Spaceage hotels

Spageage hotel rooms are not a new genre of the ubiquitous boutiques but an actual “room” in space. Many in the industry have heard of Robert Bigelow and his Budget Suites of America but few are probably aware of his seemingly quixotic attempt at creating a “space hotel” two years ago. Fewer still seem to know that his venture bore fruit a couple of weeks ago with the launch of “Genesis 1”. The beta version is. in fact, an inflatable capsule that is about 15 feet in length and about 8 feet in diameter and when expanded has the shape of a watermelon. Bigelow hopes that in the next five years he will be able to launch full scale versions that are over three stories tall with a view to promoting stays in outer space. Recently a survey by an adventure travel agency found at least 10,000 people who would be willing to shell out $1 million apiece for a stay in space. However, Bigelow hopes to bring his launch costs down to the $50-100K range – the cost of an expensive car. The interesting aspect to his out of the box venture is the public-private partnership he struck with NASA. he finds himself in partnership with NASA. Bigelow Aerospace has signed three “Space Act Agreements” with NASA. These agreements provide for an ongoing exchange of personnel and technology, the joint testing of Bigelow projects at NASA facilities, and the transfer of NASA patents to Bigelow. “NASA has hitched its wagon to us,” Bigelow noted in an interview a couple of years ago. “They’re here every other week now because this is the technology that they will depend on in the future.”

Back on terra firma, public-private partnerships are another story. In a story that is fairly typical of small town city officials, a developer in Terre Haute, IN found the bid process rigged and a historic hotel torn to the ground with the site given to a developer who did not even put in a bid – at least so alleges John R. Bischoff, manager of Haute Maison Development LLC, the failed (and justifiably aggrieved) bidder. Anyone who has attempted to develop product in second and third tier cities will probably empathize with Bischoff after butting heads with (petty) Town planning officials with their constant and largely thoughtless demands. But the town of Terre Haute seems to have gone a step further in actually rigging the outcome. Shame on them, if the allegations turn out to be true.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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