The OceanGate Expeditions submersible vessel, known as the Titan, used to visit the Titanic wreck site, but something went wrong. It got lost and at the moment the rescue teams continue the search for the submarine in which billionaire tourists like the British Hamish Harding were traveling. Many wonder what these trips are about? Exits to space and to the depths of the oceans are a minority trend, but on the rise in the so-called elite tourism.
As published by the newspaper El País, the world for some tourists does not end on the surface of the Earth and they are reserved for the few who can afford them —The prices of this type of adventure can range from 50,000 to more than 50 million euros.— and that, furthermore, they are willing to accept some risks.
Diving to see the remains of the iconic Titanic costs $250,000, according to OceanGate, the company that markets it. The trip lasts seven days, but the key moment is the immersion: it takes about eight hours (two and a half hours down, three hours on the seabed and another two and a half hours up).
OceanGate Expeditions, known as Titan, used to visit the Titanic wreck site
As the company promotes on its website, the trip in its carbon fiber submersible, with space for five people, is “an opportunity to get out of everyday life and discover something truly extraordinary”.
The traveler seeks experiences, not only for adventure or personal challenge, “but also to achieve a goal and brag about it, show what they have achieved”, he adds. From there, it depends on the budget: “The trip is a basic in which the common mortal can choose between one that another alternative and those who have a lot of money enjoy an increasingly unlimited catalog”, says José Serrano, professor at the European University of the Canary Islands and tourism expert in the newspaper El País.
In this experience market, underwater tourism emerges as a new category. One of the projects presented in recent years has been Proteus, an underwater version of the International Space Station devised by the French oceanographer Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the popularizer Jacques Cousteau. Its objective is that it is dedicated to the investigation of the bottom of the sea, but there could also be visits. Although there are no official rates, it is estimated that the starting price of a stay (between seven days and three months) could be around $50,000.
In 2001, American billionaire Dennis Tito paid $20 million to the Russian space agency Rocosmos to travel into space.
elite space travel
Some Millionaires also pay very high figures to visit space. One of the best known cases is that of Oliver Daemen, a Dutch student who, at just 18 years old, became the youngest person to travel to space in July 2021. He flew with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on the first manned flight of the Blue Origin spacecraft New Shepard.
Photo by MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
His father paid an undisclosed amount for his son to experience weightlessness and gaze at Earth’s curved horizon for a few minutes. EITHERliver Daemen replaced an anonymous billionaire who bought the ticket for $28 million at a charity auction and resigned citing scheduling issues.
A few months later, in 2021, Russia launched Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano to the International Space Station, on a trip that marked Moscow’s return to the orbital tourism market for the first time in 12 years.
“I think that in a few years (spaceflight) will be more accessible. Our task now is to prove that all obstacles can be overcome,” Maezawa explained before the flight. Many companies are waging a war to see who gets the biggest slice of the pie in this new, mostly experimental market.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, before traveling to the International Space Station, in December 2021. (GETTY)
World View is the most cheap: $50,000 for a balloon flight through the stratosphere. Virgin Galactic, owned by millionaire Richard Branson, announced a few days ago that it will begin commercial operations in a few weeks, after 19 years of tests, accidents and technical challenges. The trips cost between 4$50,000 and $600,000.
But it is Elon Musk’s Space X, which has the most expensive prices on the market: his first private charter flight left Earth in 2021 for the International Space Station. Each of the three travelers paid $55 million for the rocket ride and lodging, including all meals.
“Tourism of Experiences sell, in many cases, authenticity, something unique or local; it can be for people with more or less budget, and a part is for an elite. It is a growing trend, although I believe that it has not yet developed as much as expected”, says Pablo Díaz, professor of Economics and Business Studies at the Universitat Oberta Catalunya (UOC).
Díaz gives the example of helicopter tours to get to know Andalusian gastronomy, for example, or people who reserve a room to stay in an old prison. It is a new form of disconnection. “The motivation for the trip has been changing”, adds Serrano. “Since travel was democratized, there is a matter of status, of differentiating yourself from what the majority does,” she concludes.
People with a high budget look for unique experiences and chosen by specialists who know the latest trends. The richest, before starting their vacations, can pay tens of thousands of euros for someone to come up with a luxurious travel plan, which can include grueling excursions into a desert to end up in an oasis of refrigerated luxury.