By Bindu Rai

With a year that saw some hospitality heavyweights facing construction delays, tight financing and cancelled projects, 2010 is ushering in renewed hope to the industry.

Burj Khalifa’s Armani Hotel, which opens on March 18, is one of the many iconic hotel properties in the UAE that will stretch the vertical limits of the country, changing its landscape to embrace the hotels market with flair and investments.

Emirates Business lines up the top hotel properties to open doors this year.

The Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa

As the world watched the grand opening of Burj Khalifa last night, the celebrations were simply the first of many for the iconic structure that will also house the opulent Armani Hotel, the first to open under the collaboration between Armani and Emaar Properties.

The 37-floor exclusive hotel, designed by fashion maestro Giorgio Armani, also marks his first foray into the hospitality industry.

While the hotel and residences have been constructed for an undisclosed figure, to put things into prospective, each floor of the 160-storey Burj Khalifa has cost about Dh34.3 million to construct and design, with the entire project itself costing Dh5.5 billion according to a statement issued by Emaar Properties Chairman, Mohammed Ali Alabbar.

The hotel will feature 175 rooms, with furnishings designed by the company’s micro-brand, Armani Casa.

The property will also be home to a luxurious spa spanning 40,000 sq mt.

From the 144 private units, tentatively scheduled to release in February, the approximate market cost of a one-bedroom home at Armani Residences is priced at $4 million (Dh14.6m), while a two-bedroom unit easily demands a whopping $7.m.

Online bookings for Armani Hotel, Dubai are expected to start later this month. Other properties underway include the first Armani Resort, planned for Marrakech, and the first Armani Residences villas, for Marassi in Egypt. Further Armani hotels, resorts and residences will open subsequently in New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and London.

Emerald Palace Kempinski, The Palm Jumeirah

The luxury hotel and residences will take on rival Atlantis The Palm when it opens doors later this year.

The delayed project will now see the residential complex open in March, while the hotel is set to open in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Talking to this paper, Middle East and Africa President, Ulrich Echkhardt, recently said: “The economic downturn delayed construction on several Kempinski-managed properties, including the Emerald Palace.”

He added: “The initial site for Emerald Palace is where the Atlantis stands today. But we decided to regroup and provide a property that had class and taste, much like Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace, also managed by us.

“We will decide who wins this race when the Emerald Palace opens its doors for business later this year.”

Conrad Dubai

Scheduled to open later this year, the 550-room Conrad Dubai will be yet another luxury property to find a place on Sheikh Zayed Road’s vertical landscape.

The Hilton family’s luxury brand’s foray into Dubai was first announced in 2004, with a scheduled opening for 2007, in a deal with the Abu Dhabi-headquartered real estate company Private Property Management.

At the time, Mohamed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Managing Director, Private Property Management, said: “We are pleased that Conrad, one of the world’s finest hotel brands, has selected Dubai as the site for the GCC’s first luxury Conrad hotel. By fully utilising Conrad and Hilton’s vast global sales network, including more than 4,000 sales people in 35 offices around the globe, we hope to reach out to a large percentage of the 15 million travellers that the Dubai Government has forecast annually by the year 2010.”

The Palazzo Versace Resort

If Armani can do it, then the Versace Group cannot be far behind. Announced in 2007, The Palazzo Versace Resort – said to be built at a whopping Dh2.3 billion – is finally scheduled to open its doors in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Last month, hotel representatives were quoted in the media as saying they were still “100 per cent committed” in completing the resort. According to the report, 60 per cent of the construction is complete, with the complete project featuring 217 hotel suites and 169 private residences, all furnished with Versace furniture.

Originally, the Versace group had planned to build a refrigerated beach, but those plans have apparently been scrapped in favour of a more sensible private beach and marina.

Oceana Hotel and Spa and The Royal Amwaj Resort and Spa, Moevenpick, The Palm Jumeriah

Moevenpick’s luxurious Oceana Hotel and Spa will have a delayed opening scheduled for the second quarter of 2010.

Guy Epsom, Business Development Director, Moevenpick Hotel Deira, told Emirates Business earlier: “Yes, the Oceana Hotel and Spa has been delayed from its original opening in 2009 as have many other projects in Dubai. We have great confidence, though, that the revised project completion dates are achievable.”

Attributing the delay to the economic slump, Epsom said: “Well before the worldwide credit crisis it was not uncommon for the construction of hotels to overshoot their planned opening dates due to the speed of construction and delays in the delivery of materials. Oceana Hotel and Spa and other hotels are still recovering from these difficulties.”

The five-star Asian themed Royal Amwaj Resort and Spa, will be the second Moevenpick property – a 239-room resort situated on the crescent of Palm Jumeirah – set to open later this year.

The project was originally scheduled for completion by the end of the first quarter of 2009 but was delayed due to design changes.

Ottoman Palace by Rixos, The Palm Jumeriah

Yet another luxury property to find its home on The Palm Jumeirah is Zabeel Properties’ Ottoman Palace, also known as Zabeel Saray, which will be operated by Rixos Hotel Group.

As the first Ottoman-themed hotel in Dubai, this five-star hotel and villa project, was initially scheduled to open its doors in November 2008. News reports claim the property will now open its doors in Q2 2010, featuring 410 rooms and a further 38 villas – each with its own swimming pool and garden.

Housed in a 97,000 square metres plot that includes 50,000 square metres of landscaping and associated amenities, the site is fronted by sea on two sides.

The development will incorporate the world’s largest and most decadent authentic Turkish spa. Covering 8,500 square metres, this signature ‘Hammam’ concept is unique to the Rixos Hotels Group, and will provide a revitalising spa offering a range of authentic ancient Turkish treatments.

The Rocco Forte Collection, Abu Dhabi

The Rocco Forte Collection will mark its Middle East debut in June 2010 as it throws open the doors to its luxurious new property in the capital.

Located in Abu Dhabi’s commercial centre, the 281-room five-star hotel will feature rooms designed by Olga Polizzi, a Mark Hix restaurant and a spa in an 11-storey tower.

Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Wadi Khadeja, Ras Al Khaimah

Further afield, boutique luxury operators, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, will welcome guests to its Al Wadi property in first quarter of 2010. The Ras Al Khaimah property, the company’s first desert resort, will feature 70 pool villas and 31 tented pool villas.

Noted for its spa brand, the resort will also feature 10 treatment pavilions.