Controversial Hotel That Offers 24/7 View of Captive Polar Bears Draws Criticism

The Polar Bear Hotel, part of the Harbin Polarland theme park in Heilongjiang, China, opened its gates this week to full bookings and criticism from animal lovers, after it was reported that all the rooms offer guests round the clock viewing of a polar bear enclosure.

Marketed as the world’s first “polar bear hotel”, the newest attraction at Harbin Polarland was jointly designed by famous Russian designer Kozylenko Natalia Yefremovna and Japanese theme park designer Shuji Miyajima. It’s built around a small polar bear enclosure, allowing guests to look at two captive polar bears both from the ground floor and from any of the 21 rooms available. The concept has attracted a lot of attention, both from people willing to pay a premium to book a room, and from animal activists who accused the establishment of profiting from the animal’s misery.

Photo: YouTube

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 said. “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.”

“A panoramic prison for polar bears… haven’t we learned anything about animal cruelty?” one person commented on Chinese social media.

Photo: China News Service

“Gaps in China’s wildlife protection law allows businesses to exploit animals without any concern for their welfare,” someone else complained.

A spokesperson for the Polar Bear Hotel responded to the criticism by saying that the indoor area viewable by guests is only part of the bears’ total enclosure, and that they are allowed outside when the temperature and air quality permit it. That has done little to appease the general public, though, as photos of the tiny enclosure, featuring two small pools, fake rocks and ice continued doing the rounds online.


But despite the controversy surrounding its treatment of endangered animals, Harbin’s Polar Bear Hotel opened to full bookings and a lot of interest from visitors of the Harbin Polarland theme park. Apparently, the concept of having polar bears as neighbors, even for just one night, proved really popular. So popular, in fact, that people have no problem paying between $290 and $352 per night, to book a room…