The long journey of the world’s first floating hotel – which was built for Australia but ended up in North Korea and now may be torn down by Kim Jong-un

Supplied: Barrier Reef Holdings
  • The world’s first floating hotel, which used to be in Townsville, is facing renovations after it was criticised by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
  • The hotel currently resides at the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea but Kim Jong-un condemned its “shabby” facilities.
  • Kim Jong-un also called for the removal of the facilities and more modern ones to be built in its place.

The world’s first floating hotel, which was built for Australia, has come under fire from North Korea’s leader.

Previously known as the Four Seasons Barrier Reef Floating Resort, the hotel had been in Australia before it made its final stop in North Korea.

The hotel was built in Singapore and arrived in Australia on January 19, 1988. The hotel – the world’s first floating hotel – made its home in Townsville, decked with swimming pools, tennis courts, bars, nightclubs and restaurants, the ABC reported.

Townsville Maritime Museum managing curator Robert de Jong told Business Insider Australia that you could get to the resort via helicopter or catamaran.

Supplied: Barrier Reef Holdings

However, De Jong explained that commercially, the floating hotel wasn’t a success. “It probably was a bit too expensive,” he told Business Insider. “And there was not really that much to do. If you’re a middle aged American couple, if you don’t do scuba diving or snorkelling, what you see is Pacific [Ocean] and more Pacific. It’s a bit monotonous probably.”

He also mentioned other factors that deterred visitors from the hotel including severe weather – such as cyclones – and the distance it was from Townsville, which he said was roughly 90km.

After about a year in Australia, the hotel was sold to a company in Vietnam – operating under the name ‘Saigon Hotel’.

“Without any fanfare, without any publicity, it just simply disappeared and it ended up in Ho Chi Minh City where it became the Siagon Hotel – which was a huge success because it was put in the harbour,” De Jong added.

The hotel was open for nearly 10 years in Vietnam before it was sold to a South Korean company, the ABC reported, where it was renamed the Haegumgang Hotel. From there, it was shifted over to the Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea.

According to the Guardian, the Mount Kumgang resort was once a symbol of inter-Korean collaboration and following the Korean war, it was a place where families from North and South Korea could reconnect following their separation in the Korean War.

Visits to the resort from South Korea were suspended in 2008 when a North Korean soldier shot a South Korean woman who entered what was claimed to be a restricted area, according to NK News.

Now, the floating hotel’s future has become uncertain.

On Wednesday, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un inspected the Mount Kumgang resort, which houses the Haegumgang Hotel, and said the belief the resort is common property is a mistake, according to the Guardian.

“Mount Kumgang is our land won at the cost of blood and even a cliff and a tree on it are associated with our sovereignty and dignity,” Jong-un reportedly said.

Jong-un also said the buildings on the south side of the property “are just a hotchpotch with no national character at all”, Pyongyang Times reported and condemned the buildings, saying they were “very backward in terms of architecture” and “shabby”.

Kim Jong-un next to the floating hotel. Image Pyongyang Times

Jong-un reportedly called for the “unpleasant-looking facilities” to be removed and for more modern facilities to be built, that “go well with the natural scenery” of the area.

De Jong told the ABC the hotel was nostalgic for several Australians who were either part of its operations or had visited it.

He said the news about the hotel was not unexpected. “It wasn’t built to last forever,” he told the ABC.

“Obviously it has no more use in North Korea and I’m not sure anybody would be willing or interested in taking it and mooring it somewhere else.”

De Jong also told Business Insider Australia that since the hotel was built, there have been dozens of floating hotels made around the world. “[We] just call them cruise ships,” he said.

It looks like a proper farewell to that first floating hotel could be imminent.