ABU DHABI // Despite the rising price of gold over the past year, the precious metal has not lost its lustre, judging by the hordes of tourists still drawn to a gold-dispensing machine at the Emirates Palace hotel.
The cheapest gold ingots cost between Dh450 to Dh550, depending on the spot price of the metal, but that has not hampered the ATM's popularity.
Hans Olbertz, general manager of the Emirates Palace hotel, said he was extremely happy with the decision to bring the gold-plated Gold to Go machine to the luxury hotel's marble lobby a year ago.
"The Emirates Palace is already a very attractive venue for guests and visitors, and the gold machine adds another dimension of attractive luxury within the hotel," Mr Olbertz said. "We have a lot of people taking pictures in front of the machine, and buying gold with the Emirates Palace logo as a fantastic souvenir to take back home and give as a gift."
The blinding flashes of dozens of cameras are a common sight around the machine. Nour Yahya, 29, was just one who was impressed by the concept.
"I wasn't going to buy the gold, but I really couldn't resist, it's just such a cool idea," she said.
Between 120 to 180 gold transactions are made each day by tourists, visitors and guests at the hotel, Mr Olbertz said. That is a significant rise from the 50 to 100 pieces of gold that were sold daily a year ago. "It hasn't lost any of its attraction over the past year, even with the rise in the price of gold," he said.
"When we have big groups of tourists coming in, they just love it, and if one of them buys gold, the others are quick to follow."
Tourists also do not view their purchases as investments, Mr Olbertz said, despite gold selling for about US$1,500 (Dh5,509) an ounce in today's market.
"This is more about buying a souvenir with beautiful packaging and the logo of the hotel; something they cannot get anywhere else in the world."
Thomas Geissler, the chief executive of Ex Oriente Lux AG and managing director of Gold to Go, said the 2.5 gram piece of gold, engraved with the hotel's logo, has proven to be the most popular of all the machine's offerings.
"The 1-gram piece is no longer available, because we have plans to replace it with something even more special," he said. A 1-gram gold coin will be introduced into the machine in coming weeks. It is considered to be the only one of its kind that can be used as legal tender, but is more popularly a commemorative coin.
There are plans to place two more Gold to Go machines around Abu Dhabi, in undisclosed locations.
"The machines are ready," Mr Geissler said, "and we are just waiting for the final paperwork before we reveal our plans."
Earlier this year, the machines were placed on the ground floor and the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, as well as in the Dubai Mall, in the Mall of the Emirates and in the Atlantis Hotel.
"We are really happy to have come to the UAE, where there is so much interest in our gold vending machine," Mr Geissler said.
"And although we have plans for more machines in Abu Dhabi, our love and respect will also go to the first one we installed, in Emirates Palace."