The Raffles Hotels and Resorts is a Singapore based international chain of hotels that was founded in the 1880s. The first hotel in this chain was the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which was built in 1887 by the Armenian Sarkies brothers (Daniel, 2010). The success of the Singapore Raffles Hotel encouraged the owners to go international and, thus, established the Raffles International Company in 1989 (Daniel, 2010). This saw the founding of Raffle hotels in Asia, America and Europe. This globalization venture included the construction of the Raffles hotel in Dubai which started in 2005 and ended in 2007, the same year it started operating (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). This hotel in Dubai is co-owned by a member of emirate’s royal family. The most striking feature about Raffles Hotel Dubai is that it is pyramid shaped and has a tropical garden that represents the Botanic Gardens of Singapore (Daniel, 2010). The pyramid is 19-storeyed with several unique features. The unique design of Raffles Dubai has put it in the limelight and ahead of its rivals, such that it has been ranked as one of the best hotels in Dubai. The construction of this hotel was inspired by the fact that Dubai is becoming a global destination for both tourists and business associates who need a place to stay; and not just any hotel, but a hotel that offers a unique experience.
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History of the Raffles Hotels and Resorts
The first Raffles Hotel was established in 1887 in Singapore to serve mostly white travelers. The hotel has passed through several transformational stages before becoming a world class hospitality body. The hotel originally had “colonial domesticity” where tensions were present (Daniel, 2010). In this colonial environment, racism and gender disparity were very pronounced. The hotel continued to grow, but maintained a colonial architectural design until after the end of the World War II. In the developmental stage, the hotel management established a training center where staff interested in hospitality and tourism could develop their skills. This was a big step in the labor market, as hotels could hire well-trained personnel who were highly competent (Daniel, 2010). It is during this stage that modern hotels were raising; they step in to compete with Raffles, thus, pressurizing the hotel to improve its services. The hotel management was forced to upgrade to modern standards so as to attract more guests. According to Daniel (2010), the government of Singapore decided to take ownership of the hotel by declaring it a national monument in 1987. The hotel was then closed down in 1989 so as to be renovated.
However, the hotel opened in 1991 under the name Raffles Hotel Arcade (Daniel, 2010). In 1997, the firm restored Grand Hotel d'Angkor located in Cambodia, thus, marking the launch of the luxury resort brands. Thereafter, the company expanded the portfolio of its properties by acquiring two key hotels in the European region. The two hotels were the Brown's Hotel and Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, located in London and Hamburg respectively. Further, the idea of Raffles lifestyle was extended in the European region by opening two main hotels, namely Doc Cheng’s Hotel and Brown’s Hotel in Vier Jahreszeiten. The hotels aggressively embraced capitalism so as to survive in the competitive market. However, due to globalization, the Raffles International was found in 1989 which was aimed at establishing hotels outside Singapore to cover Europe, the United States, as well as the Asian region. The creation of Raffle international saw the establishment of the Raffles Beijing Hotel, as well as the Raffles Hotel in Dubai. The Raffles hotels can be referred to as heritage hotels where cultural manifestations are present, as portrayed by the different designs of its hotels, for example the design of the Raffles Dubai was highly influenced by the Egyptian culture. In 2002, the Raffles Plaza, which had just been rebranded in Singapore, was made part of the Raffles Hotels & Resorts chain of hotels. Later, Resorts Limited and Hotel Okura Co Ltd and Raffles Hotels signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), aimed at forming a strategic alliance. The alliance would have resorted to increased customer base, thus enabling the two firms to compete effectively in the areas they operate. Hotel Okura Co Ltd, having 23 hotels, had well-established domestic networks in Japan, as well as in other selected international destinations. In 2004, the well-renown Le Montreux Palace changed its name to Raffles Le Montreux Palace to enable the hotel compete effectively with other hotels, as well as to be able to attract and retain its customers.
