Armani opens luxury hotel in world's tallest building

With suites costing up to $A11,800 for one night, Italian designer Giorgio Armani yesterday opened his first signature hotel in the world's tallest tower in the Gulf emirate of Dubai.

"Yesterday I saw this hotel come to life and I felt very emotional. It was marvellous to see this come to life," Armani, wearing a black T-shirt and beige trousers, told reporters at a news conference in the hotel in the Burj Khalifa.

He said his reaction when he was asked to design the hotel was one of surprise.

"Are you really sure you want me?" he said he asked Mohammed Alabbar, the chairman of Dubai's giant property developer, Emaar.

"My thinking is less is more, and Dubai was being called the Las Vegas of the desert. I couldn't understand why he wanted this hotel in Dubai," Armani said through an interpreter.

Prices may seem high, but the hotel itself is slightly more down to earth in the iconic 828-metre building that opened in January.

Designed in plain shades of black and brown, it occupies space on the ground floor of Burj Khalifa and on floors one to eight, with the luxury suites on floors 38 and 39.

On levels nine to 16 is the Armani Residence, apartments designed by Giorgio Armani and sold to private buyers.

The hotel has no paintings on the walls in an attempt to "keep it simple and elegant," employees said on Tuesday.

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Hotel staff said a night at the best suite -- the Armani Dubai suite, and it was already occupied on Tuesday -- costs 40,000 dirhams ($A11,800).

However, the same suite can already be found at a discount on the hotel's website -- going for a mere 24,000 dirhams ($A7008).

In addition to fine restaurants, the hotel also has a spa, but this is restricted to 300 "Armani-style" members only.

"They'll go through your profile and you'll be accepted according to specific criteria," one staff member said without specifying what the "specific criteria" were.

In the Armani Prive lounge, the lighting gleams from marble tables and the largest LCD television in the world -- showing Armani fashion shows. The lowest rate for a table in the lounge is 3000 dirhams ($A885).

Emaar spent 1.5 billion dollars building the huge tower, named Burj Khalifa at its inauguration after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan came to Dubai's aid after it was hit by the global financial crisis.

Deep-pocketed Abu Dhabi extended a lifeline of 10 billion dollars, in addition to an equal amount from the UAE central bank to help Dubai buoy its heavily indebted state firms last year.

Although hit by the crisis, the publicly listed Emaar has fared better than many other Dubai firms, diversifying its activities into hospitality and leisure when property development took a severe blow.

The Armani hotel "will have a positive effect on the financial performance of the company for years to come," Emaar's chief Alabbar told reporters on Tuesday.

Armani said Emaar Chairman Mohamed Alabbar described the city as "Las Vegas in the desert."

"I am a minimalist, less is more... and when I looked at what was happening here it was the opposite," he said at the hotel launch. "But he wanted me and I wanted him."

Emaar and Armani plan to open the next hotel, Armani Hotel Milano, in the Italian city in 2011.

Other projects include Armani's first resort, to be located in Marrakech, and Armani residences villas in Marassi, Egypt.

AFP/Reuters

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