A luxury hotel crafted by designer Giorgio Armani opened Tuesday as the first landmark tenant in the world's tallest skyscraper.
The 160-room Armani Hotel Dubai is a welcome bit of good news for Dubai's leaders after the troubled debut of the more than half-mile (828-meter) Burj Khalifa in January. An elevator malfunction forced a two-month closure of the spire's observation deck — the only part of the tower open to the public.
The Italian designer was on hand for Tuesday's opening ceremony, which was delayed a week because of the travel chaos caused by the Icelandic volcano. He said his goal was to build a comfortable and stylish hotel that would leave an impression.
"I wanted something very important, something to be remembered," Armani said, dressed in a dark T-shirt and white trousers. "Something not just for the present, but beyond."
Armani was joined by the chairman of Burj Khalifa's developer Emaar Properties, which has a deal to open more Armani-branded hotels, including the next one in Milan.
They have not disclosed financial details of their partnership.
Armani's Dubai outpost relies on sleek, minimalist detail and earth tones like rich cocoa-colored wood paneling throughout. It stretches from the base of the spindly, metal-and-glass Burj through the eighth floor, then skips some two dozen stories before continuing on floors 38 and 39. It includes multiple restaurants, a spa and an outdoor swimming pool.
The luxury doesn't come cheap. The cheapest rooms offered at the moment go for more than $750 a night — before tax. High-end suites — which boast a living room, dining room, walk-in closet, study and full service bar — cost about 2,180 a night.
"What they're after is the aspirational traveler. ... It's trying to make a statement to a certain type of luxury consumer," said Alex Kyriakidis, who heads the global tourism division at professional services firm Deloitte. "Will that work? Time will tell."
The opening comes as Dubai's economy is reeling from the global economic downturn, which has revealed deep debt problems in the city-state.
Many of Dubai's high-end hotels were forced to slash rates to cope with the slump, though business has begun to improve in recent months, according to Deloitte.
Dubai's newest five-star hotel is the first part of the 2,717 foot (828 meters) Burj Khalifa to open to the public since the 124th-floor observation deck welcomed its first visitors in January.
The lookout unexpectedly shut down a month after the opening when an elevator malfunctioned. Emaar never disclosed details of what happened, which it attributed to unexpectedly high traffic and electrical problems. The deck quietly reopened earlier this month.
The Burj Khalifa rises more than 160 stories, though the exact number of habitable floors is not known. Much of the building remains empty as work continues inside.
Armani's hotel will soon have more competition. Rival Italian fashion house Gianni Versace SpA plans to open its own luxury hotel in Dubai later this year. Its claim to fame: an artificially cooled beach designed to keep sunbathing guests from getting too uncomfortable in the Gulf's scorching summer heat.