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'Polar bear hotel' in China opens to full bookings and a lot of criticism

'Polar bear hotel' in China opens to full bookings and a lot of criticism

Visitors look at polar bears at an enclosure inside a hotel at a newly-opened polarland-themed park in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang province March 12, 2021. (Photo: cnsphoto via REUTERS)

A hotel that bills itself as the world's first "polar bear hotel" has opened in China's far northeastern Heilongjiang province, drawing both guests and criticism for its central feature: live polar bears.

The Polar Bear Hotel, part of the Harbin Polarland theme park in Heilongjiang's capital and largest city, Harbin, opened its doors on Friday (Mar 12) with the promise of round-the-clock polar bear viewing from all 21 guest rooms.

"Whether you're eating, playing or sleeping, polar bears will keep you company," Harbin Polarland's official WeChat account said in a post-dated Thursday (Mar 11).

Photos and videos from Chinese state media showed people watching two polar bears in an indoor enclosure featuring artificial ice and small pools of water.

Yang Liu, a spokeswoman for Harbin Polarland, told Reuters that the indoor area is only part of the bears' total enclosure, and that they are let outdoors when temperature and air quality permit.

She said interest in staying at the hotel, where rooms range from 1,888 to 2,288 yuan (S$390 to S$473) per night was "very high", adding that it is fully booked through a trial period.

Conservationists criticised the hotel.

"Polar bears belong in the Arctic, not in zoos or glass boxes in aquariums – and certainly not in hotels," Jason Baker, senior vice president at animal rights group PETA told Reuters on Saturday (Mar 13). "Polar bears are active for up to 18 hours a day in nature, roaming home ranges that can span thousands of miles, where they enjoy a real life."

In 2016, a shopping mall in the southern city of Guangzhou attracted global condemnation after videos emerged of a polar bear, Pizza, lying on her side in a glass-walled enclosure.

Harbin Polarland, established in late 2005, calls itself the world's first polar performing arts amusement park.

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Additional reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: Reuters

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