For those in the market for golf buggies, solar heaters, paintings, outdoor furniture, spas, lighting, fish products or energy drinks, the Maldives Hotel and Trade Exhibition was the place to be this week.
The two day event was organised by the Maldives Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI), filling two halls at Dharubaaruge with exhibitors from all over the world.
One particularly striking exhibit amid the lighting and food and beverage suppliers was a design for a ‘Star-Trekish’ underwater hotel with 21 rooms and positive buoyancy, able to be moored in a lagoon with minimal impact on the reef.
The two main discs sit on a central pillar – one of them eight metres underwater – and cleverly offset each others’ weight using natural water buoyancy so that only minimal foundations are needed.
“The lower disc is filled with air and is buoyant, and is anchored to the ground with steel lines,” explained architect Pawel Podwojewski. The seawater swimming pools on the top disc are four metres deep and weight the structure, and can be used for diver training. In an emergency the cables can be released allowing the lower disc to automatically surface.
The Polish company behind the design, Deep Ocean Technology, has a background in shipbuilding rather than hotels. Podwojewski acknowledged that he had received “a lot of hard questions” during the two day MNCCI event, but had lined up “three or four” positive meetings. As presented the cost of the structure is expected to run up to US$25 million, although it is modular enough to be relocated where ever economic conditions dictate.
In the Maldives version, guests would access the structure via a jetty, spend a few nights in the underwater hotel and the rest of their holiday on the surface enjoying the sun and sandy beaches, Podwojewski suggested.
The two-day MNCCI event concludes on Wednesday evening. The annual event has run for 10 years now, both attracting tourism services to the Maldives doorstep and allowing local providers to make direct sales to visiting companies.