Palazzo Versace, the world's first fashion-branded luxury hotel when it opened on the Gold Coast 23 years ago, has been relegated to history after the property today officially adopted its new moniker, Imperial Hotel Gold Coast.
However, hotel manager Richard Clarke is adamant that the hotel, which has been a drawcard for the rich, famous and wannabes over the past two decades, is still aiming for the stars amid a raft of new entrants to the luxury hotel market on the Gold Coast.
“The Imperial Hotel will retain the essence of Palazzo Versace’s grand legacy and will continue to offer the highest standard of luxury and impeccable service, to ensure an unforgettable stay for our guests,” Clarke says.
The 200-room Palazzo Versace, developed by Gold Coast-based Sunland Group (ASX: SDG) in 2000, is owned by Chinese-backed Dong Run Group which acquired the property for $68.5 million in 2012.
The loss of the Versace name has been on the cards for some time with the House of Versace refusing to renew its licence with Dong Run Group, despite representations by the company to the Italian fashion icon to retain the name.
Versace is reported to have cited that the hotel was not up to its standards as the reason for ending the licence agreement - a decision that leaves Palazzo Versace Dubai, which opened in 2015, as the sole property globally to continue operating under the Versace brand.
Dong Run Group had planned to sell the Palazzo Versace last year, but a $114 million deal struck with Melbourne’s Shakespeare Property Group fell over. Dong Run is understood to have since abandoned plans to sell the property for now amid a surge in capital returns for hotel operators on the Gold Coast in recent years, driven by the strength of domestic tourism.
Following its transition to a new brand, Imperial Hotel Gold Coast will retain the exterior that defined the former Palazzo Versace property. While the Imperial Suites will remain unchanged, the hotel operator also plans to undertake refurbishments of the property’s 200 hotel rooms. Plans for the refurbishment have yet to be finalised.
The Imperial Hotel will retain some of the features that defined the Versace brand, including the grand antique chandelier in the lobby, along with the ‘rich furnishings and bespoke tableware’. Under the agreement with Versace though, the hotel must get rid of most trademark signs of Versace over the next 30 days, including the Medusa tiles throughout the property. All Versace-branded goods that are not fixed, such as furniture and crockery, can remain in the property.
However, the hotel says the transition for guests will be ‘seamless’.
“With the dawn of The Imperial Hotel, we are committed to exceeding expectations and redefining the boundaries of luxury hospitality,” Clarke says. “We are thrilled to welcome our first guests, and we extend our heartfelt appreciation for their support.”
The rebranding comes amid an increasingly crowded luxury hotel space on the Gold Coast, with the opening of The Langham, Gold Coast earlier this year and plans for at least two new premium brands for the Glitter Strip in the next few years.
Tim Gurner, in a joint venture with Wingate, plans to open Australia’s first St Regis hotel by 2027 in his $1.7 billion La Pelago development at Budds Beach.
Marriott is also bringing another of its luxury brands, Ritz-Carlton, closer to home for the Imperial Hotel Gold Coast by 2026 on the site of the nearby Mariner’s Cove at Main Beach.
The 150-room hotel is planned for a $480 million upmarket residential-marina precinct planned by Melbourne’s Pelligra Group and Giannarelli Group for the site.
Clarke welcomes the new competition, including plans by new owners of the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort to refurbish the property.
"It's great for the area and I believe this hotel, with the plans we have for renovations, will be able to hold its own in a competitive market," Clarke tells Business News Australia.
"Obviously we have a loyal following and we're hoping that will transition with us with the new brand as we are still offering that luxury experience."
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