Features of the Raffles Dubai Hotel
The 97 meters high hotel building is located close to the Wafi City Mall. Its pyramid architectural design is drawn from the great pyramids of Egypt (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). The hotel’s top section boasts of a golden color, which makes it visible day and night, as it sparkles in the day time whereas at night its visibility is enhanced by backlighting. The second unique feature of Raffles Hotel Dubai is the Singapore influenced botanical garden that is designed with four areas, representing the elements of life which are earth, wind, water and fire (Reds Travel and Tourism, n.d). This sky garden harbors 129,090 tropical plants that are planted in such a unique design so as to represent the aforementioned elements of life (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). According to the Quarterly Update of 2007 by Raffles Hotels and Resorts, the garden has a glass dome that “forms the Eye of Horus which is the garden’s centerpiece”. This design has been inspired by the Egyptian culture of belief in many gods, whereby Horus is the god of the sky, Crimson colored plants are used to represent fire, whereas a stream that hosts different species of aquatic flora represents water. The wind section of the garden is represented by different types of long grass, whereas the earth portion boasts of metallic colors.
Thirdly, Raffles hotel Dubai has an all-weather swimming pool that is technologically designed. This pool is kept cool even during summer, when temperatures are quite high (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). Dubai is usually hot during summer with temperatures rising up to over 40 Degree Celsius. This, thus, prompted the management to opt for a swimming pool that is technologically designed, such that its deck is kept cool to allow guests to even walk bare feet (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). The Figure 1 below shows the exterior design of the Raffles Hotel Dubai (See figure 1). Another feature is that this hotel has 248 guest rooms that are the biggest in the city (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007; Reds Travel and Tourism). Each of these rooms is uniquely designed internally to represent the four elements of life – earth, fire, water and wind. The interior designs have been adopted from the Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. In addition, every room has a private balcony. Among these rooms there are suites, including royal suites that befit kings and queens. Moreover, the dining and entertainment part of the hotel comprises of “nine restaurants and bars that represent a wide range of world cuisines and different ambiences” (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). This is aimed at ensuring that all guests, irrespective of their culture, feel comfortable in the hotel, since they can find their local cuisine in the restaurants. For example, the Chinese tourists will be comfortable at the Noble House which provides Chinese cuisine and represents their culture of dining.
Just to mention, these nine bars and restaurants includeCafé Raffles, Crossroads Cocktail Bar, Azur, Raffles Salon, Fire and Ice (the Raffles Grill), Asiana, The Noble House, New Asia Bar and Nightclub and China Moon Champagne Bar (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). Café Raffles overlooks the Raffles sky garden and offers a wide range of cakes, beverages and Viennoiseries, whereas Raffles Salon offers light meals, such as refreshments, cocktails, tea and breakfast. The Crossroads Cocktail Bar provides cocktails that are mostly Singapore oriented, whilst the Azur serves Pan Arabic, as well as Asian cuisine (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). Furthermore, the Raffles Grill serves seafood and steaks and fine wines with smooth jazz playing at the background. The Asiana provides Asian cuisine, whereas the new Asia Bar and Night Club offer cocktails and later at night are transformed into a club with a live DJ (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). Finally, the China Moon Champagne Bar provides “rare champagnes, wines and spirits” (Raffles Hotels and Resorts, 2007). The four elements of life have also been represented in these restaurants and bars as different colors have been used in its design – such as creams and whites for air, blue for water, natural browns and creams for earth, and crimson and dark timber for fire.
The hotel has meetings facilities that are spacious and comfortable to host a number of formal activities, such as conferences, seminars and workshops among others. These meeting rooms are also designed using a mixture of Asian, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures and also depict the four elements of life. These rooms also have audio-visual equipment, as well as wireless technology, necessary for making business meetings. Furthermore, the hotel has a big spa with sauna, steam rooms, as well as a botanical garden all, of which are aimed at revitalization and relaxation. In addition, there is an outdoor swimming pool and a gym.
