The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a leading tourism hub in the Middle East, and it’s evident in the country’s thriving luxury hotel market. According to Mordor Intelligence, luxury hotels account for 53.7 percent of its hospitality industry’s revenue in 2023. It also boasts properties that come with a hefty construction price tag. Here’s a roundup of the most expensive hotels built in the UAE.
Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental
- Location: Abu Dhabi
- Estimated cost: $3 billion
The 394-room Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental is not just one of the most expensive hotels in the UAE. It’s also one of the costliest construction projects in the whole world. Set along a private sandy white beach, it stands as an architectural marvel in the UAE capital.
It opened in 2005, boasting Islamic architectural elements and opulent design. We’re talking about over a thousand Swarovski crystal chandeliers and 2,000 square meters of ceiling adorned with gold leaves. It also has 110,000 cubic meters of space clad in marble from China, India, Spain and Italy. The upkeep of the gold leaves alone makes the hotel expensive to maintain. According to estimates from CNN, the Emirates Palace shells out $130,000 on gold leaf annually.
As for its amenities and stand-out features, the Palace has a 1,500 square-meter spa, a lazy river, an inviting pool, a private marina with a dive center and fitness facilities, among others. It also has an impressive array of dining options — plus, its famed gold vending machine and 24-carat gold edible flakes sprinkled on its coffee.
Kempinski, a Swiss luxury hotel management company, operated it until January 2020. Currently, the Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental is in charge of its operations.
Atlantis, The Palm
- Location: Dubai
- Estimated cost: $1.5 billion
Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah is renowned for its upscale hotels, residences and dining establishments. Atlantis, The Palm serves as the crowning jewel of this tree-shaped island and is the first resort to be built on it. The property opened its doors in 2008 and currently houses more than 1,500 rooms.
Taking inspiration from the mythical city of Atlantis, it sits between the iconic Dubai skyline and the sparkling Arabian Gulf. It’s a quick 20 to 30-minute drive away from the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The resort itself is home to the largest water park in the globe, the Atlantis Aquaventure. At its Lost Chambers Aquarium, guests can encounter over 65,00 marine animals. Marine enthusiasts can take their love for the marine environment to a deeper level, quite figuratively, with the Aquatrek Xtreme. At 10 meters, is the world’s deepest aqua trek experience.
The resort also has its own natural breeding program. And it’s a showcase of The Atlantis, Palm’s commitment to preserving the gulf’s biodiversity.
It’s also a foodie’s paradise, with world-class dining options including those from celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Nobu Matsuhisa and Gregoire Berger.
Atlantis, The Royal
- Location: Dubai
- Estimated cost: $1.4 to $1.6 billion
Formally launched in February this year, The Atlantis, Royal is one of the grandest additions to the high-end properties on Palm Jumeirah and one of the most expensive hotels in the UAE. Its opening party was headlined by no less than music icon Beyoncé.
The resort is made for ultra-luxury travelers, offering 795 rooms and suites — including 16 Royal Suites that come with a dedicated butler service. For the ultimate experience, it has the Royal Mansion. The 1,100 square-meter split-level penthouse has its own private foyer (with century-old olive trees), an infinity pool, a library and a bar area.
Unlike its regal sister property The Palm, The Royal has a more contemporary look. It has its fair share of world-class restaurants featuring dishes from sought-after chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Ariana Bundy.
Staying here grants guests access to a hundred swimming pools, a beach club, a nightclub, and, also, the Atlantis Aquaventure.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
- Location: Dubai
- Estimated cost: $1 billion
The sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is an icon of architecture and luxury. It opened in 1999 and while the exact cost wasn’t disclosed, media reports cite that the figure is around $1 billion. Out of its five-year construction period, two years were spent to build the artificial island where it is located.
The hotel proudly stands at 321 meters, making it one of the tallest in the world. It’s taller by 60 meters than the Empire State Building. The structure has over 200 luxury suites, which are spread across 56 floors. The smallest suite is a stunning 170-square meter haven that comes with butler service and Hermès amenities.
One of the most lavish features of the hotel is the Burj Al Arab Terrace. An epitome of high-end hospitality, this outdoor leisure facility spans 10,000 square meters and includes a restaurant, a family-friendly and adults-only pool and the exquisite SAL Restaurant. Its private yacht service — complete with spa facilities and expansive cabins — is another indulgent experience.
In four years, the country will further see the rise of another luxury travel icon: the Wynn Al Marjan Island Resort. It will reportedly cost $3.9 billion to build, making it one of the most expensive hotels in the UAE.
The luxury destination will be located in the city of Ras Al-Khaimah. It will be home to 1,500 rooms, over 20 restaurants and a casino. While Islamic laws generally prohibit gambling, the city’s tourism officials unveiled a regulatory body that will monitor the operations of “integrated resorts,” including those with gaming facilities.
The Wynn Al Marjan Island Resort serves as proof of UAE’s continuously thriving hospitality market. As the Mordor Intelligence report noted, the country is poised for a surge in premium accommodations, with over 130 high-end sites, boasting nearly 34,000 rooms, slated to open in the next few years.
Anticipatedly, these developments will play a huge part in sustaining the broader region’s milestone of having the strongest hotel market in the world. In a report by hospitality data analytics firm STR, the Middle East emerged as the world’s leading hotel market upon evaluation of various performance metrics, including revenue per available room (RevPar) and occupancy. In Dubai, hotels project a robust RevPar growth of 1.6 percent year-on-year for 2023.
This robust hotel sector performance aligns with the region’s booming tourism industry. According to HSBC, the Middle East has the highest share of gross domestic product from tourism globally, standing at 5 percent.
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