Tourism began many centuries before Christ when people had the urge to travel for religious purposes or simply to watch athletic games (Walker, 2009). In a meantime, travel became increasingly popular global leisure activity where hotels, motels, resorts, stores, restaurants, transportation, and other activities were built with the aim of people wanting to travel. With the beginning of twenty first century and technological advancement, however, international travellers became weary of familiar travel sites and began looking for something new. In order to offer guests an unforgettable experience, various people around the world came up with the idea to build something unique. Hotels made of ice, salt, over-water, underwater or basically in space, became known as the hotels of the new millennium.
One of the world's coolest and largest hotels featuring a unique art and design is the Ice Hotel located one hundred and twenty-five miles north of the Arctic Circle in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. The little Swedish town of about 700 inhabitants is a popular tourist destination which attracts people from around the world to experience a cool night at the world's original hotel made of ice and snow. The Ice Hotel was founded by Nils Yngve Bergqvist, who came with the idea after building an igloo as an art gallery in 1991 (Neill, 1993).
Each winter, when the temperature falls below freezing, the Ice Hotel is rebuilt by a team of snow artists who gather from different parts of the world to create a new design of architectural ice beauty. Thousands tons of snow is collected from the pristine clear Torne River and sprayed onto huge metal forms. After a few days, when the snow freezes up, the forms are detached, leaving frosty passageways, which are then divided into hotel rooms. Subsequently, the snow artists begin carving the art and design of the Ice Hotel, including furniture, sculptures, and decorations that glow in the blink of an eye. The hotel is completed by December and persists until April when the walls of snow start to melt. Once the season ends, new designs are selected for the upcoming winter and the rebuilding of the famous Ice Hotel starts all over again (Wilson, 2000).
Although rebuilt every season for the past twenty years, the Ice Hotel has progressed noticeably into a stunning crystal palace. More than 5,000 overnight guests and even more daytime visitors stop by the hotel annually to sample its vibrant charm. The 13,000 square foot Ice Hotel features 45 bedrooms, a large lobby, an Ice Bar, a chapel, an art gallery, as well as a theater all made of ice. The ice crafted guest rooms with fireplaces, bedheads, night stands, and reindeer furs are beautifully decorated with icy sculptures of flowers and dogs. The most striking features of the Ice Hotel, however, is the Ice Bar fully equipped with ice tables, booths, and glasses. In 1994 Absolut Vodka became a proud sponsor of the Ice Hotel, naming the bar Absolute Ice Bar. Not only the Absolute Ice Bar, but also the Ice Chapel attracts thousands of people annually. People who look for unusual and memorable wedding, christening, or exchange of vows travel to the north part of Sweden to celebrate at hotel's exceptional Ice Chapel and later toast at the world's famous Ice Bar (Branch, 1999).
The direct flight from the United Kingdom to Kiruna in just three and a half hour provides fast and convenient trip to the Ice Hotel. For those tourists; however, who like to explore new places, traveling through energetic capital of Sweden could be another option. The Ice Hotel offers several types of guest rooms for different prices and different occasions. From a simple double bedroom to a quite amazing deluxe suite the price ranges from 3200SEK to 7000SEK ($484 to $1,058) per night. While there are heated rooms available as well, sleeping at the Ice Hotel in cold accommodation is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience (Ice Hotel, 2009).
Palacio de Sal
Ranked among the most unusual and adventurous hotels in the world by News Week, Travel and Leisure, TREND, as well as NOX magazines, Palacio de Sal is a hotel made entirely of salt (Palacio de Sal). The brilliant white palace is located in southwestern part of Bolivia at the edge of the world's largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni. Being one of the most spectacular wonders of the world, the desert spreads across 4,085 square miles at an altitude of 12,000 to 16,000 feet above the sea level, exposing most travelers to unavoidable elevation sickness. The high altitude unpleasantness, however, is worth all the journey because the uniqueness of white gleaming landscape forms an unforgettable natural scenery of opulent salt deposits and active volcanoes (Hoag, 2008).
