Introduction and Background
Tourism is a very rewarding economic activity in the present world, as it is among the largest income generators in many states and countries. For many years, countries have underscored the importance of tourism and its contribution to their economies. However, the act of underscoring the importance of tourism has gradually changed for a number of states have seen the benefits that accrue from organized management of tourism.
Unfortunately, several countries focus on common and traditional forms of tourism, such as beach tourism and expeditions to national parks and reserves. Stakeholders in the field of tourism, including the host government, communities, private investors, and the tourists accord little attention to alternative forms of tourism.
Alternative forms of tourism include leisure, sport, adventure, ecotourism, and space tourism. Therefore, it is against this background that the research assesses the viability of space tourism as proposed by Sir Richard Branson in terms of market size, number of potential consumers, their perceptions, willingness, and expectations regarding the space tourism.
Marketing Research Problem
Tourism stakeholders like the government, private investors, service providers, non-governmental organizations, tourists, and the host communities have overlooked the benefits of diversifying tourism for a long time. Instead, these stakeholders emphasize on the development and consumption of common and prominent tourism products such as the expedition to national parks and reserves, as well as beach tourism, which incorporates sightseeing of elements like sand, sun, nature, and sea.
The development and extensive marketing of these common forms of tourism has resulted in the degradation of these destinations. The degradation of these destinations is due to the large number of tourists visiting the attractions.
These tourists usually exceed the carrying capacity that the subject tourist destination can comfortably support. Additionally, the large numbers of tourists increase the susceptibility of the destination to degradation owing to the trampling of vegetation, fire outbreaks, pollution, and other negative effects associated with tourism.
Extensive marketing of tourism attractions such as national parks, lakes, oceans, and seas, has led to pronounced degradation in the destination. Many tourists throng the tourist sites in these regions and in turn initiate several negative effects that only serve to degrade the destination and reduce the overall worth and value of the subject attraction.
Additionally, it has led to increased negative effects like pollution, which comprises environmental, soil, water, and air pollution. Environmental pollution occurs when tourists in a given destination dump solid wastes in the attraction site, especially outside designated waste bins.
Soil pollution takes place when waste from service providers like hotels and travel agencies seep into the ground. On the other hand, when tourism establishments release their wastes into water bodies like rivers and seas, it causes water pollution. Smoke from vehicles and emissions from tourist establishments leads to air pollution.
Fire outbreaks, trampling, and destruction of vegetation are other negative effects, which transpire because of too much emphasis on common tourism attractions. Due to marketing and promotions on the common attractions, many tourists travel to these destinations and initiate negative impacts, which lead to depreciation of attractions. Mass tourists break vegetation, trample on grass and other small vegetations, and hence, destroy the vegetation found in subject attraction.
Furthermore, the large number of tourists increases the chances of carelessness that can sometimes result in dire consequences like fires in the tourist destination. The host community suffers from the effects initiated by the absence of alternative forms of tourism such as space tourism. The effects that the host community experience include child labor, increased cost of living, scarcity of resources due to high demand, and diversion of infrastructure to tourism facilities.
Due to the absence of alternative forms of tourism, the pressure exerted on traditional tourism destinations led to short life cycles of the tourism products. Many of the destinations degrade and depreciate quickly and end up as desolate and derelict regions. The desolate nature of the destinations owed their states to the strain exerted on them by the tourists and tourism establishments. In addition, many tourism stakeholders fail to enjoy the revenues accruing from tourism due unsustainable use of tourism products and resources.
Due to the absence of alternative forms of tourism levels in these areas declined since many tourists have already consumed tourism products from these destinations. Consequently, the absence of alternative forms of tourism limited the products of tourism only to those tourists who consume traditional and common tourism products leaving out potential tourists attracted to alternative and unique tourism products.
The Research Aims and Objectives
- Examine the existence of potential tourists who can consume unique products of space tourism.
- Determine the market size of space tourism because it is a new product in the tourism market.
- Establish demographic characteristics of potential space tourists.
- Assess the expectations and interests of potential space tourists.
- Find out the perceptions and attitudes of individuals concerning space tourism.
The Research Questions
- Do potential tourists of space tourism exist?
- What is the market size of space tourism as an alternative form of tourism?
- What are the demographic characteristics of potential space tourists?
- What are the expectations of potential space tourists?
- What are the perceptions and attitudes of individuals concerning space tourism?
Alternative Forms of Tourism and Space Tourism
Popular and common tourist destinations experience challenges such as degradation, pollution, fire outbreaks, trampling of vegetation, pressure on social resources, and short life cycles of destinations due to increased tours. The presence of these challenges necessitates the need to diversify tourism and introduce alternative forms of tourism (Casino & Hanna 2000).
The challenges also compel stakeholders in the field of tourism to think of diverse forms of tourism so that they would not only cater for the needs of tourists attracted to alternative forms, but also reduce the strain exerted on traditional tourism destinations.
In addition, diversification of tourism would help distribute demand and increase the spectrum of available tourism products. Leisure tourism, sport tourism, and space tourism were among the forms of alternative tourism, which private and public stakeholders have introduced in the field of tourism.
Space tourism is the latest form of alternative tourism that involves travel to the space. It is a unique form of tourism since it goes beyond the odds of common tourism products usually consumed on earth. Russian Space Agency dominated space transport for a number of years, but other companies such as Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson are gradually entering the world of space tourism.
According to Crouch (2001), space tourism is a form of tourism that comprises of tours to the space for a period that exceeds a day and does extend beyond one year. Furthermore, space tourism does not only increase the amount of tourism products available for potential tourists, but it also introduces a completely new chapter in the field of tourism.