Raffles Hotel Dubai: A Contemporary Design of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
The ancient pyramids of Egypt were built during the time when Egypt was among the richest and most powerful nations of the world. These pyramids, according to History.com, are part of the greatest wonders of man-made structures in history. These pyramids were purposely built to serve as tombs for the royal family members, especially the pharaohs. During these times, pharaohs used to be buried together with their fortunes, as well as with their servants, because it was believed that even in their afterlife, they required the same services as when they were alive. In fact, the belief was that pharaohs were mediators between gods and people, and that after their death they became gods (History.com). The architectural design of the Raffles Hotel in Dubai was inspired by the ancient pyramids of Egypt. Firstly, the hotel stands as big as the ancient Egyptian pyramids, which stood over 100 meters high. According to Ameinfo.com (2008), the hotel has a pinnacle that resembles that of the Egyptian pyramids. Secondly, the hotel has golden colors that represent royalty. This color is similar to that of the ancient pyramids that represented the powerful nature of the kings. Gold is the color of royalty and, hence, Raffles Dubai signifies its royalty among the hotel businesses. It also symbolizes that the hotel offers high quality services to its customers, as it views them as important stakeholders in its business. Thirdly, the botanical garden’s centerpiece of the eye of Horus was also inspired by the Egyptian pyramids. In the Ancient Egyptian culture, the newly appointed pharaoh who replaced the dead king was known as Horus (History.com). Horus was the “falcon-god,” responsible for protecting the sun-god, Ra (History.com).
Another similar feature is that, just like the interior of the Ancient Egyptian pyramids carried diverse treasures, so does the interior design of Raffles Dubai that presents the treasures of culture of the Raffles group of hotels. The richly-colored interiors of the hotel that have been designed using Middle Eastern and Asian designs depict the richness of both cultures. This interior design also integrates Egyptian culture, which blends with the Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. Moreover, the Raffles Dubai design depicts the rich culture of the Raffles chain of hotels just the same way the ancient pyramids depicted the culture of Ancient Egyptians. The Raffles hotels globally are known for their unique culture, where every hotel has a design that is rich in culture. Extraordinary architectural designs have become the culture of Raffles hotels, such that Raffles equals to uniqueness. However, there are some notable differences existing between the contemporary pyramid of Raffles Dubai and the Ancient Egyptian pyramids. The first and most obvious difference is that Raffles Dubai was constructed using contemporary materials such as glass. On the other hand, the pyramids of Egypt were constructed using old school materials such as stones and sand. The pyramid of the Raffles Dubai also differs with the pyramids of Egypt in that it uses artificial lighting, whereas the Egyptian pyramids relied on the natural lighting of the sun. Additionally, Raffles Dubai was constructed using contemporary technology, whereas the Egyptian pyramids were constructed using traditional technologies.
The Raffles Hotels and Resorts is a Singapore based international hospitality company that has hotels in Europe, Asia and America. This international chain of hotels underwent several transitional stages. It started off as a colonial entity which served mainly white travelers. From this time on, it entered the developmental stage which was characterized by hiring of trained personnel so as to beat the competition from the upcoming modern hotels. During this stage, Raffles Hotel Singapore also incurred big losses due to reduced numbers of guests and this forced it to close down. However, it reopened after several years and entered the capitalism stage, which saw the hotel go global with new hotels being established in Europe, Asia and USA. Each of these hotels is uniquely designed to depict the Raffles culture of creativity and diversity. The Raffles Dubai is a 19-storeyed pyramid shaped hotel that was established in 2005 and started its operations in 2007.
Its pyramid shape depicts the Egyptian pyramids that were used as tombs for the royal family. This pyramid shape symbolizes the desert location of the hotel; just like the ancient pyramids of Egypt which were situated in the desert, the Raffles Dubai sits in the desert climate of United Arab Emirates. From the above discussion, it is evident that the designing of the Raffles Dubai was highly influenced by the Egyptian culture. First of all, the design of a pyramid depicts the Ancient Egyptian pyramids which were used as tombs for the dead members of the royal family. Secondly, the use of the botanical garden’s centerpiece depicts the Egyptian’s cultural belief in the god of the sun. Moreover, the use of the colors to display the concept of the four elements of life – earth, wind, water and fire, follows the Egyptian beliefs. It is also evident that Raffles Dubai has adopted the interior décor of Egyptian culture, which has been creatively blended with Middle Eastern and Asian designs to give a harmonious design.