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Mon 9 Dec 2019 02:20 PM

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Burj al Arab China? Jumeirah in talks for replicas of iconic hotel

Exclusive: Dubai developer has had 'a number of requests' to build copies of sail-shaped building

Burj al Arab China? Jumeirah in talks for replicas of iconic hotel
DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES DECEMBER 12 The Burj Al Arab is seen in a general view of atmosphere ahead of the 7th Annual Dubai International Film Festival held at the Madinat Jumeriah Complex on December 12 2010 in Dubai United Arab Emirates Photo by Andrew H WalkerGetty Images For Dubai International Film Festival

Dubai’s Jumeirah Group has had “a number of requests” to build replicas of its iconic Burj al Arab hotel and its CEO said “it will be done” as the company is in “ongoing discussions” with investors about potential projects, most likely in Asia, which would be used to boost interest in the original Dubai hotel.

The sail-shaped building, which this month celebrated 20 years since its official opening, has become synonymous with Dubai and was built to be an instantly recognisable icon for the city. However, many iconic buildings have been reproduced.

From Las Vegas and Spain to Russia and China, there are dozens of replica Eiffel Towers around the world, with one even planned for Dubai’s Falconcity of Wonders project. There are also hundreds of Statue of Liberty copies across dozens of countries across the globe.

Jumeirah Group was approached by potential investors from Las Vegas to build a doppelganger Burj al Arab along the famous strip during the boom years before 2008, but the global financial downturn saw the plans ground to a halt.

“We own the design rights and architectural design rights to the Burj Al Arab… Prior to the financial crisis, yes there was talk about doing something,” former CEO Gerald Lawless said in 2012.

Jose Silva, who has been CEO of Jumeirah Group since March 2018 told Arabian Business last month that discussions have been “ongoing” and a replica of the famous hotel is likely to happen in the not too distant future.

“We get a number of requests from investors that want to be part of that icon or use the icon. Yes they believe it can anchor their business model in their parts of the world, whether that's Vegas or China. We are the most respected, or admired, I think in Asia, I would say China and Russia, because these markets like to reproduce things in their environment,” he said.

“Now, if someone wanted to do a hotel that will have the Burj al Arab name then he would have to partner with us and we’re having discussions, ongoing discussions, with people that want to do it. I think it will be done,” he said, adding that any proposal on the table would have to be right and the project would have to be aligned to the DNA of the Burj al Arab in Dubai.

“But we come with requests... What is the size of your suites? Maybe it doesn't have to be 200 square metres, like ours, but maybe it's a hundred square metres per suites and that makes sense in that market and we would deem that it's worthy of that name and we would consider doing it for the right investment. 

“We will always remain the anchor. Having a very good hotel called Burj al Arab in Shenzhen, in Hong Kong, or a place like this, would certainly bring more people to see the original Burj al Arab,” he added.

Silva was realistic that it was difficult to protect an iconic building like the Burj al Arab and it was a sign of its status in the world that there was interest in wanting to replicate it.

“I think you can't really protect that, if someone wants to copy it, it's a compliment. It's like the fake Eiffel Towers that you can copy or the Statues of Liberty. It’s the status of who you are that you will be copied,” he said.

The hotel has 201 suites, ranging in size from 170 square metres to 780 sq m. Measuring 321 metres high and is built on a man-made island 280m off Dubai’s coastline, the hotel began construction in 1994 and had its official opening twenty years ago on December 1, 1999.

While it was assumed the hotel would act as an icon but would never make money, Silva said the hotel is actually “one of the most profitable hotels” in the world.

“It’s very profitable. It’s true that some icons never become truly profitable but this is one of the most profitable hotels I know… We’re not sharing the numbers. I can tell you that it is as profitable as any grand luxury hotel in the world, if not to say more profitable,” he said.

The full interview with Jose Silva will be published later this month.

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