Underwater tourism: There's nowhere to go but down


Construction will soon begin in Dubai for the Water Discus, the first five-star underwater hotel.

As Richard Branson and James Cameron make high-profile submarine dives deep into the ocean and millionaires purchase luxury subs to sit on the decks of their yachts, a growing interest in underwater tourism is fueling a number of out-of-this-world projects.

What a suite will look like at the Water Discus hotel.“People have always been fascinated with what’s underwater,” said Bruce Jones, president of Triton and U.S. Submarines Inc., which is building what hopes to be the world’s first underwater resort in Fiji. Jones, however, has some competition to serve this new booming market.

With the announcement in May that Dubai will also build an underwater hotel, the Water Discus, the race to become the first underwater five-star destination grows fierce. The Dubai proposal will have 21 rooms at least 30 feet below the surface in a giant disc. A disc above the water will have recreational facilities – a spa, garden, and a swimming pool. Other discs will house a helipad and diving center and emergency flotation pods, with a central shaft connecting the upper and lower levels, making the complex look like a spaceship.

The entire hotel can also be raised above the water in event of an evacuation or for repairs – and should tourism go south in Dubai, it can be towed somewhere else.

Dubai previously planned to build the $300 million Hydropolis – a 250-suite underwater resort. But that project collapsed during the economic downturn. This current proposal, backed by Dubai construction company Drydocks World, Swiss brokerage firm BIG Invest Consult, and designed by Poland’s Deep Ocean Technology, will cost between just $50 and $120 million. It's the first of many planned for the region.

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