Although not the first salt hotel ever made, Palacio de Sal was built with the aim of travelers, who wished to see the lovely sights of the desert and spend a night in salty surroundings. The hotel was constructed of huge salt bricks taken from the Great Salar de Uyuni. Floors, walls, ceilings, and most of its furniture, for instance, are attractively carved out of salt to beautify the appearance of the hotel. Palacio de Sal features 16 rooms with a choice of two twin beds or one queen bed, a dining room with exceptional meals made of salt, meat, and lamb, as well as an astonishing salt bar. Also, the hotel contains a recreation room, where billiards, chess, and other games are played and enjoyed by guests. For those guests; however, who prefer relaxation and body treatments, an exclusive spa with sauna, Jacuzzi, hot and cold baths is recommended. Others, on the other hand, who desire outdoor activities, may enjoy a nine-hole golf course that was exclusively and uniquely designed on salt flats. Unlike any other hotel, Palacio de Sal offers more than just accommodation. It offers an incredible experience and a great journey in the middle of the desert with nothing but crystal clear salt glowing on its feet (Palacio de Sal).
Burj Al Arab
With aspirations to develop a center of international commerce and the finest tourist destination, Dubai worked its way to the top through the past years. Hotels like Jumeriah Emirates Tower, Jumeriah Bab Al Shams, and Jumeriah Beach Hotel emerged with the intention to attract wealthy people from around the world. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid al Maktoum, however, desired even more than all of these elegant hotels, he wanted a building which could serve as an icon of his city. As a result of Sheikh Huhammad's wish, the Tower of the Arabs, Burj al Arab, came into existence in 1999, and shortly after became an international symbol for the fashionable city in the United Arab Emirates (McBride, 2000).
Built 1,300 feet from the coastline on an artificial island, Burj al Arab is said to be one of the world's tallest, all-suite hotels reaching a height of 1,053 feet. This spectacular and extravagant building was constructed to resemble a sail-shaped skyscraper rising high above Jumeriah beach. Burj al Arab is constructed out of two steel V-shaped panels wrapped around each other to form a triangular tower. Covered with Teflon-coated fibreglass, the spacious part between the two panels creates a large open space within a building, ranging from the lobby to the hotel upper levels. What is so marvelous about the exterior, however, is that the fibreglass is lit by the
color-changing spotlights during the night, creating a spectacular display of the modern, luxurious tower (McBride, 2000).
A significant part of the adventure begins at the causeway where no unexpected visitors are permitted to enter. In order to cross the security gates, a hotel reservation for a room or at least for a meal is required (McBride, 2000). A night at the Burj al Arab, however, is not an inexpensive one. It ranges from 7,999AED to 17,578AED ($2,178 to $4,708), depending on the type of the suite chosen (Jumeirah, 2009). Also, the hotel's rich service provides transportation from an airport to the hotel in a luxurious Rolls Royce which costs an additional $890 a night. In fact, for those wealthy enough, whose time is worth more than money, reaching the hotel by helicopter on the top floor's helipad could be another, yet faster option (McBride, 2000).
Not only the exterior of the Arabian Tower, but also the interior is a masterpiece. The lobby, with two gold shell desks on each side, is decorated with an eye-catching crystal chandelier, fire red sofas, and a colorful round carpet, leading to a spectacular, terraced waterfall with multicolored lights (McBride, 2000). The main hall also features coral reef aquariums that extend below the lobby to accommodate a seafood restaurant, Al Mahara. By contrast, Al Muntaha, another restaurant, yet 656 feet above the sea level, is a sky view eating place, offering spectacular panorama of both the Persian Gulf and the city (Dalrymple, 2002).
The focal point of the hotel, however, is the intriguing design and luxury inner construction overlaid with 22-carat gold leaf that surrounds 21,000 square feet of the hotel's massive atrium. The vast gold pillars wrapped around the escalating floors offer guests an unforgettable experience and a pleasantly dizzying sensation (McBride, 2000). Burj al Arab offers 202 double-floor suites each equipped with high-tech devices, luxurious furnishings, its own guest services for in-suite check-in, and a private butler. In fact, the two most expensive Royal Suites offer more luxury than any other room. It features a private cinema, elevator, and a rotating bed on the 25th floor with a remarkable panoramic view on the city (Jumeirah, 2009).
Moreover, the hotel offers elegant spa and health club spanning more than 53,000 square feet on the 18th floor. The Assawan Spa includes Sauna, Steam, Cold Plunge Pool, Infinity Pools, State of the Art Wellness Gym, as well as treatment rooms, all resembling the magnificent style of baths used by ancient civilizations (Jumeirah, 2009).
