Clearly, Barron’s vision has yet come to pass, but the idea has never fully gone away. In the late 1990s, the firm backed plans for a private orbiting space station whilst in a separate plan, British architect Peter Inston was commissioned to draw up a plan for a 5,000-room domed structure on the Moon for the hotel chain. As the plans were shown off, the then president of the firm – Peter George – reportedly repeated the hotel’s maxim: “One day soon, there will be hotels on the Moon. The Hilton wants to be the first.”
It’s difficult to know whether successive Hilton bosses actually believe this message or whether, as is perhaps more likely, they have simply hit on perhaps one of the longest and most imaginative marketing campaigns in history. Certainly, Conrad Hilton’s grandson, Steve Hilton, has suggested that it was an idea that was never meant to be taken seriously. Instead, he said in a 2009 interview following the Mad Men episode, that he thought it was meant to be “symbolic”.
Certainly the idea seems to have disappeared in recent years. But the recent surge of commercial activity in space means that perhaps it could soon return. If, and when it does, Hilton may have to compete with another hotelier in the race to the Moon.
In 2006, Robert Bigelow, the former owner of the Budget Suites of America chain, launched an inflatable habitat capsule into space. In 2007 another followed, and his company – Bigelow aerospace – has begun working on a full scale capsule which could, he has said, form the basis of a Moon habitat.
Whether the plan is anything more than an idea worthy of Don Draper, only time will tell.