The industry is waiting in eager anticipation for the opening of The Armani Hotel at Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Set to officially launch on April 21, it will welcome its first guests two days later.
The property’s iconic status as Giorgio Armani’s first hotel, located in the world’s tallest building, automatically ranks it at the top-end of Dubai’s luxury hotel sector. That its design will be unique is not in question — whether it is to your personal tastes or not is a different issue — and the hotel has already been billed as a hot spot for dining by Dubai’s F&B directors.
But, will these factors alone automatically make it more luxurious that Dubai’s other five-star deluxe hotels?
This brings us to the issue of ‘what is luxury’; a question that is often banded around the industry but to which I have received, for the first time, a new perspective on.
Describing the hotel industry as “land-locked” and “time-warped”, Campbell Gray Hotels chairman Gordon Campbell Gray says “there is an obsession with old fashioned concepts of luxury”.
“There is enormous waste in the five-star sector,” he says. “We have to change, it’s not even a desire, everybody has to change.”
Campbell Gray believes the industry needs to reassess guest expectations, warning of “the arrival of the intelligent guest” who is “going to look very harshly on waste”.
He raises several interesting points: does laundry need to be delivered in guests wrapped in tissues and ribbons, or can it be presented neatly folded in a basket? Why should cartons of “something that tastes like milk” be provided, when a little jug of fresh milk could be kept in the mini bar? And who wants 20 cookies when two perfect cookies would be just fine?
For Campbell Gray, luxury “is everything you need and no more — no excess. It is about being exquisite”.
Campbell Gray’s rationale is the need to keep in step with people. “If hoteliers are not smart enough to be the leaders, they need to listen to the guests,” he says.
Wyndham Hotels Group president and CEO Eric Danziger adds it’s about getting “back to basics”.
“We don’t need a vegetable garden in a Bloody Mary — a celery stick will do. It’s the same with hotels. It’s important that we give guests only what they want and not do something just because someone else is doing it,” he says.
These are fair points, and while it may take a while for guests to get used to cleaning their own sunglasses or turning their televisions on, perhaps it is better to start a move in this ‘anti-waste’ direction sooner rather than later.
There are still a few weeks to go until we discover Armani’s take on luxury, but in the meantime, turn to pages 25 and 41 to hear more from Campbell Gray and Danziger.