been delayed for several years, plans to open its doors on Thursday, November 29, managing director of the hotel Sebastien Mariette confirmed.
“At the beginning I didn’t understand why it was taking so long [to launch the hotel] but after I met my owner a couple of times – after discussing the project with him, I understood that he is very demanding regarding the quality and is very attentive to detail,” he said.
“While that’s not the only reason why the project got delayed, but the level of personal involvement and attention to detail that he got into is a major explanation for the delay,” he added.
Designed to resemble a palace from 18th century Europe, the massive property, spread across 100,000 square metres, features ornamental ceilings decorated manually with 24-carat gold leaf, marble columns and regal furniture.
Massive art pieces hang on the walls while the plush carpets feature designs reminiscent of 18th century European decadence.
The hotel features 391 guest rooms, suites and villas, with bespoke, handcrafted furniture, including 10 stand-alone four-bedroom villas in the gardens and adjacent shoreline.
The villas have their own rooftop pool, jacuzzi and spa, and feature a living area, dining room and fully equipped kitchen.
The royal suite, which this year has a price tag of whopping $18,000 for a night during the holiday period, offers guests the ultimate in luxury with a personal butler and food of their choice which can be cooked in their suite by a chef from any of the restaurants in the property.
Emerald Palace has a wide range of F&B options with eight restaurants and bars, including Mix by Alain Ducasse, a three-floor restaurant by the three-Michelin star chef – his first in the UAE. The others include Mediterranean inspired restaurant and lounge Villamore, Pan-Asian dining venue Matagi, All’onda – serving Venetian cuisine, nightlife venue Skorpeus and the Sablanc beach bar.
For guests who want to be pampered during their stay, there’s also an exclusive 3,000 square metre Cinq Mondes spa – including the city’s largest indoor pool – which features 23 spacious treatment rooms. For those who want that extra privacy, there are two private spa suites as well. There are also hammams for men and women as well as a sauna. For those looking to keep fit, the hotel has a yoga studio and a gym.
The Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai also has 500 metres of private beach and an 80-seat private cinema.
But according to Mariette, the hotel aims to stand apart from competition in the value and range of experiences it offers, to ensure loyalty among its guests.
“This is what makes a difference between a good and very good hotel in Dubai, where you have luxury everywhere,” he said.
While butlers will be present in every floor (guests in suites and villas have a personal butler), the hotel will also introduce a kids butler experience.
A Marie Antoinette-inspired trolley bearing sweet treats (such as cakes and meringues) for the little ones will visit all the rooms with families from 5pm for offer children a special experience.
The hotel will also be offering professional ‘storytelling’ services for a fee. It has hired two professionals who will spend 15-20 minutes reading out stories for children at bed-time using the right intonations and interacting with the children.
Hotel staff are also being trained in the service now, to make it viable in the longer term, confirms Mariette.
There will also be dance performances in the lobby at 7pm every evening to mark the traditional Kempinski candle-lighting ceremony, while staff are getting trained in opera singing so that while serving afternoon tea, they will occasionally burst into song.
Loyalty members will also be offered a range of exclusive experiences ranging from zip-line rides to helicopter tours.
“We will have lots of experiences to surprise the guests – to have the ‘wow’ moments,” said Mariette.
Initially, the hotel expects to have 50 to 60 per cent occupancy rate, compared to the Dubai average of between 70- 80 per cent.
But the hotel is focussed on quality rather than occupancy, with no plans to change its pricing structure, said Mariette. Room rates start from around Dhs2,800 ($760) at present.
“It’s all about the quality – if we deliver the right value of money, people will adjust to the pricing,” he said.
In terms of visitors, targetted markets are the GCC, Russia and CIS as well as the local UAE market.
Looking ahead, Mariette said he remained bullish about the Dubai luxury hotel industry despite the current economic conditions.
“I am still confident about demand in Dubai – which continues to grow. I am not concerned about that. The main factor changing in Dubai on the five-star hotel market is oversupply.
“But it goes in cycles – now it’s a bit unbalanced with supply growing faster than demand. I think that will be regulated over the next few years,” he said.
“Also, having oversupply is kind of good, because with the market becoming very competitive, if you want to be in the premier league, you have to do better than the others,” he added.
The goal is to have the hotel rank among the ‘top five’ in Dubai by “quality perceived” in the local and and international markets.
“The maturity of a hotel is normally a year. But I think Dubai is going faster and for us the first three months are key. I think in four to five months, we should be seen as one of the leading properties in Dubai,” Mariette added.