To mark its rebrand as a Mandarin Oriental, Emirates Palace is launching dedicated vegan rooms.
The six units, in the property’s West Wing, are entirely free from animal products. The rooms have wooden floors instead of wool-based carpets, faux leather furniture, feather-free duvets, plant-based amenities in the bathrooms, a vegan in-room dining menu and mini bars that are stocked with almond and oat milk options, as well as a choice of kombuchas.
The concept extends to the granular level, such as with toilet paper, bathrobes and pool towels, but also laundry detergent and cleaning products used for these specific rooms. Key cards are made from wood, while plants, particularly peace lilies known to naturally improve the quality of the air, remove the need for artificial fresheners.
Guests who visit the spa have the option of trying vegan products and treatments. And expanded vegan menus, bolstered by natural produce from the hotel’s own vegetable garden, ensure there are a selection of plant-based options in all restaurants. Guests also receive a welcome kit featuring travel-sized products from the clean beauty brand Tata Harper.
There are four vegan rooms on the top floor, two of which are connecting, as well as two rooms on the ground floor, offering direct access to the grounds and pool area. Staff have also received training to ensure they fully understand vegan lifestyles.
The concept came about as the team was crafting menus and designing buffets, with food sensitivities and preferences at the forefront of their minds, and it occurred to them that no one had extended this thought process into guest rooms.
“That spurred us, when we came in as Mandarin Oriental three years ago, to say, this would be a differentiator. And it took us as a whole to get where we are today,” says Micheal Koth, general manager of Emirates Palace. The official rebranding of the hotel will take place on February 17.
The process required a steep learning curve as the team sought specialist suppliers that could cover even the smallest aspects of the room experience. The focus was very much on ensuring the rooms offered the same levels of luxury and quality as their "standard" counterparts.
“I am from Switzerland and we have a lot of vegan hotels, but they all sit in the corner of ecological or sustainable, and it doesn’t necessarily feel luxury. We say, we need to be relevant to the clientele that uses us today and chooses this hotel, but who do not wish to be excluded from their lifestyle preferences when travelling to Abu Dhabi and to us.”
The cost of creating the vegan rooms is higher than that of standard rooms, given the specialist suppliers and limited quantities required. However, the hotel will not be charging extra for these rooms.
“The rooms will cost the same as an equivalent room of the same category,” says Koth. “So there’s no mark-up or surcharge on it. Yes, the cost of producing a vegan room is tangibly higher, because the sourcing is in low quantities and there is the whole onward process to operate them — we can’t just chuck the linen in a 50kg washing machine and wash it with everything else. So the entire value chain processes that follow also incur more operational expense.”
While Emirates Palace is the first hotel in the region to offer vegan rooms, Koth hopes this is not a distinction that will last long. “I can assure you, we don’t want to have the claim to fame of doing something unique.
"We wish to stimulate a wave of hospitality providers to continue doing what we do. That is the challenge to come. When veganism is helped by us to become more mainstream, and not tucked away into a small niche, that is the real deal for us.”