Market Size for Space Tourism
Space tourism serves to cater for the needs of space tourists who are usually explorers, adventurers, drifters, business people, and leisure tourists. Products offered by space tourism are unique as they include sightseeing of features in the sky from a close range. In addition, space tourists get the rare opportunity of looking at the earth from the space and travelling around it.
Other products that space tourism offers include sightseeing of features such as millions of galaxies, stars, the earth, and the solar system. According to (Brown 2004), astronomical observation and space walk also comprise other products offered by space tourism. Sightseeing, space walk, astronomical observation, and a journey to the moon are some of the products that best meet the requirements of space tourists.
Many elderly individuals and young explorers are some of the potential consumers of products offered by space tourism. The main factors that determine the willingness and ability to consume products offered by space tourism include the purchasing power, buying behaviour, price of products, and perceptions of product quality.
According to Collins et al. (1994), it is essential to understand that for tourism to progress, public and private stakeholders need to price tourism products within the purchasing power of potential consumers.
Since consumer perceived product quality determines the willingness of consumers to use the products, it is important that service providers in space tourism design their facilities in a way that appeals to the potential tourists and increases their willingness to travel. Space tourism is a new form of tourism, and therefore, extensive marketing is required for increased awareness of space tourism products to potential consumers.
Characteristics of Potential Space Tourists
Space tourists are individuals who like exploration, adventure, leisure, and drifting. Therefore, the main set of consumers that space tourism marketers need to target include young individuals, wealthy businesspeople, and the elderly people who are adventurous. Many space tourists are individuals who like thrilling activities, as they like unconventional products of tourism because they are unique and exciting.
Market segmentation is essential so that public and private facilities offering space products reach out to the right set of consumers. Hall (2013) states that the understanding of the type and characteristics of space consumers helps the service providers to understand the correct market segment, buying behaviours, purchasing power and patterns, as well as demographic attributes of potential tourists. With good understanding of space tourism, service providers will be in a better position to provide the best products to their potential consumers.
Explorers, drifters, and adventurous tourists are usually the primary consumers of tourism products, they form the first set of consumers that visit an attraction, and they sometimes take part in the initial activities of destination development. Therefore, since space tourism is a new and unique form of tourism with a number of thrilling and exciting experiences, explorers, drifters, and adventurous tourists will form the first category of tourists to enjoy its products.
It is fundamental for private and public stakeholders in the field of tourism to understand the spending habits of explorers and adventurous tourists so that they can price their products within the purchasing power of potential consumers (Crouch 2001). Since many activities involved in the design and production of space tours are relatively high, service providers offering space tourism products need to be cautious when pricing so that they meet their expected targets, and at the same time achieve consumer satisfaction.
Expectations of Potential Space Tourists
Consumers expect product quality to reflect the product price and value utility for their money. Similarly, space tourists expect the products that service providers deliver to posses the same qualities. Space tourists value their money, and thus, they compare the product quality with the price.
Casino and Hanna (2000) highlights that the presence of alternative forms of tourism such as sport and marine tourism makes consumers very selective and keen on aspects that concern product quality and delivery systems.
Since alternative forms of tourism offer services, which can serve the needs of potential space tourists, they can easily persuade consumers of space products, and lure them into their facilities. Therefore, space firms need to be keen on the quality and price of their services as well as that of their competitors. Product quality should match the expectations of consumers so that service providers achieve the much needed consumer satisfaction.
For successful space tourism, service providers in this field need to provide accurate and correct information to their target customers. Collins et al. (1994) argue that giving false information leads to distrust and lack of confidence among the customers. Thus, it is paramount that firms executing space tourism convey information using facts and tangible evidence on the nature of the tour and the quality of their services.
The information is essential to increase the level of awareness among the potential consumers, and furthermore, help in balancing pre-consumption, consumption, and post-consumption customer experiences. Notably, space tourists like other tourists perceive the quality of the products and services based on the information offered by service providers. Therefore, to match perceived product quality and gain consumer trust and loyalty, it is important to provide information that is factual in all aspects.
Perceptions and Attitudes of Individuals Concerning Space Tourism
Many individuals believe that space tourism belongs to the rich and wealthy members of the society, and thus they think that space tourism caters for the needs of the few individuals who have money. Some individuals think that space tourism is not safe, and therefore, they are unwilling to purchase products linked to space tourism. The perceptions owe their presence to the expensive nature of tours and services associated with space tourism.
Consequently, the perceptions that potential consumers hold have great effect on viability of space tourism, and hence, determine their interests and willingness to consume the products that space tourism offers.
Attitudes and perceptions that consumers hold are important as they determine the need and nature of marketing and promoting strategies necessary to influence potential customers to buy products and services of space tourism (Troung & Hall 2013). Furthermore, service providers of the space tourism need to tailor their products in a way that match purchasing power of potential customers.
Space tourism is a very productive form of tourism that helps in diversification tourism to meet increased demand and reduce the strain on common and traditional tourism destinations. Since space tourism is a new form of tourism, many consumers are reluctant to purchase its products. Many potential clients think that space tourism is for the rich and associate it with insecurity.
Some of the requirements that investors in the field of tourism can adopt to enhance viability of space tourism include identifying the existence of tourists, target large market, customize products, and provide unique products. Additionally, service providers in the field of space tourism need to understand the characteristics, expectations, and perceptions of potential space tourists. Assessment of these requirements is effective in determining the viability of space tourism.
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