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Sabah set to revive tourism industry by helping tour operators

Sabah is set to revive its tourism industry that went “dormant” over the last 18 months since the country was under various movement control orders.

With the lifting of the inter-district travel ban across the state, the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry is now focusing on reviving the state’s tourism industry especially by helping operators restart their businesses.

“We are also working towards restoring tourists’ confidence in our tourism sector to generate income for the state,” its Minister Jafry Ariffin said.

Contrary to the perception that most tourism players might have shuttered down their businesses, Jafry said that only 1% of tourism operators had shut down completely after the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Based on a survey done by the Sabah Tourism Board, he said only 48% temporarily closed operations due to movement control orders.

The number of tour operators who are still fully operational to date is 45.5%, he added.

The ministry is now actively implementing various new approaches including more aggressive and strategic promotional campaigns to revive the tourism industry.

Among them are virtual engagement sessions for Sabah tourism fairs which also involved the Malaysian Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (MATTA), Sabah Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (SATTA), Asia Pacific Tourism Association (PATA) and cooperation with foreign trade in social media campaigns.

He said the state had assisted tourism workers through special assistance during the lockdowns.

Among them, was a one-off assistance of RM2,000 to tour operators and RM300 to tour guides, art activists, dive-masters, mountain guides and porters.

For hotel and accommodation operators, five and four star hotels received RM5,000 while three, two, and one star hotels received RM2,000.

Also receiving the same benefits were hotels that have not been recognised, homestay associations and also the Rural Tourism Association who each received RM1,000 payment.

In addition, he said his ministry offered incentives to encourage domestic tourism activities as well as the organisation of business activities including meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

“All parties need to be aware that bringing this sector back to the state before the Covid-19 outbreak will not be an easy task,” he added.

However, tour operators were now able to breathe a sigh of relief following the flexibility granted by the government, which allowed them to resume operations.

“We will always listen to the grievances and challenges faced by industry players at all subsequent levels together to address them comprehensively,” he said, adding that tourism was one of Sabah’s largest economic and employment contributors.

Source: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/10/15/sabah-set-to-revive-tourism-industry-by-helping-tour-operators

Thailand to reopen for some vaccinated visitors on 1 November

Thailand plans to end Covid quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk nations from 1 November, officials say.

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha admitted that “this decision comes with some risk” – but it is seen as a key step to revive the country’s collapsed tourism sector.

The 10 nations seen as low risk include the UK, China, Germany and the US.

The country has been recording more than 10,000 positive infections daily since July.

It has fully vaccinated around 33% of its almost 70 million people. Half the population has received one dose.

Mr Prayuth said Thailand would also allow entertainment venues to reopen on 1 December and permit alcohol sales.

He added that the authorities were planning to open Thailand for more countries on that date.

Mr Prayuth’s comments came in a televised address on Monday.

Referring to visitors from 10 low-risk nations, he stressed that “when they arrive, they should present a [negative] Covid test… and test once again upon arrival”.

If the second test is also negative, any visitor from those countries “can travel freely like Thais”, the prime minister said.

But he warned that the government would act decisively if there were to be a spike in infections or an emergence of a highly contagious variant of Covid-19.

It is estimated that Thailand – popular for its sandy beaches and non-stop nightlife – lost about $50bn (£37bn) in tourism revenue in 2020.

The economy suffered its deepest contraction in more than two decades as a result of the pandemic.

Thailand was the first country outside China to record a Covid-19 case in January last year.

It took the drastic step of sealing its borders in April, effectively killing off a tourist industry accounting for perhaps 20% of GDP, but managed to cut new daily infections to just single figures, one of the best records anywhere.

This year though, with the arrival of the Delta variant, infections have soared, from a total of less than 7,000 at the end of 2020, to 1.7 million today. The argument for keeping out foreign visitors to contain Covid became much less persuasive, especially with tourist-related businesses pleading for restrictions to be eased.

The success in containing Covid last year had another unforeseen consequence; it led the Thai government to believe it had need not rush to order vaccines. The result has been a tardy and at times confused vaccine programme, and a public outcry.

The need for some economic good news is in large part what has driven it to start reopening, well before reaching its own declared target of getting 70% of the population vaccinated.

