Future of Dubai underwater hotel in doubt

The Water Discus Hotel was first announced three years ago when it received the backing of Dubai Drydocks World.

The hotel was expected to comprise two saucer-shaped components, one above the water and one below, with a shaft running through the centre. Reuters
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DUBAI // The future of an underwater hotel that had been planned for Dubai is in doubt following the withdrawal of a key investor from the project.

Plans for the Water Discus Hotel were announced three years ago when it received the backing of Dubai Drydocks World.

It was expected to comprise two saucer-shaped components – one above the water and one below – with a shaft running through the centre.

“The design would make the hotel very popular among tourists,” said Lech Rowinski, the co-founder of the Polish company behind the project, Deep Ocean Technology.

“However, we are still looking for an investor to build it.”

He said that the hotel would cost “€40 million or so” (Dh159.7m) to build.

The problems started last year when the key financial backer who had signed a deal with Drydocks World, Swiss firm Big Invest, parted ways with Deep Ocean Technology.

Then, earlier this year, Khamis Buamim, the Drydocks World chairman who had overseen the previous agreement, resigned.

“We were in contact with Dubai World but after the change of chairmanship, the talks have ceased for a while,” said Mr Rowinski.

“We have sent them some designs but have had no response yet.”

A spokesman for Dubai Drydocks World was unavailable for comment.

Matthew Green, head of research and consultancy for the UAE at property firm CBRE, said he believed that projects like an underwater hotel were less likely to be built in the current climate.

“Dubai over the years has seen a number of projects that, at least from initial viewing, seem fanciful,” he said. “After working in the market for some time, you find that some of these incredible ideas do come to fruition.

“At the same time though, we have matured as a market since 2008 and there doesn’t seem too many of these types of projects around.”

These days projects “tend to be more structured and formal and based upon a real market demand, rather than being gimmick-led”.

He said organisations like Drydocks World may be more inclined to focus on their core business rather than projects that “raise eyebrows”.

A patent was first filed for the underwater hotel in 2011 and it was issued in April this year.

Consultancy company Patent Yogi produced a video likening the hotel’s design to the Starship Enterprise.

Deepak Gupta, founder of Patent Yogi, said the patent had caught his attention not only for its design.

“We don’t see that many patents from Dubai, because it’s not an innovation centre in the same category as the US, Europe, China, Japan, South Korea,” he said.

The video gives an insight into how many of the hotel’s features would work, such as ballast tanks that inflate and preserve each of the saucer-shaped buildings should the overall structure be damaged by a tsunami. It also outlines how a complicated gear and pulley system would enable the underwater and over water disks to move up and down on the central shaft.

With the withdrawal of the investors to build the hotel in Dubai, Mr Rowinski revealed that there were talks ongoing with a potential investor to instead build the saucer-shaped design project in the Maldives.