x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 September 2017

Emirates Palace says Dh42m tree 'cost no money'

It may still be the world's most expensive Christmas tree but it didn't actually cost any money, the Emirates Palace Hotel says.

It may still be the world's most expensive Christmas tree but it didn't actually cost any money, the Emirates Palace Hotel said yesterday.
It may still be the world's most expensive Christmas tree but it didn't actually cost any money, the Emirates Palace Hotel said yesterday.

ABU DHABI // It may still be the world's most expensive Christmas tree but it didn't actually cost any money, the Emirates Palace Hotel said yesterday.

In fact, it's the same old 13-metre artifical fir they put up every year - with the addition of Dh42 million worth of gold and gemstones, including a Dh3.5m diamond necklace and assorted emeralds, pearls and sapphires, supplied by a jeweller with an outlet in the hotel.

The idea for a record-breaking tree came from the hotel's marketing department to mark the hotel's fifth anniversary, Janet Abrahams, the executive director of sales and marketing, said.

The result, however, was a barrage of international criticism. Commentators on news websites and the social media hub Twitter called the display ostentatious and in bad taste.

"For some reason, someone had decided to publish incorrectly that we spent $11 million, and people around the world thought that maybe that money could be spent in a better way," Ms Abrahams said. "Those are false reports, and we obviously didn't spend that."

Hazem Harfoush, the assistant director of marketing, said the hotel was aware of the risks of the record-breaking attempt.

"With anything you do, you might get negative responses and negative publicity. That doesn't mean what we did is wrong," he said.

"It was planned for. It's something we wanted to do to promote Emirates Palace and Abu Dhabi as a destination."

 

Mr Harfoush said the hotel would know within two weeks whether the tree was an official record-breaker.

The jewels on the tree were provided by Style Gallery, which operates an outlet in the hotel. They will be returned to the jeweller when the tree comes down in the new year.

“Putting the Christmas tree up is not a novelty,” the hotel said in a statement to WAM, the state news agency, released on Saturday.

“Rather, it is a tradition meant to share in celebrating occasions guests hold while they are away from their home countries and families, which is within the framework of the UAE’s policy which is based on the values of openness and tolerance.”

Reports yesterday that the hotel regretted putting up the tree, which has been on display in the hotel rotunda since last Wednesday, were inaccurate, a hotel spokesperson said.

In fact the hotel “expressed regret about the attempts of some to attribute some connotations and meanings to this tradition” that were not what they intended, according to a translation of the Arabic WAM statement.

 

jthomas@thenational.ae