I suppose the commentator on the Burj came to the crux of it – if you award yourself stars, is it just a matter of time before your standards slide downwards (because there is no other way to go)?
In the UK every hotel has to be checked annually to see that it remains at the assessed star-rating level. In my home city, the highest-flying hotel, exclusive enough to offer beds to the likes of film stars, lost a star simply by not having one more member of staff. And its fate was determined not by its own investors, but by the new rating system. Who says Dubai or the new Macao is actually six-star? Is a self-accolade appropriate just because gold and butlers abound? When does gold become so obvious it loses its chic and starts to look more like a fake, tasteless, with no real charm?
Interestingly, despite the vitriol of the Burj’s critic, the hotel won the 2005 World Travel Awards, for world’s leading hotel, the leading all-suite hotel and the leading hotel of the Middle East. They have won this award several times, and its restaurants are said to be ‘fine’? It goes to show that beauty (and good food) is all in the eye of the beholder!
But wait… we have moved on! By the end of 2006, the Burj self-styled itself to be the “only seven star hotel in the world”. One writer (David Allen, Forbes, Nov 28th 2006) says that this “seems unlikely to be challenged, at least until someplace is imaginative enough to start calling itself an eight-star establishment.” But, you can’t just walk in to look around. You have to leave credit card details at the front desk, promising to spend a minimum of $100 at one of its seven restaurants. The writer describes the Burj as a “world of excess” (I must stomp on my ethics again!). Guests reach the Burj by helicopter or Rolls Royce… the cost hidden in the final invoice.
[...] So, who can enlighten me? What makes a six-star, or seven-star, hotel worth it? I mean, really worth it? Or is it all hype, smoke and mirrors? Is the Burj living up to its own award? And are the investors really getting their money back? Will Macao truly see a total return on investment within two years? Or is this hope embedded not just in the hotel but in the entire complex (in which case it is too easy to claim success for the hotel itself)?
The closer you look at these questions, the more questions arise!
I. M. Pei, “the last master of high modernist architecture“, built the beautiful Fragrant Hill Hotel in China in 1982 and it was great for a little while until it slipped into a less than perfect shape due to lack of care and attention. [Note: While doing some research on Pei's Fragrant Hill Hotel, I found this insightful article about the hotel and Pei.]
Sept 5, 2007 Update: With the recent opening of the Venetian, World’s Biggest Casino Resort in Macau, it is interesting to see how it is changing Macau. Quoting this article, “The Venetian colossus has been jokingly called “the casino that ate Macau” by William Weidner, president of Las Vegas Sands Corp, which built the mega-resort.“