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Dubai Could be Take-off Point for Space Tourism

Zoe Sinclair
Filed on October 13, 2008

DUBAI — The rocket takes off from Dubai, and cruises across the UAE until it reaches the tip of Oman and as it starts ascending the vista expands to 500 miles across the Middle East.

The cradle of civilisation could form the backdrop to the future of tourism, space tourism, according to astronaut Brian Binnie, as he paints a picture of a potential flight route and the experience, based on his own as test pilot of SpaceShipOne, the prototype to commercial space travel, launched by Virgin Galactic. “The atmosphere is bristling and electric. You are tense, excited and nervous,” Binnie said. “And those core feelings only grow in intensity as you climb higher and higher into the delirious blue. As the shrill shrieking of the ship’s engine ceases, quiet takes over the rocket and you look out to space — it’s a mystery, it’s majestic, it’s so peaceful, it’s so serene.

“Then its four minutes coasting at the top and weightlessness. You’re in space, in a spaceship.”

Binnie gave the keynote address at the fifth Annual Orion Congress, held at Atlantis, The Palm on Saturday, as industry leaders discussed the future of tourism.

While a spaceport is not currently planned for Dubai, more than 200 tickets, and $40 million worth of deposits, have been bought with Virgin Galactic’s space adventures, based in America.

The future of tourism could include everything from pod hotels, which can be moved from location to location, and air ship hotels, according to Keith Johnson, tourism and hospitality academic with Leeds Metropolitan University, the UK.

“You’ll be able to plug in your mobile phone SIM card and upload your preferences. Whether the mattress is hard, soft or medium or no mattress at all. Instantly the pictures will change to photos of your family.”

Already, many features were present, such as underwater hotels, and technology which allowed for a personalised guest experience.

Marc F. Dardenne, CEO of Emaar Hotels and Resorts, Dubai, said comprehensive databasing of its clientele would give its brand of hotels, The Address, the information to allow hosts to call each guest by name and look after each guest’s preferences.

Richard Rosebery, founder of Select Hotels and Resorts, too said operators should also be aware of the changing face of tourists. “By 2045, people aged 60 will outnumber children. They are retired and have lots of leisure time to travel. But in the developing world, there is an increasing bracket of travellers under 30 — they are the travellers of the future, they are green conscious and aware of the trends.”

Furthermore, operators have the challenge of capturing all the technology available to enhance marketing and target their clientele.

Ghassan Afridi, CEO of Alpha Tours, Dubai, was confident of the city’s ability. “In 15 years, it has managed to market itself from a desert to a destination. Now it is in the top 10 most wanted destinations. It’s a billion dollar brand, based on 2007 when 32 per cent of the GDP of Dubai was due to tourism.”

zoe@khaleejtimes.com


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