It is proceeding cautiously though, with only 10 countries on the list until the end of the year. Like other countries in the region Thailand’s health system has limited ICU capacity; in August ICU units in Bangkok were quickly overwhelmed by the number of serious Covid cases.

In any case, even with an end to the two week quarantine requirement, a recovery to the 40 million tourists who came in 2019 is unlikely next year, or even the year after.

Just over 70,000 visitors came into the country in the first eight months of this year, compared with 40 million in the whole of 2019.

Thailand has reported more than 1.7 million confirmed Covid cases since the pandemic began, with nearly 18,000 deaths, according to America’s Johns Hopkins University.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58838189

Vietnam to fully reopen by June

Hanoi — Vietnam is planning to reopen key tourist destinations to vaccinated visitors from countries deemed a low COVID-19 risk from December, the government said on Wednesday, October 6, ahead of a full resumption targeted for June next year.Vietnam imposed tight border controls at the start of the pandemic in an effort to keep out COVID-19, with some initial success, but that harmed its burgeoning tourism sector, which typically accounts for about 10% of gross domestic product.Last month, the country announced it would reopen the resort island Phu Quoc for vaccinated travelers from November.

Fom December, Vietnam will also allow tourists from approved countries to visit UNESCO world heritage site Halong Bay and Hoi An, the highlands town of Dalat and beach destination Nha Trang. It is not yet clear which countries will meet the criteria.”We are only open when it’s truly safe,” the government said in a statement.”We are moving step by step, cautiously but flexibly to adapt to real situations of the pandemic.”The move follows similar steps taken by neighboring Thailand, which will next month expand locations in its pilot scheme to allow vaccinated visitors.

Foreign arrivals to Vietnam fell to 3.8 million last year down from 18 million in 2019, when tourism revenue was $31 billion, equivalent to 12% of GDP.The country is trying to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations, with just 13% of its 98 million people inoculated so far, one of the lowest rates in Asia.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/vietnam-reopening-vaccinated-tourists-intl-hnk/index.html

Kabul airport ready for international flights: Afghanistan civil aviation body

Afghanistan‘s civil aviation body said that the Kabul airport is ready for international flights and technical issues have been resolved in recent days, a media report said.

The country’s civil aviation authority announced on Saturday that Kabul airport is completely operational, domestic flights have started at the airport and the facility is ready for international flights to resume normal activity, according to TOLOnews.

In recent days, the airport has received some flights from Qatar, Pakistan and the UAE.

Mohammad Naeem Salehi, a spokesperson for the country’s civil aviation body, said that the department has written to neighbouring countries and the international community asking them to resume flights at the airport.

“Technically, there is no problem ahead of international flights. We are looking to find answers from neighbouring countries about whether they will start flights to Kabul airport or not. Currently, domestic flights are continuing,” TOLOnews quoted Salehi as saying.

Meanwhile, some Afghans — who obtained Iran and Pakistan visas — have complained that the ticket prices have severely surged recently in Kabul.

Locals have complained that either the tickets are not available and if available, the cost is very high.

Some operators of tourism companies have also said that the prices of air travel have increased in Kabul.

Masoud Bina, head of the Afghanistan tourism companies union, said, “Prices for international flights have increased. The price of Pakistan tickets was USD 150 to 200 and now they have climbed to $1,200 dollars.” 

Source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/travel/kabul-airport-ready-for-international-flights-afghanistan-civil-aviation-body-101633332499493.html

Indian Tourists For Diwali: What Thailand’s Banking On

Thailand’s hard-hit tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers during Diwali, relying on it in the absence of Chinese tourists.

Thailand is looking to attract Indian travelers during the traditional holiday season to boost its tourism-reliant economy that’s been hit hard by the absence of mass holidaymakers from countries including China.

The Thai tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers next month during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice president of the Thai Tourism Council. That should help spark a tourism revival as it coincides with the planned waiver of quarantine for vaccinated visitors from Nov. 1, she said.   

With the outbound Chinese travel not expected to resume anytime soon, Thailand is betting on travelers from other origins to take advantage of its relaxed rules for tourists. Indians, who made up the third-largest group of visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, may head again to Thai beaches for holidays, conferences and destination weddings, Somsong said. 

