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Tue 9 Jul 2013 09:47 AM

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How long before the Gulf has flying hotels?

With all the fantastical new hotel designs, Shane McGinley looks to the sky for the next big project

How long before the Gulf has flying hotels?
Shane McGinley

We’ve heard news this week the QE2 is to be turned into a hotel and last week reports claimed the first underwater hotel in Dubai is set to start construction “very shortly”. So how long before the Gulf launches the world’s first flying hotel? And I’m not talking about a posh private jet or first class on an Emirates A380.

Legend goes that when the Empire State Building was built its spire was designed as a docking point for airships. Along came the 1930s and plans were scrapped when the Hindenburg fire saw the popularity of giant flying Zeppelin airships sink like a led balloon.

The UAE has no shortage of tall towers to use as docking points and with technology having advanced since the Hindenburg headlines, industry sources tell me flying hotels may not just be pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

“I imagine Zeppelins would be a good way to explore some parts of the desert,” says Bart Leclercq, Head of Structures Design at building consultancy firm WSP Group, and a man who has worked on many of the region’s biggest and most ambitious projects.

“If you were in a Zeppelin you would see the sun come up and it would be amazing. There are some Zeppelins that can do some serious cargo movements, so you could in theory hang a hotel off it,” he says.

It might sound like something from The Jetsons cartoon series, but US firm Aeroscraft, which manufacturers airships, says a flying hotel is possible.

“Yes, that idea is now much closer to reality,” the company’s spokesperson told me. “Aeroscraft is a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certified airship manufacturer, so yes we can do this for an interested client.”

Aeroscraft said it all depends on the budget and production times but it is working on bigger and more luxurious versions, so anything is possible.

So, if in the next few weeks, months or years you hear of Qatar, Dubai or Abu Dhabi launching a flying airship hotel in time for Expo 2020 or the World Cup 2022, remember you heard it here first and I want the credit.

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