In 2010, the first Armani Hotel opened its doors in Dubai within one of the world’s most iconic buildings, considered an architectural marble, the Burj Khalifa tower. Ten years later, Burj Khalifa has retained its iconic stance, thanks to its unique location in the heart of Dubai, steps for Dubai Mall and the Dubai Aquarium, with direct views over the spectacular ‘dancing’ fountains. Burj Khalifa is a must to experience, for any travellers to Dubai no matter their hotel.
Armani Hotels was established as a joint venture with giant UAE based real estate developer EMAAR which also owns and operates the Address Hotels. With a perfect location and Mr Armani being involved in designing every inch of the interiors of the hotel, the project seemed close to perfection.
From the majestic lobby to the lavish suites, some even with balconies, an array of exceptional dining offerings and a state-of-the-art gym and Spa, Armani Hotel Dubai commanded a unique desirability factor, travellers, whether in-house guests or patrons of the restaurants, were drawn to experience the ‘Armani lifestyle’. Every single piece of furniture was custom designed by Mr Armani, even pieces that nowadays are considered iconic as part of the Armani Casa collections.
With Mr Armani directly and actively involved no expense has been spared for the choice of the finest quality materials and finishes, from the rare all-marble bathrooms (impressive in size), wooden floors, ‘sliding walls’ and the superb comfortable bed. Thick towels bearing the Armani logo, custom-made bathroom amenities based on a unique scent which was chosen for the Armani Prive haute-parfumerie line and high thread Italian satin cotton bed linen are some of the other pampering offerings.
With the support of Mr Armani exceptional attention has also been paid to other musts in a top luxury hotel, aiming at ensuring ultimate comfort standards – flawless sound-proofing (including indoor), high-water pressure, silent fast adjusting AC and central controls for lighting, DND, but also safety such as a camera placed for guests to see those at the door and the option to open the door remotely from the room pad control.
Armani / Dolci, Armani / Fiori and Armani Prive were integrated as part of a retail space within the lobby floor. Flowers are probably the most impressive, yet, I was surprised, 9 years from my first stay to see that the fashion boutique was no longer there and the only ‘connection’ t0 Armani fashion was a discount voucher of EUR 45 which guests can use at Dubai Mall. There is a very convenient hallway (corridor) which links the hotel directly to Dubai Mall.
Even after 9 years, I could vividly remember when checking-in on this stay, the scent of the hotel, the very carefully chosen dramatic ambiance music and how my dedicated Lifestyle Manager at the time, explained she is much more than a butler and she can assist with all guest relations / front office or concierge matters.
When walking me to my room, I remember she was describing how the hard floors (hallways) were conceived for leather sole shoes (men) and high-heels for women, and as they walk they should feel like on a catwalk. She also explained that the incense scented soap of a round shape stone was inspired by Mr Armani finding a similar stone on a beach and then, as he walk and closed his eyes for a second, holding the stone, felt like holding someone by hand…. What a beautiful story.
The dining offering includes no less than 7 outlets, including a Armani / Mediterraneo (casual Mediterranean), Armani / Amal (Indian), Armani / Kaf (first kosher cuisine restaurant in Dubai), Armani / Hashi (Japanese) Armani / Lounge (lobby lounge) and Ristorante (Italian). I was impressed by both the exceptional food quality but also the high-standard consistent service extended throughout all the outlets. With the exception of the Spa and Front Office which may extend a robotic, impersonal service, all other departments convey very high personalised service.
Mention must also be made that furnishings and interior design elements in all public outlets as well as rooms and suites has been superbly maintained, although the property has not undergone any renovations since opening. Signs of wear and tear may not overtly show up in photos you may take but at a closer look you will notice tape covering the corner of lamps and carpets which have lost their original colour.
While interacting with staff, I learned Mr Armani has not visited / stayed at the property in many years and no Armani event was hosted at the hotel. Mr Armani has not used to hotels even for shooting an ad campaign or conducting a magazine photo shoot. This is one of the reasons why the property seems ‘disconnected’ from the world of luxury fashion – celebrities, media, social media.
