As Gigi Hadid recovers from being manhandled in Milan, we asked bodyguards at Dubai’s top hotels what it takes to protect their visiting A-listers.

When we watched the video of Gigi Hadid fighting off a handsy stranger who accosted her in the street in Milan, a couple of things struck us. 1) Gigi is kick-ass and 2) Celebrities are actually pretty vulnerable sorts.

It got us thinking about all the celebrities who visit Dubai incognito. Some fly in and out of the region without anyone even knowing they were here (we’re looking at you, Angelina). How the heck does that happen when there are superfans with smartphones on every corner? We called the celeb chaperones at Dubai’s top hotels to find out.

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“Privacy and anonymity is of the highest importance for VIP guests,” says Marco Neukom, Director of Welcome at W Dubai, Al Habtoor City. To ensure the safety of visiting celebrities, staff at the W employ a range of tactics, says Marco, from giving guests staying in the lavish 690-square metre E-Wow suite coded names to training staff on how to behave in front of an A-lister.

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Marco explains that VIP guests are given what is called “Incognito status”, which means only a small circle of trust knows they are even in the building.

Rebecca Hall, the Director of Public Relations at Atlantis, The Palm – who has hosted everyone from Kylie Minogue (remember those X Factor auditions?) to Robert Di Niro and Justin Timberlake – explains how visiting A-listers can go unnoticed at the resort for up to two weeks.

She told that celebrities are usually whisked straight from the airport in a luxury Mercedes limo with a VIP escort in tow up to the Royal Bridge Suite.

“We offer in-suite check-in so there is no need to wait at reception,” explains Rebecca. And there’s no need to worry about over-zealous fans getting close: the suite is manned by an entourage 24/7.


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Not only is there a complimentary interconnecting room for the celeb’s own bodyguard/nanny/PA, but the hotel lay on dedicated staff to cater to their every whim. “The suite comes with a 24-hour chef and personal butler,” says Rebecca.

Meanwhile VIP guests at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray – where Tom Cruise stayed while filming Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – can expect star treatment before they’ve even checked into the Dhs50,999-a-night five-bedroom Beach Royal residence.

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Once celebs arrive, security is paramount, says Fernando. “Security are informed as well as selected department heads – anyone who will work directly with the guest will be thoroughly briefed about privacy.”

Though the Royal Residence comes with private security and a private entrance, for certain VIPs, entire sections of the resort, such as the spa or restaurant (even an entire floor) will be closed to other guests, while additional security is available on request.

All these extra don’t come cheap. Hollywood security expert Anthony Davis from AD Entertainment Services told the Hollywood Reporter it can cost upwards of US$9,000 (Dhs33,054) for four security guards for a three-day trip for a high-profile couple like the Beckhams. But when you factor in the threat from paparazzi, stalkers and overzealous fans, we’re sure Gigi would agree, when you’re a star, you can’t put a price on your own safety.

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Words: Aoife Stuart Madge