Dubai is not having a good week. The city with a grandiose reputation is not only reeling—like the rest of us—from the economic crisis, it’s become a symbol for all that led us here … the extravagance and indulgence. Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour called it out this week as a synonym for excess, saying no one wants to appear “overly flashy, overly glitzy, too Dubai,” anymore. And Dubai’s government is apparently trying to fight back against a crisis of confidence, according to the New York Times, which reports that a new proposed law would make it a crime to damage the country’s reputation or economy. You can sort of understand their panic. After all, Dubai made great strides in the past few years in the realms of tourism and international business. The bottom fell out of the world’s financial markets just as the latest (and perhaps final) round of luxury hotel launches was unveiled there. But sadly, today the place appears to be Ground Zero for the death of bling. It’s certainly a victim of bad timing—with consumers hitting the brakes on big real estate, jet-set tourism and lavish spending. Case in point the $1.5 billion Atlantis hotel on Dubai’s man-made Palm Jumeirah island, which held a celeb-studded opening just months ago, this week reported it is cutting jobs.
Even consumers that can still afford to spend somewhat freely are not looking for over-the-top luxury. It feels tacky and passé. They’re looking for brands, items and experiences they can truly connect with, that have a sense of history, familiarity and staying power.