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The 'Floatel'

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

A blog post titled "How the World’s First Floating Hotel ended up as a Doomed Wreck in North Korea" revisits the unique story and journey of a floating hotel that opened in 1988 in Australia's Great Barrier Reef initially to be managed by Four Seasons. Ignoring warnings for environmental destruction, the floating 'seven-storey mega structure with nearly 200 rooms, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, a helipad, a tennis court and a 50-seat underwater observatory' damaged a large part of the reef soon to discover that it was floating above a post-war minefield and afer being hit by cyclone it was eventually moved to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam becoming a popular nighttime entertainment venue for a decade as the Saigon Floating Hotel. In 1997, it was bought by North Korea and moved to its final destination to form part of "the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region near the DMZ border, which opened in 1998 as a North-South experiment in tourism." It was renamed to Hotel Haegumgang assigned officially to host reunions of families divided by the 1950-53 Korean War. When in 2008, an incident of killing took place in the resort, the North Korean government prohibited tours in the region leaving the Hotel operating in minimum capacities while in need of maintenance and upgrade. After a 2019 visit by the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the hotel is facing demolition putting an end to unique story of ambitious technological experiment whose 20-year journey across the seas of Southeast Asia exposed environmental disaster, failing financial regimes and geopolitical contestations.

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