First look at the newly renovated Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental in Abu Dhabi

The property is marking its official relaunch on Friday after an extensive refurbishment

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The newly rebranded Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, Abu Dhabi is celebrating its official launch on Friday.

To mark its inclusion into the Mandarin Oriental portfolio, the property has undergone an extensive renovation that covers rooms and dining experiences. The hotel is also home to a new spa and sports facilities.

Mandarin Oriental took over operations of the hotel in January 2020 and had already put a renovation plan in place when Covid-19 occurred a couple of months later. It used the quiet period that came in the wake of the pandemic to put its stamp on the landmark Abu Dhabi property.

The aim, says general manager Michael Koth, was to make the hotel feel more relevant and accessible, while maintaining its grandeur.

“This is a palace and it is already so special. We are not chucking down the marble and the grandness of what we are. We are trying to amplify and change it slightly to create a more contemporary feel. Modernising it and getting it to a more discerning clientele and making it feel more relevant to today."

Part of the process has involved making the property feel more accessible, even though the product offering, service levels and room rates have all been elevated. “If I can use a term that might not exist, we’ve ‘resortified’ this hotel,” says Koth.

“The Emirates Palace is a landmark and it is unique in everything that we are — by dimensions, by costs, by resources. And for someone who comes here and has no real impression of what it is, hearing ‘palace’ might not necessarily put them at ease.

“So by resortification, I mean the choice of colours we went for, and our design brief to the architects and designers, was really: mellow it down. We’ve got enough opulence everywhere, but we want to make this wonderful gold look more contemporary and relevant.”

As part of its new look and feel, the property is offering dedicated vegan rooms. The six units, in the property’s West Wing, are entirely free from animal products, with 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 minibars that are stocked with almond and oat milk options, as well as a choice of kombuchas.

Scroll through the gallery for more pictures of the vegan rooms at Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental

"We wish to stimulate a wave of hospitality providers to continue doing what we do,” Koth says of the initiative. “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.”

But while new rooms, restaurants and entertainment options will form an integral part of the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental as it enters a new era in its evolution, the biggest change that guests will encounter is not physical.

“The most important transformation is that we are bringing the people-centricity of Mandarin Oriental, and the heritage of our culture, which is deeply rooted in Hong Kong Chinese humility and behaviours and values. And that is a journey that cannot be achieved overnight. It took us three years.”

Updated: February 17, 2023, 4:03 AM