“If Thailand plans to reopen the country and many of our tourism hubs in November, this year’s Diwali may be a great opportunity,” Somsong told an online briefing on Tuesday. “Indian travelers have a lot of spending power and a lot of potential.”

Thailand is looking to attract Indian travelers during the traditional holiday season to boost its tourism-reliant economy that’s been hit hard by the absence of mass holidaymakers from countries including China.

The Thai tourism industry expects Indians to resume travel in large numbers next month during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, said Somsong Sachaphimukh, vice president of the Thai Tourism Council. That should help spark a tourism revival as it coincides with the planned waiver of quarantine for vaccinated visitors from Nov. 1, she said.   

With the outbound Chinese travel not expected to resume anytime soon, Thailand is betting on travelers from other origins to take advantage of its relaxed rules for tourists. Indians, who made up the third-largest group of visitors to Thailand before the pandemic, may head again to Thai beaches for holidays, conferences and destination weddings, Somsong said. 

“If Thailand plans to reopen the country and many of our tourism hubs in November, this year’s Diwali may be a great opportunity,” Somsong told an online briefing on Tuesday. “Indian travelers have a lot of spending power and a lot of potential.”

Indian travelers may spend between 27,000 baht ($800) and 76,000 baht each during trips to Thailand, and each destination wedding could generate between 10 million to 120 million baht in revenue for the hotel and services industry, Somsong said.

Almost 2 million Indians visited Thailand in 2019, generating 80 billion baht in tourism-related revenue, according to official data. They were the largest group behind Chinese and Malaysians that year when the nation saw almost 40 million tourists generating more than $60 billion in revenue.

“Even though it will be difficult to match the number of visitors and revenue generated by Chinese travelers, Indian tourists can help support Thailand’s tourism industry during this time,” Somsong said. 

Thailand saw foreign tourist arrivals plunge to 73,932 in the first eight months of the year with the nation reeling under the worst Covid-19 outbreak that triggered widespread travel and business curbs. The pandemic has led to 3 million job losses in tourism sector, the council said, while slashing its tourist arrival forecast to 280,000 this year from 500,000 earlier.

Source: https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/thailand-targets-indian-tourists-to-make-up-for-missing-chinese-travelers-2557496

‘Time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism’, says UN chief

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism could result in a more than $4 trillion loss to the global economy, according to a recent report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

Emergency for developing countries 

Highlighting the fact that in the first months of this year, “international tourist arrivals decreased by a staggering 95 per cent in parts of the world”, Mr. Guterres said that tourism continues to suffer enormously due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“This is a major shock for developed economies, but for developing countries, it is an emergency”, he added.  

“Climate change is also severely affecting many major tourist destinations, particularly Small Island Developing States”, his message added. There, tourism accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all economic activity.  

Tourism for inclusive growth 

Acknowledging that many millions of livelihoods are in jeopardy, Mr. Guterres said that now it is “time to rethink, transform, and safely restart tourism”. 

“With the right safeguards in place, the tourism sector can provide decent jobs, helping to build resilient, sustainable, gender-equal, inclusive economies and societies that work for everyone”, he added. 

According to the United Nations specialized agency for responsible and sustainable tourism (UNWTO), tourism is a recognized pillar of most the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), particularly Goals 1 (poverty-elimination), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 10 (to reduce inequalities). 

In his message, Mr. Guterres went on to call for targeted action and investment, towards green and sustainable tourism, “with high emitting sectors, including air and sea transport and hospitality, moving towards carbon neutrality”.  

Adding that everybody should have a say in how tourism shapes the future of our societies, the UN chief concluded that “only through inclusive decision-making can we ensure inclusive, sustainable growth, deliver on the promise of the SDGs, and transform tourism to fulfil its potential”. 

The sector could then become “an engine for prosperity, a vehicle for integration, a means to protect our planet and biodiversity, and an agent of cultural understanding between peoples”, said Mr. Guterres. 

Source: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1101382

Vietnam: Nation prepares to welcome fully vaccinated tourists

iet Nam News via Asia News NetworkIn addition to previous plans to open Phu Quoc Island to international tourists, Ha Long, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Da Lat will also welcome tourists this year, under a plan developed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST).

