25 June 1999
Reports - Tourism (Good)
Space Tourism Industry Reaches Critical Mass
STA "Going Public" conference featured heavy hitters from many industries
by Sam Coniglio
Over 100 people from around the world gathered at the Space Transportation Association's "Going Public" Space Tourism conference in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the issues inhibiting space tourism from becoming a viable endeavor.

Many non-aerospace people were speakers at the event. Jerry Mallet, founder of the Adventure Travel Society, gave the audience stunning figures about the rapidly growing adventure tourism segment. One big surprise: women are the majority participants in adventure tourist activities. For the traditionally male-dominated aerospace industry, this revelation was a shock. It makes us realize how little we really know about tourism.

The big three inhibitors to space tourism that were reiterated time and again are: marketing, finance, and regulations. Ivan Bekey analyzed the results of the existing marketing data, but admitted that one data point does not make for good market research. That data point was the the Japanese reporter's trip to the Russian space station MIR in 1992.

The general consensus was that technology is not the problem, but money. "With enought money, anything is possible," said Chuck Lauer. Several groups discussed investors and finding capitol, but they all agreed it would be difficult to get support for an unproven market.

Reliability and safety were also big issues. How often do you test a vehicle until is it safe to carry passengers? Ten times? A Thousand times? A million times? New aircraft testing, for example, costs ten times more than the cost to build a prototype. No space startup can afford such a huge expenditure of cash.

Brian Husting, from the architectural firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo described the creature comfort issues he deals with every time he designs a hotel. Issues such as color, personal space, multi-use facilities, boredom, sports, dining, drinking, gambling, and many others were discussed.

Overall, the STA did a wonderful job of assembling a top notch group of speakers. The presence of Robert Bigelow, multi-millionare hotel chain owner and founder of Bigelow Aerospace also helped bring this event to a level never before seen.

The Space Tourism industry has just moved up a notch. Legitimacy and real businesses are closer to reality.
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Sam Coniglio 25 June 1999
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