Space the final frontier in luxury hotel breaks

1 / 2
Orion Span’s fully modular space station will host six people at a time, including two crew members, for 12-day trips. It plans to welcome its first guests in 2022. (Courtesy: Orion Span)
2 / 2
Guests will get to experience zero gravity for nearly two weeks. (Courtesy: Orion Span)
Updated 06 April 2018
0

Space the final frontier in luxury hotel breaks

  • While a $10 million trip is outside the budget of most people’s two-week vacations, Orion Span claims to offer an authentic astronaut experience.
  • Activities on board include taking part in research experiments such as growing food while in orbit and guests will be given the option of soaring over their hometown.
London: Want to see 16 sunrises in one day? Float in zero gravity? Be one of the few to have gazed upon our home planet from space?
In just four years’ time, and for an astronomical $9.5 million dollars, it’s claimed you can.
What’s being billed as the world’s first luxury space hotel, Aurora Station, was announced Thursday at the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California.
Developed by US-based space technology start-up Orion Span, the fully modular space station will host six people at a time, including two crew members, for 12-day trips. It plans to welcome its first guests in 2022.
“Our goal is to make space accessible to all,” Frank Bunger, CEO and founder of Orion Span, said in a statement. “Upon launch, Aurora Station goes into service immediately, bringing travelers into space quickly and at a lower price point than ever seen before.”

While a $10 million trip is outside the budget of most people’s two-week vacations, Orion Span claims to offer an authentic astronaut experience.
Says Bunger, it has “taken what was historically a 24-month training regimen to prepare travelers to visit a space station and streamlined it to three months, at a fraction of the cost.”
During their 12-day adventure, the super-rich travelers will fly at a height of 200 miles above the Earth’s surface in Low Earth Orbit, or LEP, where they will witness incredible views of the blue planet.
The hotel will orbit Earth every 90 minutes, which means guests will see around 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours.
Activities on board include taking part in research experiments such as growing food while in orbit — which guests can take home for a super-smug souvenir — and soaring over their hometown.
Guests can have live video chats with their less-fortunate loved ones back home via high-speed wireless Internet access and, upon return to Earth, will be greeted with a specially arranged hero’s welcome.
While enjoying the thrills of zero gravity, the travelers will be able to float freely through the hotel, taking in views of the northern and southern aurora from the station’s windows.

Deposits are already being accepted for future stays on the space hotel. The $80,000 is fully refundable, should applicants find themselves unable to rise to the full $9.5 million.
Travelers will complete a three-month Orion Span Astronaut Certification (OSAC) program before take-off. Orion Span has a team of space industry veterans who together have more than 140 years of human space experience.
Orion Span isn’t the only venture boldly pushing the frontiers of elite travel into space.
Axiom Space, a Texas-based company with a former International Space Station manager at the helm, has plans to put a commercial space station in orbit by 2024.
It says it will begin to take tourists to the ISS in 2019 and later to its own station.
As yet, Axiom hasn’t priced its off-world excursions, but says it’ll be considerably lower than the tag paid by previous space tourists like Dennis Tito, who stumped up a reported $20 million for a seven-day trip in 2001.
Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson with the aim of taking passengers briefly into sub-orbital space, will charge for $250,000 for its trips. Branson originally said flights would begin in 2009, but an official date has yet to be set for its maiden voyage.
Whatever the price tag, the tourist demographic with spare cash for space jaunts is presumably quite small.
However, Bunger says that Aurora Station “has multiple uses beyond serving as a hotel.”
It plans to offer fully chartered trips to space agencies and support zero gravity research and space manufacturing.
Adds Bunger: “Our architecture is such that we can easily add capacity, enabling us to grow with market demand.”
Orion Span’s next mission? To launch the world’s first condominiums in space.


Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

Saudi Arabia plans to create 1.2 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2030. (AN photo/Mo Gannon)
Updated 23 April 2018
0

Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

  • Vision 2030 has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry
  • We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed: tour operator

DUBAI: From diving in the Red Sea to sand-skating in the desert, from Jazan’s Fifa Mountains to the archaeological wonders of Al-Ula, it has been impossible not to be wowed by all that Saudi Arabia has to offer on the opening day of this year’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. Travel posters of its varied regions blanketed almost every pillar in the concourse, through which thousands of visitors passed on their way into the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, part of a colorful Saudi tourism campaign. 

And if you somehow missed that on your way into the exhibition halls, then you couldn’t have missed the Saudi pavilion, featuring 60 travel-related agencies under the umbrella of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

“We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed,” said Abeer Al-Rashed, project co-ordinator for Al Sarh Travel and Tourism, which organizes tours and helps with visa arrangements. “It’s not just a desert in Saudi Arabia. We have a lot of activities.”

The expanded role of tourism under Vision 2030, which has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry, is top of mind for those with a foothold already in the region.

“We are thrilled at this accelerated pace of growth in Saudi Arabia and want to make sure that we’re aligned with that,” said Simon Casson, president of hotel operations for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its Riyadh hotel, Four Seasons’ first in the Gulf when it opened in 2002, is now offering a tour of the Tuwaiq escarpment, otherwise known as the Edge of the World. 

Four Seasons’ plans for a hotel in Makkah, announced in the fall, are in the design phase, with construction expected to begin next year. “The site of the hotel is really the last remaining piece of land that’s ringside, if you like, and has a direct view facing onto the Kaaba, so that will partner very well with our Riyadh hotel,” Casson said.

As for more hotels? “I would say stay-tuned because we’re actively working on other opportunities within Saudi Arabia — not things we can announce at this time but we see a tremendous amount of opportunity as we look forward.”

Omer Kaddouri, Rotana’s president and CEO, also sees tremendous potential. It’s operating four hotels in the Kingdom right now and will have three more by the end of the year. 

“They’re building more reasons to travel there,” Kaddouri said, speaking of the recent changes. “I’d like to say that by the time they’ve reached their 2030 vision, Rotana will have no less than 20 operating hotels in the Kingdom, with more in the pipeline.”

As for the long-awaited Nobu Hotel in Riyadh, Khaled Al-Ashqar, director of sales and marketing, said it’s “very close” to opening. The boutique hotel, with a restaurant by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, will also have a tea lounge and a live cooking station in the Royal Suite. “I’m 100 percent sure it will be the spot of the city,” Al-Ashqar said.