Christoph Mares, COO of the Hong Kong-based hotel group, knew he would see Bangkok’s flagship, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, unveil its re-done River Tower about now. (For the record, the 376 sq m Penthouse comes with a wrap-around 57.6 sq m terrace for amazing views over and along the Chao Phraya river – inside, the suite has teak floors and Persian carpets, two bedrooms, and dining for 12.)
What Mares and his colleagues did not know was the definite date of the addition of a palace in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Emirates Palace had opened, at a cost of US$2.3bn, in 2005. I was there for the opening party, 31 January 2005, in suite #3406. On 81 hectares, the nine-floor hotel has 394 bedrooms plus 16 Royal Suites: for non-royals, the best accommodation is the 550 sq m Presidential Suite. Since the building is over a kilometre from one end to the other, both ends have substantial spas. It is so large that it is estimated that the 1,150 staff walk up to 15 kilometres a day, on duty. Everything is over the top (even ordinary bedrooms, accessed by round key tabs that look like gold coins, have more gold fittings and knickknacks than most want to see in a lifetime).
As had been rumoured for at least six months, Mandarin Oriental takes over management of this juggernaut at one second past midnight on the morning of 1st January 2020. Argentinian GM Martin Cramer, who knows the Emirate well from years with Starwood, takes off his Kempinski pin and replaces it with the Mandarin Oriental logo. From the luxury guests’ point of view, let us hope that the necessarily-substantial reflagging spend is headed by the word “comfort”, making this one-off palace the comfortable luxury that today’s highest spenders want.