Chalaf Ahmed al-Habtur, the head of Al Habtoor Investment from the United Arab Emirates, said he fell in love with the hotel which is “like a royal palace in the most beautiful city in the world”.
He said that when he visited Vienna he had always chosen to stay at The Imperial on Kärntner Ring and was impressed with its architecture, furnishings and history.
The hotel's interior furnishings highlight 19th century Viennese elegance with ornate marble, hand-carved statues, and massive crystal chandeliers.
A condition of the sale was that all the hotel’s rooms and suites would be renovated over the next four years. The previous owner, American group Starwood Hotels & Resorts, will continue to manage The Imperial and is already responsible for several of the Al Habtoor group’s hotels.
Haptur said that his motive wasn’t to make money from the hotel, but instead to “own something in this beautiful city”. He said he planned to make further investments in Vienna, possibly in other hotels or office buildings, as well as setting up an agency for foreign investment in Europe.
He told ORF television that he wanted to encourage other entrepreneurs from the UAE to invest in Vienna, and to promote the city as a tourist destination. “The United Arab Emirates flag is now flying in front of the hotel, and that should be a sign that I invite people from my country to visit Austria.”
He added that he would like to restore parts of the hotel, including the cafe and bar, to their original design but that the renovations should in no way disturb the hotel’s guests.
The building, originally the Palais Württemberg, was built in 1863 as the city palace and residence of Duke Philipp of Württemberg. It was converted into a hotel in 1873 for the World’s Fair.
The Imperial has 138 rooms and 59 suites which have accommodated numerous famous guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and Charlie Chaplin. A young Adolf Hitler worked at the hotel as a day labourer and later returned as a guest following the 1938 Anschluss.