Interstellar travel is becoming more frequent and fast becoming the new playground for those rich enough for an ‘out of this world’ experience.
In June, Virgin Galactic sent a crew of six passengers to space, consisting largely of scientists and former pilots conducting research with 13 payloads onboard.
That has paved the way for the first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflight carrying private astronauts. On 10 August 2023, the company’s next flight will include a former Olympian who paid $200,000 back in 2005.
Jon Goodwin, from the United Kingdom who is now 80, bought the ticket on the presumption that he would be taking his trip of a lifetime by 2008. Despite being initially disappointed to have waited nearly two decades to cash in on his purchase, The Olympic canoeist, who competed in the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, now feels he has got a bargain.
That is because the current cost per seat for the 70-minute ride on Galactic 02 has now more than doubled to $450,000. Yet, according to Virgin Galactic, the waiting list for future trips consists of more than 600 very wealthy people.
So those that fantasize about space travel must have deep pockets. After all, one of the world’s richest, Jeff Bezos, has also fuelled the space race with his Blue Origin brand for space travel. Although the project has had a few hiccups along the way, Bezos has confirmed that its services are due to resume soon.
And now luxury brands are targeting Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space X ventures as this new sector harbours their exact target clientele.
“Space is the new luxury,” enthuses Said Chaarawi, an award-winning luxury market expert and co-founder of the IRD Consultancy.
“With the opening of space tourism, a new high-net-worth clientele sector has emerged. These customers are a prime target for luxury brands, and they proved that they have the means and the desire to acquire exclusive experiences and products. Luxury brands need to offer this client base the exclusive products they demand by associating the brand image with the romantic and unparalleled frontier that is space.
“Space tourism offers the ultimate luxury experience,” concurs space entrepreneur Chris Newlands, CEO of Space Aye, a company that focuses on the relationship between humanity and real-time satellite imagery offering societal, climate-focused and commercial opportunities.
“Space intoxicates the masses, its aspirational and inspirational, the latest technology and material innovations are being created in space or for space. The sector pushes the boundaries to consume less energy, go further or faster,” adds Newlands.
Azhar Mobin is Chief Operating Officer of Space Hero, an enterprise which aims to have a TV reality show consisting of private astronauts across the globe competing for a place in space. He is of the opinion that luxury brands also want to position themselves early in this emerging market. “Luxury brands make good potential partners for space companies that have a commercial orientation and their expertise in marketing and in different forms of advertising can help to shape the message that space is culture and something everyone can aspire to.
“Advances in technology have made space exploration and space tourism more accessible. Reusable rockets, spacecraft that can travel on new kinds of efficient fuel and the billionaire space race have all created buzz. The rise of commercial spaceflight companies, a more commercial space industry and an exponential increase in scientific discovery, partly through international collaboration, have all ignited curiosity.
“Big luxury brands are interested in new and exciting campaigns for their consumers and want to deliver unique experiences and exclusivity to high-net-worth clients. The spirit of adventure is something luxury brands value greatly.”
So which brands are going to win their own space advertising race? Chaarawi says that sending a product to space has always been appealing to brands, mentioning that Omega kept advancement over its competition in the luxury Swiss watch market after it famously appeared on the wrist of NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the moon landing in 1969.
Newlands also thinks that the luxury watch brands will be at the forefront: “Breitling, Rolex and Rolls Royce come to mind, as they either have an association with the aerospace or their products are worn by explorers, who’s very lives depend on the undoubted quality of their products.”
But invariably Chaarawi sees different brands being involved at different junctures. “A yacht brand such as SunSeeker can design a luxury and futuristic interior for a space shuttle. Hermes, synonymous with superior craftsmanship, can offer space tourists fashion accessories that may be purchased only upon presenting a ticket for a space trip. Let’s think about Patek Philippe for space watches, Huntsman for space suits, Fortnum & Mason for catering, and Coutts for in-space financial transactions. The list can go on, but the main idea here is that when there is exclusivity and superiority, there is a chance for luxury brands to do well.”
Thomas Reemer, CEO of Space Hero, believes that luxury brands are the perfect partners to boost revenues for companies looking to make a mark in the space industry. “Luxury wants to be associated with technological and social progress. It is part of the future. Partnering with luxury brands is a must-have for any project that has ambitions to create experiences in connection with space. VIPs and high-net-worth individuals will have exclusive access to activities in space and luxury brands will want to be a part of that.”
One thing can be sure of is that interest and activities in space will grow exponentially over the next decade and as the space industry’s economy booms, luxury brands are sure to be at the apex.