LuxuryTo infinity and beyond! As space tourism picks up speed, specialist agents are making it their mission to send more HNW clients into space.

Holiday in space? Travel agents are making that happen

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Despite its hefty price tag that sets one back by hundreds of thousands of dollars, travel advisors specialising in space tourism are sure that its popularity will grow.
Despite its hefty price tag that sets one back by hundreds of thousands of dollars, travel advisors specialising in space tourism are sure that its popularity will grow. Photo Credit: Space Perspective

March 30 is the date for the first mission from Axiom Space, carrying four private astronauts on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station in low earth orbit.

One of the four men participating in the 10-day mission on Ax-1 is Mark Pathy, a Canadian businessman and philanthropist, who, along with the three others, will spend about eight days living onboard the ISS conducting research.

While it is far from a typical “travel experience,” Pathy’s path to participate in the mission does have a familiar spin: He was connected to the experience by a travel agent.

Selling space to the affluent market

Axiom Space NASA-level training prepares the average traveller to ascend into space and live out their fantasies as an astronaut.
Axiom Space NASA-level training prepares the average traveller to ascend into space and live out their fantasies as an astronaut. Photo Credit: Axiom Space

Roman Chiporukha is co-founder and CEO of Roman & Erica, a lifestyle and travel firm that combines the services of a concierge, luxury travel advisor and personal assistant. Chiporukha says Axiom Space contacted him in 2018, knowing he works with high-net-worth clients, to ask for assistance in selling the final seat on the upcoming mission.

In November 2020 Chiporukha says he helped to introduce Axiom Space to Pathy, who then paid US$55 million to become an Ax-1 astronaut and conduct research onboard.

That experience gave Chiporukha the idea to create a specialised travel consultancy to focus on the burgeoning niche of space tourism.

In January 2021, he launched Space VIP, which now lists a variety of space travel experiences around the world including Axiom Space’s future missions as well as trips being planned by companies including Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, World View and Space Perspective.

“We conceptualised this notion of having one place to go online that would give you very basic details of everything going on with any one of these companies. We aggregated and synthesised all of this data across all of these operators and put it in one place,” he says.

For now, Chiporukha’s role is as an advisor to interested travellers and a conduit to the companies offering the experiences. Bookings are done directly with the provider, with Chiporukha getting a commission from the operators that he would only describe as “well compensated.”

He says as more of these trips take flight – whether it’s the US$55 million experience to go about 450km up to the ISS from Axiom Space or the more modest trips about 32km into space from World View (US$50,000) and Space Perspective (US$125,000) – he expects interest in experiencing space travel will grow.

“When I started, I had some clients think it was funny. Now people are asking real questions like, ‘Do I need to go through training? Can I buy insurance?’” he says.

“I think it appeals to the type of person that is already adventurous by nature. These clients, they are the one that go to Bhutan and hike or journey to the top seven peaks around the world. Space is the next frontier.”

The reward is worth the risk

World View will start taking travellers on five-day journeys to space beginning in 2024.
World View will start taking travellers on five-day journeys to space beginning in 2024. Photo Credit: World View

Jay Johnson, an advisor with Coastline Travel Advisors in California, is also optimistic about the future of space tourism. Johnson got involved more than a decade ago when he became one of the first of Virgin Galactic’s “accredited space agents.”

Johnson says he received training from Virgin Galactic and then began selling the company’s space travel experience through his website and by hosting informational events.

He says he sold eight trips, but those trips – and those clients – have been on hold since the 2014 crash of a Virgin Galactic test vehicle that killed one of the pilots.

Despite that setback, Johnson says he continues to receive inquiries about space tourism, and he says he is “actively selling” trips offered by Space Perspective and talking to other suppliers.

“The people who’ve come to us know a ton about it because they are so fascinated by it,” he says. “They tend to be bright, successful people that do a lot of research on their own.”

Johnson says Virgin Galactic recently discontinued the accredited space agent programme.

As of February 16, the company says it has opened ticket sales to the public on its website for future trips. The 90-minute experience costs US$450,000, with an initial deposit of US$150,000 and the final payment made before the flight, with the first trip on schedule for Q4 of this year.

“At Virgin Galactic, we believe that space is transformational,” says Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier. “We plan to have our first 1,000 customers on board at the start of commercial service later this year, providing an incredibly strong foundation as we begin regular operations and scale our fleet.”

Creating the experience

Space Perspective launches guests into the stratosphere for six hours in a high-performance balloon and pressurised capsule featuring a refreshment bar and reclining seats.
Space Perspective launches guests into the stratosphere for six hours in a high-performance balloon and pressurised capsule featuring a refreshment bar and reclining seats. Photo Credit: Space Perspective

Virgin Galactic astronauts will launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico and will stay at “forthcoming custom accommodations” several days before their flight to enjoy “bespoke itineraries and world-class amenities during astronaut-specific training programs.”

Compared to Virgin Galactic, which will take passengers high above the Earth's atmosphere in a rocket-boosted spaceship, World View and Florida-based Space Perspective will take customers about 100,000 feet up inside climate-controlled, pressurised capsules with high-end seats and large windows and amenities including bathrooms and refreshments. Both capsules will be lifted by massive balloons, with World View’s using helium and Space Perspective’s using hydrogen.

World View is also building custom accommodations at its spaceports, starting with its location near the Grand Canyon and then expanding to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, followed by locations in Kenya, Norway, Brazil, Egypt and Mongolia.

The company recently hired Dale Hipsh as president of tourism and exploration. Most recently senior vice president of hotels at Hard Rock International, Hipsh is a veteran hospitality executive who has worked at properties around the world and is now in charge of developing World View’s facilities and guest experience both on the ground and in its eight-passenger space capsule.

Hipsh says his vision for the Grand Canyon spaceport is a luxury lodge with about 40 rooms and high-end food, entertainment and wellness experiences.

For the US$50,000 fee, participants will stay at the lodge for five days, with the six-hour trip to the stratosphere and back taking place some time during that period, depending on weather conditions.

World View is intending to have about 110 flying days per year – with several balloon flights each day – and in the offseason the spaceport lodge will be a luxury resort open to anyone.

Hipsh would not share specific data but says “sales are going well and exceeding expectations” since the company began selling the experience in October for trips beginning in 2024. And he says the company is considering partnering with travel intermediaries and advisors who can offer the World View experience to their customers.

Meanwhile, Space Perspective founder, co-CEO and chief experience officer Jane Poynter says it also expects to begin commercial flights in 2024 and all seats for that year and most for 2025 – about 500 total to date - are already reserved with a deposit beginning at US$1,000 and full cost at US$125,000.

The trips will last about six hours from launch to landing with eight passengers and a pilot onboard.

“We are incredibly excited about the response. It speaks to the incredible pent-up demand there is for this, for space travel writ large but also for a super safe and responsible way to go to space,” she says.

Poynter says about 80% of Space Perspective customers are from the United States and most are booking the experience direct, although the company also works with travel sellers such as Chiporukha’s Space VIP and Exclusive Resorts, which has three private charters reserved for its members starting in 2025.

“Space is a new destination,” Poynter says. “And travel changes us - it transforms people’s lives. The data shows that astronauts that go to space... there is a statistically significant increase in their involvement in environmental and humanitarian causes.”

Hipsh echoes that sentiment. “From our point of view, our goal is to democratise space travel and to help transform anyone we take up into space to make them come down and be better citizens and better custodians of the earth,” he says.

“We really feel the experience we’re going to be offering is a really great way to help march toward the healing of the earth... and we welcome the competitors in the space. We see it as an unlimited opportunity.”

Source: PhocusWire

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