The MoCST has issued a plan to stimulate travel demand, restore the tourism industry, and resume travel activities in late 2021 and early 2022 while ensuring the dual goals of disease prevention and control and socioeconomic development.

It will create favorable conditions for domestic and international tourists who have valid vaccination travel certificates.

Phu Quoc in Kien Giang Province will be the first locality to welcome international visitors in October, followed by Ha Long in Quang Ninh Province, Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province and Da Lat in Lam Dong Province.

In addition to safety measures such as 5K rules and improving medical capacity to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry will prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for local residents and employees in these tourism centers.

Existing tourism campaigns including “Vietnamese people traveling to Viet Nam” and “Safe and attractive local tourism” will continue, together with other programs helping local businesses sell their tourism products at preferential prices.

Tourism products post-COVID-19 will be associated with sustainability, nature and health care, according to the plan. Night tourism and eco-tourism will be invested in and developed as well.

The government plans to launch a pilot inbound tourism program with an aim to lure 2 million to 3 million foreign arrivals to Phu Quoc Island by the year end, according to the prime minister.

Source: https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0007768086

Biden’s ‘incomprehensible’ travel ban on European visitors widens transatlantic rift

Last week, France became the latest European nation to issue travel restrictions on unvaccinated American visitors. The move prompted outraged responses from some, but many Europeans seemed to believe that the move was America’s just deserts.

The issue for wary Europeans isn’t just the United States’ persistently high national coronavirus case numbers, or the lingering pockets of anti-vaccination sentiment that have seen an immunization front-runner become a laggard. It’s that most Europeans, vaccinated or not, have been banned from the United States since March 14, 2020: more than 550 days and counting.

The U.S. ban — which affects most European visitors, but not American citizens, permanent residents and a limited number of visa holders flying from Europe — was imposed in the early days of the pandemic under President Donald Trump. Many Europeans believed President Biden would lift the ban soon after taking office. He didn’t. Later, some speculated he would do so after he visited Brussels or when he hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington, around the time that Europe and Britain lifted most of their own blanket restrictions. Still, no policy change.

Even as foreign diplomats and leaders descend on New York for the U.N. General Assembly and the nation prepares to host a summit on vaccination next week, the United States has proved unwilling to relax its rules for a wider group of travelers.

“Given where we are today in terms of the delta variant both here and around the world — we are maintaining the existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told a meeting with representatives from the U.S. travel industry.

Some Europeans see no hope on the horizon for a lifting of the ban. “At this point, it’s really just incomprehensible,” said Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council.

With little sign of change, tensions are flaring. The Times of London recently dubbed the policy “Kafkaesque” and indicative of “political cowardice.” European diplomats are increasingly speaking out, with at least one E.U. official canceling a planned trip to the United States in protest of the restrictions.

Even though Trump was the one who slammed the door on Europe, it is Biden who is keeping it shut. And the restriction’s continued existence threatens to widen a somewhat surprising transatlantic rift that has arisen during the Biden administration. Many Europeans had looked to Biden with enthusiasm after the “America First” policies of his predecessor but have been angered by unilateral moves on Afghanistan and other issues.

The Trump administration moved to lift the travel restrictions in January, but Biden’s team quickly reinstated them. There was little controversy at the time: Vaccinations were only just beginning, a devastating winter wave of covid-19 was sweeping the United States and Europe, and many countries’ borders were closed to most American travelers anyway.

By summer, that had changed. In June, the European Union announced it would recommend lifting restrictions on U.S. travelers, and U.S. citizens packed Parisian cafes and Aegean beaches. But if Europe was expecting reciprocity, it found itself disappointed.

Administration officials pointed to a new wave of coronavirus cases in the United States, driven by the delta variant, as justification for keeping the ban intact. “Given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on July 26 — almost exactly the same language used by her colleague Zients nearly two months later.

That rationale has grown weaker as time has progressed. Many European countries are far more widely vaccinated than the United States and have seen their daily coronavirus case numbers dip as a result. The delta variant is as dominant as it is likely to get in the United States, where large pockets of unvaccinated people already provided fertile ground, and cases are far higher than in Europe.

