By Andy Potts  themoscownews.com

Russia’s North Caucasus isn’t renowned as a fashion hotspot – but the resort towns around Mineralniye Vody could change all that. World-famous designer Giorgio Armani is considering open his second branded hotel in the mountain resort in Stavropol Region.

While that area is not among the hot spots in the battle-scarred region, it forms part of the North Caucasus Federal District which was lined up for tax breaks earlier this week.

And the arrival of Armani – whose first hotel was opened in Dubai last year – would be a real coup for officials desperate to unlock the tourist potential of the Caucasian mountains and transform the region’s tortured history.

High-rolling

While the region is among Russia’s poorest, the hotel won’t exactly be accessible to the locals.

The Dubai opening occupied nine floors of the 828-metre Burj Khalifa tower, and costs from $650 a night for a double room, according to the booking.com travel website.

But Vasily Solovyov, project manager for the newly created Armani Hotels Caucasus company, believes the scheme is a goer.

He told Kommersant the hotel would be built in one of the famous spa towns in the region and would have 100 rooms.

A more detailed presentation of the plans is expected at an international real estate exhibition in Cannes in early March.

Russian interest

Armani himself is expected only to provide the name and the design concept for the hotel, for which he will receive royalties.

And according to Mikhail Kusnirovich, owner of fashion chain Bosco di Ciliegi, the designer has been looking at the Russian market for some time.

Back in 2009 Kusnirovich said that Armani was keen to open a hotel in Russia, though at that time he was thought to be focusing on Moscow.

Tourist strategy

The news comes the day after Russia put forward plans to use tourism to eliminate poverty and extremism from the North Caucasus.

Alongside a package of tax breaks, the creation of five skiing resorts was suggested in an effort to encourage wealthy Russians to shun the Alps in favour of home-grown pleasures.

As such, any Armani development could expect plenty of support from the authorities, and discussions are believed to have taken place between the hotel group and officials of the federal district.

Italian style

Armani is not the only Italian designer eyeing up Russian investments.

Roberto Cavalli has been linked with the Praga restaurant on Arbat, and is said to be planning to open elite nightclubs in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

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