Brand Strategy Tourism Travel

Space travel is the next frontier in tourism, but is it a marketing opportunity?

By Joanna Lewis, Head of content



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February 28, 2024 | 8 min read

Space tourism used to be the reserve of sci-fi. But, says Joanna Lewis of Relevance, a trip to space is increasingly a reality – if you can afford the price tag.

A graphic of a rocket blasting through space

More and more people are taking trips beyond the Earth's atmosphere, says Joanna Lewis / Freepik

Space travel is the new frontier for ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI), giving the world’s wealthiest travelers the chance to view life on Earth from a whole new perspective.

Commercial flights into space are becoming more routine, with the race for space travel being led by Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Space Adventures. However, space tourism remains the reserve of the world’s richest individuals, with space travel companies focusing their marketing efforts on UHNWIs and billionaires.

According to research by UBS, the space tourism market is expected to reach a value of US$3bn (£2.4bn) by 2030. And it’s not surprising, given the global UHNW population in 2022 was 395,070, according to Wealth-X, with a combined wealth of $45,430bn. The total billionaire population stands at 3,194 individuals, with a collective wealth of $11,107bn.

Not only will space tourism add an exciting dimension to where UHNWIs vacation, but it will also provide a lucrative market for successful space tourism companies.

What are the different types of space travel?

There are several different types of space travel, including orbital, suborbital, and lunar space tourism. Currently, space tourism is primarily focused on orbital and suborbital.

Suborbital space tourism is when the spacecraft reaches space but doesn’t break the gravitational border. Space tourism is currently dominated by suborbital spaceflights, with space travel companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin dominating this market. Suborbital flights typically reach altitudes of about 62 miles and give passengers just a few minutes in space and the chance to experience micro-gravity.

Orbital space tourism is when the spacecraft reaches orbit and passengers can spend up to a week orbiting Earth. SpaceX and Space Adventures are the only companies currently offering orbital space tourism.

Who are the key players in space tourism?

The key players at the forefront of the race to bring space tourism to the masses are Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX.

Virgin Galactic was established in 2004 by the British entrepreneur and billionaire Richard Branson. It launched its first commercial spaceflight in June 2023 for research purposes only and carried three passengers from the Italian Air Force and National Research Council.

The company took its first paying space travelers aboard Galactic O2 on August 10, 2023. The space tourism flight was launched from New Mexico and took three passengers – mother and daughter Keisha Schahaff and Anastasia Mayers, and Jon Goodwin, an 80-year-old former Olympian – to the edge of space and back, reaching an apex point of 55 miles above Earth and lasting a total of 72 minutes.

Virgin Galactic now offers a monthly cadence of spaceflights, asserting itself as a major player in space tourism. Each flight can accommodate three paying passengers, along with an accompanying astronaut.

Aerospace company Blue Origin was founded by American billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2000. Bezos traveled to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket in 2021, describing the experience as the “best day ever.” His journey into space lasted 10 minutes and 10 seconds and was Blue Origin’s first crewed flight. The flight also took aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, the youngest space traveler.

SpaceX is owned by billionaire Elon Musk and was founded in 2002. In 2021, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the first orbital class rocket capable of re-flight, successfully took four passengers into orbit – 363 miles above Earth. A year later, the company, in conjunction with Axiom Space, took four passengers to the International Space Station, where they spent more than a week. According to reports, the passengers paid US$55m each for the trip.

SpaceX is the only space tourism company to send private civilians into orbit and to the International Space Station. To date, the Falcon 9 rocket has undergone 299 launches, 257 landings, and 231 re-flights. SpaceX’s Starship is the world’s most powerful launch system and in the future should be able to carry up to 100 people on long-duration, interplanetary flights.

While space tourism has gained headlines over the past few years as the industry is poised to become more accessible, it has been around for several decades. Indeed, American businessman Dennis Tito was the first space tourist in 2001, visiting the International Space Station while joining two Russian cosmonauts on a supply mission. The trip cost him a reported US$20m.

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How much does a trip to outer space cost?

The cost of space tourism has dramatically decreased since Tito's trip. However, it can vary significantly depending on the type of flight – suborbital or orbital – and on the company.

A Virgin Galactic ticket, for example, costs $450,000; however, even those with the cash to splash will have to join an 800-long waiting list.

Blue Origin does not publicly publish its flight costs. However, according to a space tourist who booked a flight in 2021 aboard Blue Origin, he paid a reported US$28m, although later had to skip the flight due to a “scheduling conflict”.

While the cost of space travel is currently prohibitive except for the world’s wealthiest individuals, there’s no doubt that as technology advances and space tourism companies reach economies of scale, space travel will become more affordable to more people.

What’s next for space tourism?

Beyond commercial flights becoming more regular and more affordable, space tourism companies are already setting their sights on extended stays in space. In 2018, Orion Span, a galactic experience company, launched plans for an extended stay in a luxury space hotel – the Aurora Station – on the moon. The experience will reportedly set travelers back $9.5m.

Brand Strategy Tourism Travel

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