There were never any requirements for testing and quarantine that would have stopped a delta-spreading U.S. citizen traveling back from Europe. Meanwhile, other nations with lower vaccination rates and coronavirus waves do not currently face U.S. travel restrictions: Some, such as Serbia or Mexico, have served as popular stop-off points for Europeans traveling to the United States with the time and means.

Much of the public opposition to the restrictions has focused on the personal impact, with the hashtag #LoveIsNotTourism on social media detailing accounts of divided families and missed life events, from births to deaths. But the economic impact on America is clear, too, with airlines, tourism-reliant businesses and European-owned companies complaining of losses. One industry estimate for the net losses from all U.S. coronavirus travel restrictions stands at $198 million per day.

One European official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid hurting ongoing negotiations, said the United States had simply “missed their moment” because of bureaucratic inertia over the summer. But some pinned part of the blame on the E.U. for unilaterally lifting measures on American travelers this summer. “I think the Europeans were a bit naive to expect automatic reciprocity from the United States,” said Haddad.

Now, with travel restrictions favored by Republicans and coronavirus anxiety common among Democrats, it may be politics, rather than science, that stops Biden from changing course. “If protecting Biden’s political flank is the criterion, as it may very well be, these and other border restrictions could remain frozen until 2022 U.S. midterm elections,” economist Edward Alden wrote for Foreign Policy this week.

Indeed, the U.S. travel restrictions may be more a reflection of what is happening inside American borders than outside. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the administration was debating a plan to require proof of vaccination for domestic or international air travel, but that there were concerns about travel disruption and the persistent Republican opposition to vaccine mandates.

Any concern about political backlash might be misplaced. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) tweeted last week that the policy “makes no sense” and called for vaccinated Europeans to be allowed into the United States.

Conservative groups have criticized the policy, too. The American Enterprise Institute’s Stan Veuger has dubbed the restrictions “not just bizarre and cruel, but ineffective too,” while the National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke has said that Biden should end the policy as soon as possible. “Fit it with concrete shoes and send it to the bottom of the ocean,” Cooke wrote.

It’s hard to imagine that reopening international travel will happen without some kind of system for recognizing foreign vaccines. Last week, the World Health Organization seemed to point the way, urging national governments to recognize all vaccines that have received WHO Emergency Use Listing so that they could avoid “chaos, confusion and discrimination.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Zients said the administration was working on a “new system” that could include “vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States,” as well as improved approaches to testing and surveillance. What that means is not yet clear, but here the Biden administration may have to think a little less American — and a little more French.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/09/16/biden-travel-ban-europe-analysis/

This week Tourism Ministers and industry leaders join together at the Évora Forum

This week over two dozen ministers and government officials; 140 speakers, professors and industry leaders, will come together at the Évora Forum – A World for Travel and will be announcing the five sustainable commitments to accelerate the transformation of travel for a more sustainable future.

The Evora Forum, the brainchild of Christian Delom, Secretary General, A World For Travel and Frédéric Vanhoutte, Founder/CEO, Eventiz Media Group aims to be the “davos-like” forum of sustainable travel and aims to put tourists and residents at the heart of tourism transformation while promoting best practices and collaboration across the travel industry.

The five commitments will focus on sustainability from all perspectives including social, environmental, and economic. The ambition of the Évora Forum – A World for Travel is to return one year later, Evora 2022 to hear about the successes and to revise the acts for the coming year.

The organizers have collected 35 position papers from across the global travel industry, engaged Oliver Wyman who has developed a baseline of where the travel industry sits vis a vis sustainable actions and goals.  Results from surveys and analysis will be announced at the morning press conferences.

At the first morning’s keynote, five tourism ministers including H.E. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica, H.E. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Secretary of State for Tourism, France, H.E. Fernando Valdès Verest, Secretary of State for Tourism, Spain, H.E. Vasilis Kikilias Minister of Tourism and H.E. Ghada Shalaby, Vice Minister Tourism and Antiquities, Arab Republic of Egypt  will be joining a panel session titled  ‘Covid-19: A Resilient Sector Drives to a New Deal with New Leadership Demands’. They will be discussing how government leadership needs to facilitate the sector’s influence on policy making from establishing standards to defining easier access to funding and capital. 

