KEY WEST, FLA.—If entrepreneur Tony Webb attracts the interest he needs, there could be as many as 15 Planet Ocean Underwater Hotels in the coming years. Webb, Founder and Managing Director of Planet Ocean Underwater Hotels, LLC, is targeting waters off Cuba for the first 12-room property that will sit about 24 to 30 feet below the ocean’s surface. Fifteen sites are being planned for locations in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. One purpose of the business venture is to raise awareness about the precarious state of global coral reef health. Webb says 10 percent of guestroom proceeds will be invested in coral reef restoration. Each underwater hotel will host a variety of marine biology programs, and colleges and universities will have access through guest proceeds and corporate sponsorships.
“Humans are killing our coral reefs,” Webb says. “Many ocean side resorts have improper waste management systems. The land based contamination from golf courses and agriculture cause rainwater to wash the harmful contamination into the ocean and it harms the reefs. Climate change and its stress has now destroyed the Great Barrier Reef and the majority of reefs in Indonesia. Many experts all agree that 75 percent of our coral reefs are dead and dying. Eighty percent of coral reefs are dead and dying in the Caribbean.”
In April, Planet Ocean Underwater Hotels publically announced its intention to invite the hotel industry and prominent resort properties to partner with it and open the world’s first underwater luxury boutique hotels. Planet Ocean Underwater Hotels has also submitted a detailed business plan to the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, seeking approval to operate the Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel and Research Center vessel in Cuban waters.
Anchored Like a Cruise Ship
Webb says hotel owners will not own the land on which the hotel sits although his company is selling locations for $3 million each. “Working with the host nation, we will safely anchor the underwater hotel on a sand bottom,” Webb says. “It is like a cruise ship anchoring but we are underwater. Legally we are a vessel and subject to Admiralty Law. We will be recruiting ex-Navy officers and Navy Seals to provide safety for our guests.”
Each of the 15 underwater hotels will include a research center. All 15 will be fabricated in Houston, Texas at the same time. The trained crew of each hotel will be able to manage the fabrication process. Once the yearlong work is complete, each team can manage the deployment and be fully trained on all aspects.
“The steel fabricator specializes in oil and gas industry ocean fabrication,” Webb says. “After the fabrication is done, the steel cylinders will then be placed on an ocean going barge and assembled. After that they will be hydrostatically pressure-tested. Next comes the interior support systems and FF&E. For the first hotel the barge will be towed to Key West, Fla. and we will begin training our crew while the structure sits on top of the barge. Once we complete the training, it will be towed to Cuba. Once in Cuba it will slide off the barge and into the water. From there it will float on the water. Next we will employ our top secret ballast system and control sink the underwater hotel with the research center to a depth of 24 to 30 feet.”
Guests Will Use Glass Elevator to Enter Hotel
There will be numerous technical challenges but Webb says he has already spent years working with others to find solutions. Guests will enter the hotel using a glass elevator. A means for scuba divers to enter the hotel will also be provided. Steel cylindrical walls will provide an even pressure structure. Five-inch-thick acrylic will provide similar structural strength. All of the welds will be robotic and x-ray inspected. The underwater hotel can emergency surface and use electric mechanical propulsion. In the event of an emergency, the hotel could be towed to safe harbor.
NASTAR CENTER, a division of Environmental Tectonics Corporation (ETC) will help on a daily basis to enhance the safety and educational entertainment of guests. “We will have decompression chambers, manufactured and installed by ETC, for those who elect to scuba dive,” Webb says.
All air will be handled by the elevator shaft duct. “We have triple redundancy air support systems,” Webb says. “We will stay cool with guestroom controlled thermostats. Our heating and cooling systems are marine based systems.”
All human waste will be incinerated into a carbon ash. It is similar to incinerators used on board cruise ships. Grey water will be treated and reused for exterior support vessel cleaning. Water will be made on board and the system will be powered by solar panels on top of the support vessel. Water will be stored inside holding tanks inside the underwater hotel.
Food Prepared in Galley, on Support Vessel
Inside the elevator is a space-age kitchen (galley). All ventilation will be handled by exhaust at the top of the 12 foot diameter elevator shaft. Food will be prepared in the galley and on the support vessel. Below deck is the food storage area. “We are using state of the art kitchen technology,” Webb says. “Smart ovens, induction stove tops, thermal energy solutions for heating and cooling. We will even offer cooking classes to our guests. This will be the coolest space-age kitchen they have ever imagined.” The main lobby will have a restaurant, event rooms and observation areas.
For the first hotel, with the help of an industry laundry equipment supplier, a fully contained laundry complex will be placed on a remote Cuban island.
For guests visiting the hotel, the panoramic window views of exotic marine life will be truly unique. So too will be the personalized concierge service and other luxurious amenities. Each guestroom will hav its own spacious shower area and toilet. The guestroom will offer an HDTV, music and internet. There will be adjustable LED lighting. Guestrooms will be 18′ by 12′ in size.
The views will constantly astound and entertain with multi-dimensional vistas of underwater landscapes, aquatic life, and the play of surface light thanks to crystal clear acrylic wall and ceiling viewing panels. This underwater complete immersion is designed so that guests experience the effects of light underwater as the sun and moon move across the sky, creating an interplay of light and shadows in which aquatic life moves gracefully.
What about the cost of staying in an underwater hotel? In a document submitted to the U.S. Treasury, Webb’s company used $2,500.00 for two guests per night to support the return on investment information.
How close is an underwater hotel to opening? Webb says a well-known Florida hotel developer has shown interest and wants to meet with him in Key West. Webb has a history of business success. He owned and funded a space tourism company for 13 years, was a major sponsor for the Google Lunar X-Prize team Synergy Moon, and was one of only five finalists in the Google Lunar X-Prize.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.