Steps to Space; opportunities for astrotourism

Carl Iain Cater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (SciVal)


Recent years have seen the emergence of the astrotourist following the $20 million trip by Dennis Tito to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001. Although this is the preserve of the hyper-elite, within the next decade it is likely that there will be more affordable opportunities on sub-orbital reusable vehicles pioneered by the Virgin group. This paper offers an overview of recent developments in the space tourism industry as a whole and offers definitions for the new sector of astrotourism. Drawing on motivational theory, the study examines the motivations and experiences that astrotourists have demonstrated through interviews reported through the media. However, parallels are demonstrated with the existing terrestrial space tourism industry, which has been largely ignored to date. Consequently the paper also examines the management of these sites and the challenges this niche presents. There is also evidence of a travel career being marketed by space tourism travel agents, dubbed by one interviewee as ‘steps to space’. This builds on potential tourists' existing aspirations for space experiences allied to these companies' credentials in adventure tourism. Whilst sharing parallels to the work of Pearce (1982), the focus of this career on one particular theme is of interest. This theoretical bridging is useful for observing tourism organisations at work, and furthermore uncovers the massive potential that developments in space tourism present for the tourism industry as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-845
Number of pages8
JournalTourism Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • Astrotourism
  • Space tourism
  • History of travel
  • Motivation


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