In early 2017, one of the first posts I wrote for Space Tourism Guide was a post of space tourism predictions for the coming year. Back then, I predicted we’d see manned test flights, falling prices, and more interest in space tourism-related activities on earth.
Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for these predictions to come to pass! In the past three years, the space tourism industry has developed – but each year has been a step on a long journey. Again this year, I’m making predictions for the space tourism and astrotourism industries; I also want to recap my 2019 space tourism predictions to see how accurate I was.
Here are five space tourism predictions for 2020, showing how far the industry has come – and how far we’ll go this year.
2019 Space Tourism Predictions Recap
Before launching into new predictions for this year, it’s only fair to look at the ones I made last year… And how accurate my predictions were.
- ✅ NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Test Flights – We didn’t see any crewed flights in 2019, both SpaceX and Boeing conducted hardware tests and flight tests. That’s progress!
- ❌ Paying Customer Space Tourism Flights – This didn’t come to pass – but it feels quite close, doesn’t it?
- ❌ Another Round of Ticket Sales – As no space tourism companies made flights, none offered new tickets – this was a mis-prediction.
- ✅ Three New Company Announcements – To be honest, I didn’t count here… But there were some interesting and ‘out there’ campaigns and business ideas that still made headlines.
- ✅ Astrotourism on the Rise Propelled by Major Travel Publications – This came to pass, as Lonely Planet published my book, Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism in September 2019. We also saw almost all publications cover the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary this summer.
- ✅ The South American Eclipse will Surpass Tourism Estimates – Last year, we cited predictions between ‘thousands’ and ‘half a million’ visitors were expected for the July 2019 solar eclipse. In the town of La Serena, Chile (in the Elqui Valley), over 300,000 people watched the eclipse – along with 200,000 residents. This doesn’t count any visitors elsewhere in the Elqui Valley or elsewhere along the path of totality!
Space Tourism Predictions for 2020
Now that we’ve reviewed my space tourism predictions from last year, it’s time to discuss my space tourism predictions for 2020. Let me know in the comments which ones you think will be accurate.
1. Astrotourism Will Increase as a Tourism Driver
We already know that some destinations – like national parks, island observatories, and some countries (Iceland, Norway) during their winter months – will always have astrotourism as a core tourism driver. I predict that in 2020, you’ll see more travelers choosing destinations and activities based solely on the astronomical sights and experiences available.
It’s hard to measure this, as tourism research is widely lacking. However, those places that have astrotourism experiences and ask travelers what drives them to visit will likely see more visitors citing those astrotourism reasons. Similarly, hotels with stargazing programs and astrotourism/stargazing tour operators will see record high bookings in 2020.
To underscore this point, we asked STG community members if they had in the past or planned to book an astrotourism trip in the coming year – 74% of respondents said yes!
2. Rocket Tourism Will See Record Numbers
A subset of astrotourism, rocket tourism has always been a popular activity for those who live in regions near a launch zone. But what about the rest of us? Over the past few decades, interest in rocket launches has dwindled from its peak during the Apollo era. I predict this is about to turnaround starting in 2020.
In particular, there’s a huge interest in the U.S.’s Commercial Crew program. This year, we should see both SpaceX and Boeing launch American astronauts from American soil. These launches in particular will likely draw travelers from across the U.S.; not just from those in Florida and the southeastern U.S.
It’ll be nice to see large crowds on Kennedy’s Causeway during launches and people watching from the Space Coast beaches too. Heck, I’d even wager you’ll see more interest in watching launches from Vandenberg in California even if they don’t have humans aboard.
3. 25 New Dark Sky Places Certified by the IDA
By my count, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) certified 24 new dark sky places in 2019. These ranged from the first designations in countries like Taiwan, Croatia, and Pitcairn Islands to national parks like Arches and Grand Canyon finally receiving designation, to the first ever Urban Night Sky Place, Valle de Oro in New Mexico.
In 2020, I predict that we’ll see at least that many new dark sky places designated again. Around the world, communities and committees are hard at work to retrofit lighting fixtures and improve their dark sky measurements to meet admission criteria for the IDA dark sky place program. Increasingly, announcements about these dark sky places drive visitors to seek them out by day and by night.
Heck – I’m working on a few trips to some of the new dark sky places that were announced in 2019!
4. Off-Beat Aurora Destinations Take Center Stage
Okay, we get it: places like Canada, Iceland, Alaska and Norway are the best aurora destinations in the world. But these places are also beginning to suffer the consequences of overtourism during the winter months.
To this end, we predict travelers will be more willing to go off-the-beaten-path to escape the crowds while chasing the aurora. Some of the countries we think will benefit? Finland and Scotland are fantastic and often overlooked; even more adventurous travelers will look to Greenland and Russia. Don’t forget to consider heading south to New Zealand and Tasmania on the opposite half of the calendar; they’re both great aurora destinations too.
By choosing to visit one of these lesser-known aurora destinations, aurora chasers in 2020 will help distribute tourism dollars into different economies, and reduce overtourism, overdevelopment, and any associated light pollution that occurs as a result.
5. Can We Go to Space Already?
While we’re a relatively young publication in the space tourism industry, even we’re getting tired of saying This year! This is the year we’ll see space tourism (finally) happen!
But okay, we’ll bite: I predict this year is the year we’ll see space tourism happen. Virgin Galactic seems to be at the precipice of sending their first passengers to space; their recent operations relocation to Spaceport America is a good sign that 2020 will be the year they finally launch there too.
Similarly, Blue Origin’s continued test flights seems to indicate their reusability and reliability are nearly perfect – and ready for paying space tourists.
Fingers crossed that 2020 is the year we finally see the first historic space tourism flights!
Which of these space tourism predictions do you think will come true?
Featured photo credit: Eddie Yip via Flickr