High on the agenda will be agreeing the challenges faced by the industry and how to reach core targets set by the COP21 Paris Accord. During the forum industry leaders will be debating how to establish standard criteria for measurement and offset options for travellers. Jane Madden, Global Managing Partner, Sustainability and Social Impact, FINN Partners will be moderating the panel session titled ‘From transport to mobility solutions – zero carbon target’ and she will be joined by Lucas Bobes, Group Environmental Officer & ESG Reporting, Amadeus, Dr. Marc Ivaldi, Professor, Toulouse School of Economics; Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Aviation (ISA) and Affiliate at NERA Economic Consulting, Ian Moore, CCO, VistaJet  and Michel Taride, Board Member, former Group President Hertz International, Smart Mobility Expert.

Mr. Delom commented: “We are just one week away from the first think tank about sustainability in travel.  We know important topics will be discussed and commitments generated that will have true impact. Our goal is that the development and announcement of five commitments will be adopted and implemented by tourism businesses and organisations around the world to ensure a more sustainable future for travel, while making changes to the impact of tourism.”

There will be over 30 presentations, panel sessions and discussion groups during the Évora Forum – A World for Travel covering a variety of issues from the economics of tourism to tourism’s impact on the environment.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/this-week-tourism-ministers-and-industry-leaders-join-together-at-the-evora-forum

SpaceX will launch four space tourists on a three-day trip in space. Here’s everything you need to know

Cape Canaveral, Florida (CNN Business)On Wednesday, four people — none of whom are professional astronauts — will strap themselves into a capsule atop a 200-foot-tall SpaceX rocket that will blast them past the speed of sound and up to 17,500 miles per hour. This mission, dubbed Inspiration4, is the first orbital mission in the history of spaceflight to be staffed entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts. Launch is slated for Wednesday between 8:02 pm and 1:02 am ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida, though forecasters are keeping a close eye out for storms that could impact the mission. The three-day journey will see the quartet free-flying through Earth’s orbit, whipping around the planet once every 90 minutes while the passengers float, buoyed by microgravity, and take in panoramic views of our home planet. To cap off the journey, their spacecraft will dive back into the atmosphere for a fiery re-entry and splash down off the coast of Florida.And yes, for all three days in space, the passengers will all have to share a special zero-gravity-friendly toilet located near the top of the capsule. No showering will be available, and crew will all have to sleep in the same reclining seats they will ride in during launch.

This is far from the first time civilians have traveled to space. Though NASA has been averse to signing up non-astronauts for routine missions after the death of Christa McAuliffe, a New Jersey school teacher who was killed in the Challenger disaster in 1986, a cohort of wealthy thrill-seekers paid their own way to the International Space Station in the 2000s through a company called Space Adventures. American investment management billionaire Dennis Tito became the first to self-fund a trip in 2001 with his eight-day stay on the International Space Station, and six others came after him. They all booked rides alongside professional astronauts on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.This mission, however, has been billed as the beginning of a new era of space travel in which average people, rather than government-selected astronauts and the occasional deep-pocketed adventurer, carry the mantle of space exploration. But to be clear, we are still a long way from that reality, and this trip is still far from “average.” It’s a custom, one-off mission financed by a billionaire founder of a payment processing company, and though pricing details have not been made public, it likely cost upward of $200 million. (According to one government report, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule costs roughly $55 million per seat.)Here’s a rundown of what’s happening and why it matters.

The passengers: A billionaire, a cancer survivor, a geologist and a raffle winner

  • Jared Isaacman, 38, the billionaire founder of payment processing company Shift4, who is also personally financing this entire mission
  • Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old cancer survivor who now works as a physician assistant at St. Jude, the hospital where she was treated, in Memphis, Tennessee. She’ll be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space, and she’ll serve as the flight’s chief medical officer. St. Jude selected Arceneaux for this mission as Isaacman’s request, according to a Netflix documentary, and, at the time, she said she was so unfamiliar with space travel that she asked if she would be traveling to the moon, unaware that humans have not set foot on the moon in 50 years.
  • Sian Proctor, 51, a geologist and educator who was selected for a seat on this mission through a post on social media in which she highlights her space-related artwork and entrepreneurial spirit. She’ll be only the fourth Black woman from the US to travel to orbit.
  • Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Seattle-based Lockheed Martin employee and former camp counselor at Alabama’s famed Space Camp. He won his seat through a raffle he entered by donating to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, though he wasn’t the official winner. His friend snagged the seat and, after deciding not to go, transferred it to him.

