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Dropping anchor next door to London’s ExCeL, the arrival of Sunborn’s new superyacht hotel is a return to 2002 when the company first tried the idea of a floating London hotel. Tim Wood

speaks to the ISS team operating the new hotel to hear how they’re doing things this time round.

If you look hard enough, and have the cash to pay for it, there are some pretty unique hotels dotted around this wonderful world we call Planet Earth. And when it comes to ideas out of the ordinary, it seems that the Scandinavians do it best. Take, for example, Sweden’s ICEHOTEL, a hotel which is entirely crafted from snow and ice, and is melted down and born again each winter. Or, in the same country, there’s the Mirrorcube Treehotel, which entirely disappears from its wooded surroundings if you look at it from the right angle.




And now the Scandinavians are bringing their new ideas to London. Just last week, the Sunborn London, a 120m superyacht hotel, dropped anchor opposite Canary Wharf in East London’s Royal Victoria Docks, alongside the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. Designed to attract the corporate market on the back of ExCeL’s continued growth and regeneration of the area, Finnish hoteliers Sunborn have returned to London after a six-year hiatus with their luxury yacht hotel concept.

A family-run business with interests in shipbuilding and hospitality, Sunborn first announced itself in London in 2002, when the company’s first superyacht project docked in the same spot. That initiative, assisted by the financial crash, came to a close when the private owners of the yacht sold up to a Nigerian enterprise which took the vessel to West Africa. But, since then, an unruffled Sunborn have invested in two new custom-built yachts – one of which launched in Gilbratar earlier this year. The other now awaits London’s

custom after spending two years in the Finnish resort of Naantali.

Under the guidance of project operators, ISS, Sunborn London has undergone a transformation since its time as the Sunborn Princess in Finland, despite being designed initially for the UK capital when it was built in 2010. The traditional maritime woods are still there but the soft furnishings have been updated, keeping UK taste in mind. Of course, this isn’t a first for ISS, having handled the FM contract on the previous mooring between 2004 and 2008. In fact, some of the team remain from that voyage, including ISS Director of Hotels, Karen Thomson. However, Ed Bolton, the ISS MD for the London region, who joined the company in 2011 after 18 years with OCS, is new to the concept and is keen to see it outlast its predecessor.

“This isn’t a short-term move,” says Bolton, citing East London’s current financial boom. “The planning permission is for 15 years, and the contract we’ve agreed is 10 years. Based on previous experience and our knowledge of the hotel market in London, this has to be a long-term investment.

“The corporate-driven custom is always going to be strong based on the ExCeL’s presence, but every good hotel needs a mixture of corporate and leisure. That’s going to be boosted by the closure of Earl’s Court next year, and we’re surrounded by the O2 and the Siemens Crystal. The whole area is changing dramatically. We’re seeing business investment, but leisure is starting to grow too if you think about


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