'College Bubble' Startup Cancels Plans to Buy Out Hotels and Bring Students to Hawaii and Arizona

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The U Experience, which proposed bringing 150 college students to two college "bubble" campuses by buying out hotels in Arkansas and Hawaii, will not be moving forward with either location.

In a statement on its website, the startup thanked hotel properties the Graduate Fayetteville and the Park Shore Waikiki "for working with us throughout this process."

"We would like to inform all who have been following this story that we will no longer be moving forward with either of these properties," the statement said. "While we were very excited to work with these incredible hotels, we will be postponing the start date of our program until we are confident that our mission has been communicated transparently to all relevant stakeholders."

Both hotels have confirmed to Business Insider that they will not be moving forward with the project. The company's statement indicated that students were overwhelmingly interested in the Hawaii location. On August 7, the Arkansas location was still listed on the website, but it had been removed as a potential location by August 11.

"We were in early discussions with the U Experience team regarding Graduate Fayetteville being a potential location for this new offering, but we ultimately made the mutual decision to hold off at this time," Graduate Hotels President David Rochefort said in a statement to Business Insider.

"Graduate Fayetteville will not be part of U Experience this fall, nor will any other hotels in the Graduate Hotels portfolio. As a brand, we remain focused on serving the specific needs of the university communities we are positioned within during both the semester ahead and years to come."

In a statement to Business Insider, U Experience cofounder Adam Bragg wrote: "While we were very excited about the possibility of an Arkansas campus, we have decided to pursue other options for our final location. We are a novel company, and very little of what we're doing has precedent in the hospitality industry, so we commend them for their flexibility."

The Park Shore Waikiki also confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday that the program would not be moving forward at that location.

Kelly Sanders, vice president of operations for Park Shore Hotels, said that the program had been put "on hold."

"I think that it is unfortunate that, at this point, the program is not going to be able to move forward," Sanders told Business Insider.

The initiative faced intense backlash from Native Hawaiians, with one petition titled "Stop Bringing Nonresident Students to Hawaiʻi During a Pandemic" receiving over 12,000 signatures.

Hawaii has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic: the state has the highest reproduction rate in the country, according to Hawaii News Now — meaning that those sick with the virus in Hawaii pass it on to an average of 1.6 individuals.

The state also has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering it, whether resident or visitor.

Hawaii News Now reported on local concern around bringing college students to the state, with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell telling HNN that the plan had not received formal approval yet.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.

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