Untold Story of World's First Floating Hotel That Ended Up In North Korea

 Untold Story of World's First Floating Hotel That Ended Up In North Korea 


(image courtesy : google)

Few know that the first floating mega structure resort- Barrier reef was 1980's creation. It was designed in Sweden and built-in Singapore for Great barrier reef of coast Townsville, Queensland, Australia. 

The concept of building this floatel was new, challenging and fictional. It was the brain of Italian born diver Doug Tarca who migrated to Australia in 1935. He was mesmerized by the beauty of coral reef in his early days and wanted to design permanent resident there. He becomes a pioneer of this belief for the promotion of tourism in different something unusual attractive way. He died in 1993. 

This floatel was not a cruise ship as it was anchored by oil-rig style. It needs a heavy carrier ship to move so, was not able to propel on its own. this floatel was matchless in the world. It was spectacular and promised "paradise at sea" to visitors. 


With the construction cost over 20 million dollars this luxurious mega structure experienced, fire, cyclone, world war-II ammunitions and murder. It has a different story and after travelling for more than 14000 kilometres in the sea, ended up in North Korea where it lay yet.

This hotel was seven storeyed with around 200 rooms; 140 double rooms & 34 luxury suites. All rooms were lavishly furnished. Moreover, it also offers a sauna, freshwater swimming pool, theatre, library, gyms, meeting halls, restaurant, disco, bars, submarine, underwater observatory, lawn tennis court, helipad e.t.c

The Hotel was surrounded by colourful corals and also maintained a strict environmental conservation standard. There was sewage treatment machinery, incinerator, desalination plants. No waste was dumped/discharged in sea. All trash was incinerated before transporting to the mainland. Desalination plant used to convert seawater to freshwater. 

One needs water taxi or helicopter to reach this floatel. It took 90 minutes by water taxi and 20 minutes by helicopter. It charged from 550 - 1200 dollars for a single night stay and was designed as luxurious five-star accommodation. 

This incredible structure was transported to great barrier reef from Singapore in the summer of 1987- 1988 with delivery time six month late than contract time which increased the cost of of the multi-million dollar venture further. Four season hotel chain contract to managed it so, it operated with name - Four season Barrier reef Resort.  

This big multi-million dollar resort was a massive commercial flop. Its opening was delayed to March 1988 when cyclone Charlie hit this structure causing minimal damage.  the hotel also has to refund millions of dollars as cancellation charges. Thus, the financial condition was further worsening.  the first-year loss was estimated to be 8 million dollars. 

Though, this hotel opened with more than 85% occupancy rate in march, 1988 - Poor management, inadequate marketing, high operating cost and unpredictable weather were the main cause of its disappointment. 

just a few months after opening, in September 1988, 100 tons of world war-II discarded ammunition, anti-tank missiles, tank mines, were found around 4 kilometres away of floated which further destroyed its reputation. Guests were also complaining about seasickness, lack of entertainment in the hotel. 

The hotel dropped its Room price to 130 dollars from 550 dollars. But, Still, the occupancy rate was not improved. It was below 20-25% which was not suitable to operate the hotel. Thus, becoming a big flop. 

Luckily, it was a floatel and can be moved so, the owners sold it only a year after to Japanese owners who moved the hotel to Vietnam. Vietnam was gaining popularity due to post-war tourism. There were no international standard hotels in Vietnam so, this luxury accommodation was a pretty reasonable move.

It remained the number one choice in Vietnam among foreign travellers. Its name was changed to Saigon floating hotel. Just after a few months of moving to Vietnam, this hotel was operating with 400 trained staffs and charging 300 dollars per room per night. It was located on the coast of the Saigon river. and became a commercial fortune in Vietnam.

This 5-star facility layout was far ahead of time and gained popularity as celebrities icon in Vietnam. It stayed in Vietnam till 1997.

After 8 long years in Vietnam, this mega structure was sold to a South Korean company. It was then floated back to North Korea; Mount umgang port to improve two Korea relationship. This was a north-south tourism experiment. Its name was changed from Saigon floating water to Hotel Haegumgang.

(View from Google map in North Korea)

In North Korea, this hotel helped in reunion among families. Relatives were meeting with each other after 60 long years. It was an emotional reunion among families who suffered and were divided due to the Korean war. It operated in North Korea from 1998 to 2008. 

In 2008, a North Korean army shoot South Korean tourist to death which again causes south Korea to ban its citizens from entering North Korea. The shot tourist was wandering in military area unknowingly. From that time the great megastructure is fabricating without maintenance and care till present. It is silently rusting in North Korea.

In 2018 there was an agreement between South Korean president and North Korean supreme leader to re-open the hotel. However, Mr Kim Jong is not convinced with the old hotel architecture model so, he is looking to demolish the property and create new architecture design by highlighting North Korea aesthetic theme. He thought the present architect looks unpleasant & backward. 

There was an update several months ago that the renovation work has stopped due to Coronavirus pandemic. We are again going to see the great aged four-season Barrier reef resort with different architecture design and a different inscription in North Korea very soon. 

It was Astonishing to see hotel floating on the reef with beautiful blue water background. This project was one step ahead at that time. However, cyclones, fire, world war II ammunitions, poor managing and high operating costs were the reason for its failure in Townsville, Queensland. 











 





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