By  on November 16, 2006

MILAN — Versace is getting serious about the hotel business.

Gianni Versace SpA and Australia-based real estate developer Sunland Group have inked a deal to roll out 14 Palazzo Versace resorts around the world over the next 15 to 30 years, joining the existing Gold Coast resort in Queensland, Australia, and a Palazzo Versace in Dubai, set to open in 2009.

Versace and Sunland are already business partners for the Australia and Dubai hotels. They first joined forces in 1999, announcing plans to roll out a chain of six Palazzo Versace hotels. The Gold Coast resort, which opened in 2000, was the only one realized.

Construction on the Dubai hotel will start in January, a year later than originally expected. It will feature a neoclassical facade resembling Versace's Via Gesu headquarters in Milan, three restaurants and three swimming pools, one stocked with tropical fish. The Dubai property will cost 1 billion Australian dollars, or $764.7 million, to complete, and each subsequent Palazzo Versace will require a similar investment, said Sahba Abedian, managing director of Sunland Group.

Sunland will foot the entire cost of the hotels. Versace will benefit financially through royalties and sales of its home collection items, needed to furnish the hotel.

Versace chief executive Giancarlo Di Risio said the resorts, like Versace's other branding initiatives for private jets and yachts, are part of a broader strategy to target the highest-spending luxury consumers out there. Versace is not shooting for volume sales of $325 handbags, he said.

"This is an opportunity to demonstrate how Versace is reinforcing its image as an Italian luxury brand," Di Risio told WWD, adding the house and Sunland spent a year hammering out the agreement.

Abedian said the third Palazzo Versace hotel likely will be in Asia but that it's too soon to specify other locations. Resort locations and "gateway cities" are probable candidates, he said.

"It has to be an international city. It has to have a receptivity to high fashion," Abedian said. "Obviously, emerging markets are very important for us."

The Queensland hotel features marble floors, a sandy beach lagoon, restaurants and a marina. Rooms run from 385 Australian dollars, or approximately $295, for a standard room to 3,500 Australian dollars, or $2,676, for an imperial suite overlooking the water.

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