Despite the fact that there are various deluxe hotels around the world, Burj al Arab is perceived as the only seven-star hotel, representing wealth, luxury, and prosperity. Although the cost of the building has never been revealed to the public, it is said to be the most expensive structure ever built (Dalrymple, 2002).
Poseidon Undersea Resort
Located near the shore of a 225-acre island in northeastern Fiji, Poseidon Undersea Resort is the world's first luxury seafloor hotel positioned on the bottom of the Pacific ocean. Its spectacular design and architecture is credited to Bruce Jones, the owner of U.S. Submarines, who spent most of his life experimenting and designing underwater devices. Although not the former person to pursue an underwater paradise, Jones' ambitious plan to design the most stunning and exclusive aquatic beauty came to life in 2010. (Behar, 2007).
In order to reduce the high cost of underwater construction, the entire body of the resort was assembled in a dockyard in Portland, Oregon. Once completed, the structure was transported to Fiji by a vessel that is capable of moving very large loads and sunken into the water, where the resort's steel support was pinned to the seafloor and permanently immobilized. The main obstacle with construction, however, was finding the four-inch-thick pieces of crystal clear acrylic at a reasonable price. Knowing that acquiring the acrylic sheets from potential manufacturers would exceed the budget, Bruce Johnes decided to build it himself with a help of submarine engineers and designers (Behar, 2007).
Opened in early 2010, the resort had a pleasure to accommodate the first group of adventurous travelers who anticipated a unique and unforgettable aquatic experience at the Poseidon Mystery Island. The one and only introductory package offered by the resort is a seven day and six nights stay on the island for $30,000 per couple, per room. During the stay, guests spend four days on land with a choice of beachfront bungalows or over-water bures. The remaining two nights are spent in one of the resort's suites submerged 40 feet underwater in a 5,000-acre coral lagoon. In addition, the package includes airfare, meals, submarine explorations, mini-submarine piloting lessons, scuba diving, snorkeling, assisted seafloor tours, wine tasting lessons, as well as access to the spa and all resort amenities (Poseidon Undersea Resort, 2006).
Accessible through a transparent elevator at the end of the pier, the Poseidon Undersea Resort comprises of twenty-four 550 square foot suites and one 1,000 square foot "Nautilius" luxury suite, all beautifully and tastefully decorated with marble, leather, and fine fabrics. In order to reduce the maintenance costs, all rooms are detachable from the main body and carried to the land, where upkeep is easier to conduct and all defects are repaired at much lower cost. The rooms include all the luxuries one could expect from the finest hotels. Amenities, such as, a king-sized bed, a sitting room, library, personal office, flat screen television, refrigerator, in-room fish feeding system, and a full bathroom with jacuzzi are all-inclusive in twenty-five underwater suites. The main charm of the underwater suites, however, is the four-inch thick crystal clear acrylic windows which allow for amazing views of the vibrant coral reef and multi-colored oceanic life. Although it is almost impossible to see the rooms' interior from under water, a special film may be drawn over the windows for privacy purposes. In order to continuously guarantee a clear view of the undersea life from each side of the resort, Poseidon is integrated into an automatic cleaning system which sprays windows with high pressured and filtered seawater jets. Also, a distinctive characteristic of the Poseidon is that the interior pressure stays at one atmosphere as on the surface. This indicates that guests and all the resort's employees do not have to worry about the hydrostatic pressure which results from the force of gravity, eliminating a possibility of decompression sickness (Poseidon Undersea Resort, 2006).
Besides all of the detachable capsules in the central part of the aquatic hotel, Poseidon Underwater Resort is enclosed by two round modules with 360-degree marine view. One of the units contains a kitchen, reception desk, and a rotating restaurant joint with a bar. A second round unit, on the other hand, includes a library, a conference room, a spa, a wedding chapel, and the luxury suite. Therefore, whether a couple wants to exchange its vows, get married, or experience something truly unique, Poseidon Underwater resort offers luxury and an amazing recreation in ocean depths (Behar, 2007).
Galactic Suite Space Resort
The first of its kind, revolutionizing and modernizing the hotel industry as well as tourism around the world, Galactic Suite Space Resort is becoming a reality. More than two hundred eager space lovers have already expressed an interest and 43 have made reservations. The space hotel is scheduled to open in 2012.