Isaacman — who will become the third billionaire to self-fund a trip to space in the past three months and the first to buy a trip to orbit on a SpaceX capsule — is billing this mission as one that he hopes will inspire would-be space adventureres, hence the missions’s name, Inspiration4. He’s also using it as the centerpiece for a $200 million fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, $100 million of which he donated personally and the rest he is hoping to raise through online donations and an upcoming auction. So far, a fundraiser has brought in $30 million of its $100 million goal.

How did all this happen?

Inspiration4 is entirely the brain child of Jared Isaacman and SpaceX.Isaacman began flying single-engine prop planes recreationally in the mid-2000s and developed an insatiable thirst for going higher and faster, eventually moving into twin-engine planes, then jets, then military-grade aircraft that can zip past the speed of sound.

Each of Isaacman’s fellow passengers was selected in a different way: He asked St. Jude to select a cancer-survivor-turned-healthcare-provider, and the organization chose Arceneaux. Proctor won an online contest specifically for people who use Shift4, the payment platform Isaacman runs. And Sembroski was given his seat by a person who won a raffle for people who donated to St. Jude. (Sembroski also entered the raffle but was not the original winner.)Isaacman told CNN Business that he sat down with SpaceX to hash out the flight profile. He specifically wanted the Crew Dragon to orbit higher than International Space Station, which is why the spacecraft will orbit about 350 miles above Earth — roughly 100 miles above where the space station orbits.

How risky is this?

Any time a spacecraft leaves Earth there are risks, and there are no perfect measurements for predicting them.But NASA estimates Crew Dragon has a 1 in 270 chance of catastrophic failure, based on one metric the space agency uses. For comparison, NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in the 1980s to early 2000s ultimately logged a failure rate of about 1 in every 68 missions.Because of the inherent risks of blasting a spacecraft more than 17,500 miles per hour — the speed that allows an object to enter Earth’s orbit — Inspiration4 is more dangerous than the brief, up-and-down suborbital jaunts made by billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

Apart from the many perils of the launch itself — in which rockets essentially use controlled explosions more powerful than most wartime bombs to drum up enough speed to rip away from gravity — there’s also the re-entry process. When returning from orbit, the Crew Dragon’s external temperatures can reach up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and astronauts can experience 4.5 Gs of force pushing them into their seats, all while the ever-thickening atmosphere whips around the capsule.During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a capsule going through reentry as “like a blazing meteor coming in.””And so it’s hard not to get vaporized,” he added.After that the Crew Dragon then has to deploy parachutes to slow its descent and make a safe splashdown in the ocean before rescue ships can whisk the four passengers back to dry land.Despite the risks, a former NASA chief and career safety officials have said the Crew Dragon is likely the safest crewed vehicle ever flown.

The vehicle: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon

All four passengers will spend the entire missions aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, a 13-foot-wide, gumdrop-shaped spacecraft that detaches from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket after reaching orbital speeds. The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule was developed by Elon Musk’s rocketry company for the specific purpose of ferrying NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, which it did for the first time ever in May 2020.

Since then, SpaceX has launched two additional Crew Dragon missions for NASA. SpaceX is allowed, however, to sell seats — or entire missions — to whoever the company chooses. Although NASA paid for much of the Crew Dragon’s development, under the terms of the deal between the federal agency and the company, SpaceX still technically owns and operates the vehicle and can use it for whatever commercial purposes it wishes.Crew Dragon’s missions in the near future also include a mix of NASA-commissioned flights to the ISS and space tourism missions.For this mission, the Crew Dragon will be retrofitted with a giant glass dome at the tip of the spacecraft specifically for the crew to soak in panoramic views of the cosmos.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/14/tech/spacex-inspiration-4-space-tourism-mission-walkup-scn/index.html