Muscat: The first underwater hotel project in the Sultanate has been put on hold, according to BIG InvestConsult AG, which represents the revolutionary Water Discus concept of underwater leisure projects developed by Poland's Deep Ocean Technologies (DOT).
Speaking to Times of Oman, Bogdan Gutkowski, president and CEO of BIG InvestConsult, said the project had been "put on hold" because the company needed to adjust its commercial-activity projections in line with the Water Discus producer's plans.
"The reason for temporarily postponing the project is that the producer of the Water Discus concept at Deep Ocean Technology is currently working on the prototype unit, which as noted on the company website, 'will be used in scientific–technical and environmental activities aimed at improving the company's principal product: an underwater and above-waterline structure designed for residential purposes and for the exploration of the marine environment,'" he wrote in an e-mail interview from Switzerland.
A recent update received from DOT via BIG Invest stated, "The prototype sub-and above-water object construction project, supported by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, is running on schedule. Currently, research work is continuing, aiming at finalising the project's engineering requirements. The completion of this stage will enable the selected contractor to commence production. In the second quarter, we plan to announce the tender for the construction of the prototype of the sub-and above-water object for scientific purposes. The commencement of production is planned for the third or fourth quarter of 2013."
This statement has come as a shock to the building's future residents since it had been announced with much fanfare last year that a Swiss-based firm specialising in the promotion of innovative technologies would be setting up Oman's first underwater hotel — a venture that would showcase the country's spectacular and diverse aquatic wealth.
It was learnt that BIG InvestConsult was very keen to set up the first underwater hotel in Oman, but they couldn't find any co-investors who were willing to put money into the project. "That may be one of the reasons for pulling themselves out," a senior manager in the hospitality industry in Oman, said.
In 2011, BIG InvestConsult signed an agreement with a Dubai-based firm, jointly naming the company as the exclusive principal contractor for all construction work linked to its underwater leisure and related projects in the Gulf region.
"We want to expand our Gulf-based projects and that is one of the reasons we will be opening our BIG InvestConsult AG office in Dubai, at the Al Habtoor Business Tower located at Dubai Marina," Bogdan Gutkowski declared.
In line with its initial plans, the company had unveiled patent-protected designs depicting a futuristic hotel that rests on the seafloor and towers above the water surface.
Dubbed the Water Discus Hotel, the project consists of two discs: an underwater disc and an above-water disc. This combination will allow guests to admire the depths of the ocean, while making the most of the warm climate.
The two parts of the structure will be connected by five solid legs and a vertical shaft containing a lift and stairway. The size of each disc has been adjusted to local conditions.
The complex of the hotel will be surrounded by a beautifully vibrant coral reef. According to the plans, the disc, located up to 10 metres below the surface of the sea, will hold 21 hotel rooms adjacent to the underwater dive centre and bar.
Each room will be integrated with the underwater world, so residents can remain in contact with the local flora and fauna.
There are special lighting systems planned for the area around the room, and the miniature underwater vehicles, which can be operated from inside the building, will allow people to take a closer look at even the most microscopic underwater creatures, using macro photography. In the hotel, all the rooms will be sound-proof and will have curtains with different levels of transparency.
For entertainment, the disc and its adjacent satellites that will be located 5–7 metres above the water's surface will include a restaurant, spa, and special recreation area. A multifunctional lobby built inside an enormous swimming pool will display the centre of the disc. The area around the underwater part of the complex and the diving activities can be watched in real-time on screens hanging on the lobby walls.
The underwater part of the complex will be connected to the satellites with awe-inspiring glass-walled tunnels cutting through a training pool for divers. Its rooftop will include seawater swimming pools that are integrated with the training pool. Finally, there will also be an exotic garden, offering a moment's rest before returning to extreme experiences.
A consulting, engineering, and brokerage firm, BIG InvestConsult's business interests span many sectors, especially oil and gas, offshore services, marine engineering, production outsourcing, renewable energy, and the promotion and sale of luxury catamarans.