And all of this seems to be a paradox to say the least, considering that Mr Armani is extremely involved in constantly upgrading and renovating of its stores, including the division which includes the Emporio Armani Cafes – both those in Paris and Milan have undergone renovations in the past 3 years. I could not help but wonder why all of this ‘disconnect’ regardless of how the joint venture was actually performing.
How would Mr Armani react seeing a lamp ‘fixed up’ with tape in one of his stores, or carpets which can barely take any more chemical cleaning. Or how he would react seeing the very low quality packaging of the bathroom amenities (otherwise made by L’Oreal which are the exclusive licensee for all Armani beauty and fragrance products). The Armani logo is ‘printed’ on the plastic bottles but again they seem to be of the lowest quality.
How is L’Oreal respond to this? – nobody from L’Oreal has ever bothered to checked these amenities especially considering that the Armani license brings millions of euros annually to Armani Group? Mr Armani would probably not place these amenities in the restrooms of his stores or at his offices. Why not provide guests with gifts (large size samples) of the actual Armani beauty products? If Armani Hotels are not the perfect venues to showcase these products then, which other venues?
Over the past decade, many luxury fashion brands have failed at anchoring with hotels from a lifestyle point of view. Armani Hotels and Bvlgari Hotels are the only success stories, both reflecting the lifestyle DNA of each brand and executed / conceived as natural extensions of the brands. These are not ‘suite pop-ups’ or one ‘signature suite’ – these are universes of the brand which reflect the Italian dolce-vita.
Since Bvlgari Hotels do not have a power personality driving the brand – especially a living legend such as Mr Armani – they have sensibly chosen to recreate an aesthetic which subtly references the brand, while ensuring the finest service standards. However, at Armani Hotels, every single aspect such as the menu of restaurants, wellbeing/ Spa or interior design can reflect Mr Armani’s philosophy and lifestyle. Through product placement, a pop-up or a temporary offering, Armani Hotels can be THE ideal venue to showcase Armani products.
While many have got accustomed to blame Emaar, I would beg to differ. With an active constant involvement of Mr Armani himself, I would suppose that Emaar have done their very best, especially maintaining the product, but also ensuring high service standards. I refuse to think that Emaar is happy to have such an amazing partnership, but there was no photo-shoot of the hotel in the past 10 years, including the very same website.
Despite the lack of any renovations, you will be impressed by abundant good reviews on Tripadvisor. Staff, overall, go out of their way to show care and attention – I felt special when most of the staff would address me by name, without me sharing my room number. The present General Manager (part Italian) is exceptional – his passion and dedication being so obvious.
Yes, there have been 5 General Managers in 10 years (the GM needs to be approved by Mr Armani personally), nevertheless, many of those of the team and human resources squad have made incredible efforts, putting in a lot of passion. During my recent stays in Dubai, I have encountered many former employees, who would still have the nostalgia of the property. On this particular trip, one such former staff, today working at another hotel, told me ‘You know, Armani (Hotel) was an amazing school for me. I learned so much and found such great pride working for such an iconic brand’
(NOT Armani Hotels)
POTENTIAL IS HUGE This is a wake up call for Mr Armani! With technology, Mr Armani can do so much, even remotely ! So Covid should not be an excuse to postpone reputation. Small steps such as renovating some accommodations or one other public venue would kindle exceptional feedback. Dubai is probably one of the few places during this pandemic where a small physical catwalk show can be staged…
Even during these challenging times and without beach access Armani Hotels has been registering exceptional performance, boasting impressive occupancy. Other luxury brands such as Dolce&Gabbana, Harrods, Chopard and Gucci have long been rumoured to diversify into hotels – none of them have the 360 degree ingredients of the Armani Hotels – and design would never compensate for exceptional service standards.
Oliver Petcu in Dubai
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