Right now it's only a dream. But if Planet Ocean Underwater Hotels' founder and managing director, Tony Webb, gets his way, it could change the way people think about their next vacation — and help the environment at the same time.
In April the company announced its intention to partner with the hotel industry and open the world's latest underwater luxury boutique hotel. Furthermore, the company said that it had already submitted its business plan to both the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control, in order to gain approval to operate in Cuba's waters.
Planet Ocean has chosen 15 undersea sites for its hotels and the coral reef restoration efforts that are part of its stated mission. The proposed sites include locations in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Each hotel will sit 30 feet below sea level and afford its guests intimate views of exotic undersea life. According to its business plan, Planet Ocean plans to invest 5 percent of the total hotel construction cost in marine conservation, with a commitment of 10 percent of guest room proceeds to be invested in coral reef restoration.
It's an ambitious concept and the brainchild of Webb, a former tech executive and space expert, who wasn't even thinking about creating tourist sites on the planet Earth. "In the year 2001, I hired a lottery consultant for my international space tourism lottery," Webb told CNBC. "He was also very well versed with miniature submarines."
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The two men had intended to discuss space tourism, but the topic of "inner space" — which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as "space at or near the Earth's surface and especially under the sea" — kept intruding on their conversation.
"From there on, inner space was always on my mind," he said.
Although Webb had spent more than a decade developing a space tourism model, the idea of building hotels underwater simply wouldn't let go. So in 2013 he shut down his space tourism effort and gave his undivided attention to the world beneath the sea. He was awarded a patent for his idea two years ago that would make the hotel — modeled after the International Space Station — a movable, modular vessel composed of 12 rooms that can be moved if possible, to keep guests safe from hurricanes.
Each pod would come with a king-size bed, bathroom, internet and massive panoramic acrylic windows looking out onto the ocean floor. And they would be outfitted with flotation side bags so there would be no risk of sinking. Guests would take an elevator down from the surface level into the main lobby, which would also have a restaurant, event rooms and observation areas.