UNWTO praises ‘amazing’ tourism development

Updated 10 October 2015

UNWTO praises ‘amazing’ tourism development

ABHA: The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has praised the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) for its development projects across the country.
Omar Valdez, executive head of the UNWTO’s Themis Foundation, said that his organization was also working closely with the Kingdom to host several seminars, and supports a study on using tourism to boost local communities.
The UNWTO and the Kingdom have already held joint seminars on tourism related issues in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, said Valdez recently at a seminar held here.
He said he has been amazed at the significant development in Asir since he visited three years ago. More could be done to attract mountaineers and outdoor lovers to the region’s mountainous areas, he said.
Adel Radhi, deputy minister of tourism and UNWTO consultant, said he has been involved in several projects to develop Asir as a major tourist destination, including some in Souda, Al-Habla village, Tanumah and Al-Namas.
Radhi said there should be more organized programs and trips to the region, with guides. He also urged local businesspeople to contribute by investing in hotels, restaurants and cafes needed in the region.
He also praised Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the SCTNH, for launching various tourist initiatives in the region and country, including the handicraft program.
Addis Sivash, a tourism expert with the UNWTO, said that there should be more promotion done on social networking sites, to keep the public informed of events taking place in the region.
She proposed that all programs and events should not only be held in Arabic, but also English, to attract larger numbers of local and international tourists.
The UNWTO delegation participated in the seminar on tourism developments in the region and visited various popular locations including Al-Muftaha village, Rijal village and Al-Souda park.


Virgin Galactic reveals futuristic outpost for space tourism

Updated 16 August 2019

Virgin Galactic reveals futuristic outpost for space tourism

  • Critics suggested the project was a boondoggle, but supporters argued that there were bound to be hard and sometimes costly lessons
  • The interior spaces unveiled Thursday aim to connect paying customers with every aspect of the operation

UPHAM, New Mexico: Spaceport America is no longer just a shiny shell of hope that space tourism would one day launch from this remote spot in the New Mexico desert.
The once-empty hangar that anchors the taxpayer-financed launch and landing facility has been transformed into a custom-tailored headquarters where Virgin Galactic will run its commercial flight operations.
Two levels within the spaceport include mission control, a preparation area for pilots and a lounge for paying customers and their friends and families, with each element of the fit and finish paying homage to either the desert landscape that surrounds the futuristic outpost or the promise of traveling to the edge of space.
From hotel rooms to aircraft cabins, the Virgin brand touts its designs for their focus on the customer experience. Spaceport is no different.
Earthen tones help ground visitors on the first floor. The social hub includes an interactive digital walkway and a coffee bar made of Italian marble. On the upper deck, shades of white and gray speak to Virgin Galactic’s more lofty mission.
Company officials, offering the first glimpse of the facility Thursday, say the space is meant to create “an unparalleled experience” as customers prepare for what Virgin Galactic describes as the journey of a lifetime.
Just how soon customers will file into Virgin Galactic’s newly outfitted digs for the first commercial flights has yet to be determined. A small number of test flights are still needed.
Billionaire Richard Branson, who is behind Virgin Galactic, and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, first pitched the plan for the spaceport nearly 15 years ago.
There were construction delays and cost overruns. Virgin Galactic’s spaceship development took far longer than expected and had a major setback when its first experimental craft broke apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot.
Critics suggested the project was a boondoggle, but supporters argued that there were bound to be hard and sometimes costly lessons.
Democratic state Sen. George Munoz has enduring concerns about the business model for commercial, low-orbit travel for passengers.
“You can have all the money in the world and come back and say, ‘Was my 30 seconds of fame worth that risk?’” he said.
Munoz says New Mexico’s anticipated return on investment in terms of jobs and visitors is still overdue, with more than $200 million public funds spent on Spaceport America in cooperation with Virgin Galactic as anchor tenant.
At the facility Thursday, the carrier plane for Virgin’s rocket-powered passenger ship made a few passes and touch-and-goes over a runway.
Behind the spaceport’s signature wall of curved glass, mission control sits on the second floor with an unobstructed view of the runway and beyond.
There’s also space behind two massive sliding doors to accommodate two of Virgin Galactic’s carrier planes and a fleet of six-passenger rocket ships.
Virgin Galactic posted on social media earlier this week that its carrier plane had landed in New Mexico and its main operating base was now at the spaceport. And Branson said the wing of Virgin’s next rocket ship has been completed.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said once the test flights are complete, commercial operations can begin.
Chief Pilot Dave Mackay said the crew in the coming days will fly simulated launch missions to ensure in-flight communications and airspace coordination work as planned. The pilots also will be familiarizing themselves with New Mexico’s airspace and landmarks.
“New Mexico is on track to become one of the very few places on this beautiful planet which regularly launches humans to space,” Mackay said.
Branson will be among them. About 600 people have reserved a seat, according to the company, at a cost of $250,000 a ticket.
That buys them a ride on the winged rocket ship, which is dropped in flight from the carrier airplane. Once free, it fires its rocket motor to hurtle toward the boundary of space before gliding back down.
The latest test flight reached an altitude of 56 miles (90 kilometers) while traveling at three times the speed of sound.