DUBAI // An underwater hotel more suited to a sci-fi comic than Dubai's coast could be ready to welcome guests in less than five years, developers say.
The Water Discus hotel, announced in May last year, is still in the initial planning stages and has yet to achieve full financing.
But the company behind the project, Swiss firm BIG InvestConsult, believes it will not be long before the flying saucer-like structure is built off the coast of the emirate.
"I think it will be within five years," said Bogdan Gutkowski, president of the company.
But Mr Gutkowski said the company had still to choose the final design and an exact location.
"This is still under negotiation and discussions with the final investor," he said. He declined to say how much it would cost to build and how much of the financing was still outstanding.
Connecting the hotel to land by a bridge was an issue, said Mr Gutkowski, and the Palm islands were being viewed as a possible location.
But, a lot would depend on the final design, he added.
The project was announced last year after BIG InvestConsult signed an agreement with Dubai's Drydocks World to act as contractor.
"Our expertise lies in developing future strategies aimed at advancing the construction of technology-driven pioneering projects in the maritime sector," said Khamis Juma Buamim, the chairman of Drydocks World and Maritime World, said at the time.
The project is not connected to Hydropolis, an underwater hotel for Dubai announced in 2003 and planned to be finished by 2009.
Projected to cost Dh1.1 billion, the start date for Hydropolis was postponed several times, and work never quite began.
But Uwe Hohmann, the chief executive of Crescent Hydropolis, the company behind the proposed hotel, said the idea was still alive.
"There is something happening, but I cannot yet disclose it," he said. "This is typical in this type of business. Sometimes it works, sometimes it takes some time.
"The idea is still alive."
He declined to say whether the company was still looking at Dubai as a possible site for the hotel.
Ian Albert, the regional director of Colliers International, said the prospect of an underwater hotel could boost the tourist sector.
"The hotel market here is strong," Mr Albert said. "The hotels in the prime spots are full, and the occupancy levels across the city are rising.
"To introduce something that is a new concept to that market, it should be well received, even if people want to stay there for one or two nights just to have a different experience.
"The more new attractions Dubai continues to build, the greater the longevity of its tourist space."