As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. This is particularly true of a select group of luxury hotels, like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where visitors pay previously unheard-of rates, but get lavish extras in exchange.
The Burj Al Arab is a 1,000-foot-tall feat of modern design, perched on the edge of the Persian Gulf. The interior lobby is plated in gold leaf; every guest room is a duplex suite with butler service and a 42-inch plasma-screen TV. There are full-size Hérmes amenities in the bathroom, and when it's time to turn in for the night, guests choose from a pillow menu with 13 options.
The room rates befit the princely surroundings; prices start at $1,770 per night for a basic suite and reach $10,890 per night for the Royal Suite, which comes with an indoor Jacuzzi and revolving bed.
Our list of the most expensive hotels in the world includes plenty of properties with plush amenities, like private terraces at Sandy Lane in Barbados or three gourmet meals a day at Singita Private Game Reserve in South Africa. And while the priciest hotels aren't necessarily getting more expensive from year to year, more and more of them are opening their doors.
The Burj is the most expensive hotel in Dubai (and the Middle East in general), but there's competition on the way. The Middle East's burgeoning hospitality industry has given rise to a spate of luxury properties over the past ten years, and forthcoming residential and hotel projects in Dubai are expected from Donald Trump, Giorgio Armani and the Versace Group, which is reportedly planning a beachfront palazzo whose sand temperature will be regulated to prevent burned feet.
And while the second-most expensive hotel in the Middle East, the $860-a-night Dar Al Masyaf, is the only three-figure price tag on our list, it still represents a big jump up for Dubai hotel prices.
In fact, hotel room rates are increasing across the Middle East. "Riyadh, Muscat, Dubai and Doha: Those are the areas that drive the region, showing that there's very little price sensitivity in the upper end," says Jan Freitag, vice president at Smith Travel Research, based in Hendersonville, Tenn. "Hotels are capitalizing on the fact that the Middle East is hot as a vacation destination for Europeans," he says, adding that the average daily room rate for chain hotel properties in the Middle East and Africa rose 16.3% in the 12 months preceeding May 2006.
Africa is another good destination for the luxury leisure traveler looking to spend--and get--a lot. South Africa's most expensive hotels, mainly game camps, ring in at just about $2,000 per night, and many of them offer unique lodging facilities, all-inclusive rate plans and game-viewing opportunities. At the Londolozi Tree Camp in South Africa's Sabi Sand Game Reserve, the six specialty tree-top suites start at $1,916 per night, and each comes with a private plunge pool. Rates include three Pan-African meals and two game drives per day, plus bush walks, and guests can view elephants, lions and leopards. Now that's value for money.
To pinpoint the most expensive hotels in the world, we chose two properties from each of six regions worldwide: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and the United States. We ranked each hotel based on the price for a standard room for two during high season. We did not include exclusive-use hotels, islands or villas, since these are only available to one group at a time and are therefore not hotels in the traditional sense of the word.