World’s First ‘Polar Bear Hotel’ Opens in China to ‘Very High’ Bookings Despite Facing Criticism

The hotel sparked criticism among animal rights activists after images and videos were released of the polar bears being viewed by guests in indoor enclosures

A hotel in China that is billing itself as the world’s first “polar bear hotel” opened its doors earlier this month to full bookings from guests, despite sparking outrage among animal activists.

The attraction, part of the Harbin Polarland theme park in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, offers a 24/7 view of the polar bears and has 21 guest rooms that look out over the bears’ indoor enclosure, according to Reuters.

The hotel opened on March 12 and was reportedly fully booked through its trial period.

The images sparked a backlash from animal activists worldwide, who criticized the hotel for keeping the bears in enclosed spaces.

“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. “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.”

“Gaps in China’s wildlife protection law allows businesses to exploit animals without any concern for their welfare,” a spokesperson for Chinese Animal Protection Network told Agence France-Presse, according to the New York Post.

But despite the backlash, the Harbin Polarland has insisted that the attraction is safe and acceptable for the bears.

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. Liu also said that rooms at the hotel range from 1,888 to 2,288 yuan ($290.10 to $351.56) per night and that interest is “very high.”

Harbin Polarland, established in late 2005, has scenic spots like the great khingan mountains, the fisherman’s wharf, and whale bay. The park is also home to Mambo, who is described on the park’s website as the “first Antarctic penguin born in an inland city.”