DUBAI: While the rest of the world was tightening its belt, Dubai threw a $20-million party on Thursday complete with Hollywood celebrities like Robert DeNiro and a fireworks show that organisers said was visible from outer space.
The party, which was headlined by Australian pop star Kylie Minogue in her Middle East debut, was to celebrate a new $1.5-billion resort — Atlantis Palm Jumeirah — built off the Gulf coast on an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree. Ms. Minogue reportedly earned $4 million for her performance.
Does this all seem a bit too much at a time when much of the world is reeling under the global financial crisis?
Not really, according to Sol Kerzner, the chairman of Kerzner International, which owns the Atlantis hotel.
“When you consider $20 million, it’s a lot of money [until] you consider it up against establishing a $1.5-billion resort,” Mr. Kerzner said on Thursday.
Kerzner International split the $20-million bill with state-owned Nakheel, which built the Palm island where the Atlantis is located.
Mr. Kerzner acknowledged that the party was planned long before the global economy slipped into a tailspin.
“If I had it all over again and I understood that the timing was what it was, one might modify a couple of the things ... but not significantly,” said Mr. Kerzner, who announced sweeping layoffs last week at the original Atlantis in the Bahamas.
New projects on hold
He said new projects were being put on hold at his company as costs were being scaled back — a response to cash-strapped tourists rethinking their holiday plans.
The Atlantis resort opened for tourists in September. Its top floor aims squarely at the ultra-wealthy. A three-bedroom, three-bathroom suite complete with a gold-leaf, 18-seat dining table is on offer for $25,000 a night.
The rest of the 113-acre resort is dedicated to family entertainment with a giant, open-air tank with 65,000 fish, stingrays and other sea creatures, including a rare whale-shark.
There’s also a dolphinarium with more than two dozen bottlenose dolphins flown in from the Solomon Islands last year amid protests from animal rights organisations.
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan bagged the most exclusive suite at the opening party of the resort.
The over Rs.18 lakh-a night exclusive suite, suspended between the resort’s two towers, was initially slated for talk show queen Oprah Winfrey but when she pulled out from the party, it went to Shah Rukh Khan, the Daily Mail reported. — AP, PTI