By Pier-Luca Rapin
"If the future does not include being out there among the stars and being a multi-planet species, I find that incredibly depressing" – Elon Musk
Investors are stargazing. A multi-planetary society has become a likely reality. Every market will be affected, but mainly hospitality and tourism. Consumers will want to experience zero-G, visit the moon or even Mars, which will replace the white sandy beaches in travel agents’ catalogs and tourists’ fantasies.
What are the real opportunities for hoteliers? How will the hospitality sector develop in this field? Some say that it will be impossible to bring tourists in space while offering decent, let alone high-standard service. However, this article will show that space travel is not just a crazy billionaire’s fad, but a whole new field of opportunity in transportation, tourism and hospitality that is closer than we think.
Space travel: beyond the stars
The American businessman, Dennis Tito, was the first space tourist visiting the international space station in 2001. He has been followed by Mark Shuttleworth, Anousheh Ansari and Charles Simonyi in the following years. With SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Orion Span, it is now possible to imagine the future of hotels in space and a significant increase in space travelers expecting groups like Accor, Marriott, or JingJiang to step up and start offering packages. Virgin Galactic has already signed up celebrities (Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Katy Perry) for a journey in space, providing not only an experience, but also a journey through zero-G and the everyday life of an astronaut. SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are trend setters, and hospitality groups should partner and follow suit.
What will the next trend be? Staying on the Mars, the red planet.
The space race’s come back
Orion Span has reduced the 24-month official training for travelers to three months and this induced a major reduction of costs. Furthermore, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic promised to offer civilians a journey in space within the next five years. More precisely, SpaceX announced the next private trip around the moon would take place in 2023. Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, said his goal was to send tourists in space by next year in their hotel-satellite.
Barriers to entry in the aerospace market are falling fast, which boosts small companies incentive to join the journey. “These next couple of years are going to be very exciting,” says Blair Dewitt, CEO of Lunar Station Corporation (LSC). He expects “dozens of organizations executing their surface missions and bringing back new understandings and fueling the next wave of missions to the surface—thus starting the cycle of sustainable operations on the moon for the benefit of all of us.”(Winick, 2018). Hospitality professionals, take good note!
Risk the unusual or risk everything
Space travel is associated with top adventure risks and sky high prices. A rocket crash is indeed striking. But don’t forget however that in 2019, one rocket is launched every week. Since Challenger, 33 years ago, astronauts have flown safely with no fatal incidents recorded. Space travel is safe.
Moreover, the new reusable rockets of SpaceX and the shorter training program of Orion Span have reduced costs. George Lordos, a member of the MIT team, talks about a rack rate of $5 million for a two week journey onboard the ISS. Orion Span offers a 12-day stay at a price of $9.5 million. It is certainly one of the most expensive holidays you can buy, but in the near future, prices will fall like the price of everything tech, computers, mobile phones etc.
Almost every week, there’s another rocket-launch company that’s starting up with a new way to get to orbit cheaper, faster, better.”, Frank Bunger – CEO and founder of Orion Span – Bloomberg, 2018.
Leaving earth for space is still impressive and scary, but it will be affordable and surely safer than most cars on a Saturday night.
Five star standards vs space hols
Offering a 5 star hotel holiday in space is still impossible. Most luxury hotel standards cannot apply to space. Zero-G makes impossible a luxurious bathroom module, beds must follow the security space lines and most importantly, food cannot meet the quality of a 2-3 star Michelin restaurant. Brent Sherwood, an architect and aerospace engineer confirms: "Nobody knows how to cook in space, and until you can mix a martini or make an omelet, you can’t have a space hotel. No one is going to pay $1m a night and put up with microwave meals."
Nonetheless the space experience goes beyond any luxury. It’s a truly invaluable experience. It is the utmost luxury, the ultimate experience, THE destination.
We’re not selling a hey-let’s-go-to-the-beach equivalent in space. We’re selling the experience of being an astronaut. Frank Bunger
“In 50 years, there will be a different kind of honeymoon on offer,” says Brent Sherwood (2015). The atmosphere will change as much as standards. Imagine a journey with your loved one where you can see 18 sunrises and sunsets per day and experience zero-gravity. Everybody will sign for that!
Literature on space travel is abundant but, there is very little on space hospitality. Hotels and leisure space travel is coming, and it is coming fast. It represents a development of the industry that hoteliers can bet on. If we miss the rocket, others won’t and hospitality groups will watch tech professionals take over their market once again. Space offers an immersion in a world full of sensation, adrenaline, landscape, experiences and an absolute exclusivity. A new market is born and hoteliers should embrace it: Zero-G Hospitality.
The article was first published on in February 2019 on eHotelier.