The luxurious seven-story five-star floating hotel was launched in the late 1980s. He sailed 70 kilometers off the coast of Townsville (Queensland, Australia). The hotel had two hundred rooms, bars, discos, a gym, a sauna and two excellent restaurants. A floating tennis court was moored to the hotel. It was an unprecedented phenomenon that the hotel looked like a kind of guest from the future. Many Townsville residents, old enough to remember that time, still remember this incredible resort.
The Four Seasons Barrier Reef Resort was the brainchild of an engineer from Townsville, Doug Tarki. He dreamed of locating the hotel on the Great Barrier Reef so that tourists could easily get there. The original project was to permanently moor three cruise ships around the reef. Investors considered such a venture not very profitable and generally impractical.
The whole concept was changed by chance. A Swedish company specializing in the construction of floating dormitories for oil rigs has turned the idea into a floating resort. The construction was taken over by a Singaporean construction company. The project was very difficult, because a hotel of this class, and even a floating one, had to include many different functions. The resort was located in an ecologically clean place, and therefore had to meet the very strict standards of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
No toxic paint was used to paint the hull. No waste was discharged into the surrounding waters. Waste water and all liquid waste was carefully processed, resulting in sterilized water. This clear water was allowed to be discharged several miles before the reef. The workers burned garbage, which could not be burned - they took it to the mainland.
The construction of the hotel was completed in 1987. The cost of the project was 40 million US dollars. There was minor legal friction with the Singaporean firm, which delayed the opening of the hotel by a couple of months. Then unfavorable weather conditions caused another two-month delay. This hit the bottom line as the highly lucrative winter tourist season was missed. Investors suffered millions in losses when the hotel finally opened in March.
The biggest inconvenience for tourists was the 70-kilometer water taxi journey to get to the hotel drifting in the middle of the ocean. When we got to the resort, many people suffered from seasickness - this spoiled the whole experience. Bad weather often became the reason that communication with the mainland was disrupted. This also entailed some inconvenience and disruption to the hotel.
Once there was a very unpleasant incident - one of the catamarans caught fire. They were used to transport guests. The fire spread to neighboring objects. None of the people were hurt as a result, but the reputation was severely damaged. The enterprise was finished off by mediocre management and even more mediocre marketing. Orders began to run low. The hotel became too expensive to maintain, and a little over a year after opening, it was sold.
The resort was owned by a Vietnamese company and the resort was towed to Saigon. There he opened and started operating as the Saigon Floating Hotel. At that time, Vietnam was experiencing a real tourist boom. The business was in dire need of luxury hotels. The floating hotel was the perfect solution. The resort has become very popular. The profit went uphill. But this did not last long. Financial problems overtook these owners, and they decided to close the business.
This time the hotel was sold to North Korea. He was taken to the tourist area of Mount Geumgang, on the border between North and South Korea. The border between the states was opened in 1998 for tourists from the south. The hotel was renamed Sea Kumgang Hotel or Hotel Haegumgang.
The resort was very successful in the beginning. It was a place where relatives from North and South Korea could meet without any problems. The South Korean government sponsored the resort. It all ended on a far from perfect day when a North Korean soldier accidentally shot and killed a tourist from South Korea. Tours to the resort were stopped. Financial injections from the South Korean side have stopped. The hotel worked for 10 years this time.
Today, the Haegumgang Hotel is still in place, but has been closed for over 10 years. It has become dilapidated and has lost its original luxurious look. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, recently inspected the hotel and was very dissatisfied with it. He made some very unflattering remarks about the condition of the ship. In particular, he compared it to "makeshift tents in a disaster area." Mr. Kim ordered that the resort on Mount Kumgang be cleaned of all "backward" and "shabby" objects. For a floating resort, this may mean that it will either be rebuilt (which is unlikely because it is too expensive), or sold to another owner (which is also very difficult), or destroyed. The last option seems to be the most probable.
Meanwhile, Townsville residents are still nostalgic for the hotel. Belinda O'Connor, who worked on the water taxi that took guests to the hotel, still remembers the first time she saw him. “It was an impressive sight! I remember so many amazing days when I lived there, fishing, having parties with the crew, diving … We got pizza delivered by helicopter!”She told ABC.
Another former hotel employee, Luc Stein, recalls fondly: “This was and remains the best job I have ever had in my life! I was paid to walk, swim and be in the sun. I look back in those days and think: “Was it really? I'm dreaming?"
The Townsville Maritime Museum now houses a popular hotel exhibit with a ship mockup, information and memorabilia.
Especially for those who are interested in the past and present of North Korea a magnificent series of panoramic shots, one of the most closed countries in the world.