Is outer space the new frontier for the tourism industry?

That some businesses are working on space tourism isn't that new, but something that really caught my attention recently is that university researchers are studying this? It's not just NASA and members of The Jetsons fan club.

A report on this subject by two professors was recently announced by the University of Delaware. The authors, Fred DeMicco, of UD, and Silvia Ciccarelli, from the University of Rome La Sapiena, co-wrote "Outer Space as a New Frontier for Hospitality and Tourism." They would know -- Ciccarelli is a consultant to the Italian Association of Aerospace Industries, and DeMicco is an ARAMARK Chair in the University of Delaware's Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management Program. (Aramark is an international company specializing in food services for stadiums, arenas, campuses, businesses, schools and someday... space stations?)

So who will be traveling in outer space, two years from now? We'll give you the scoop. (Quick, someone bookmark this story and check back in two years and see if this pans out)According to what DeMicco said in a press release, "This is a destination for the 'extreme tourists'--tourists who want the ultimate new travel adventure and the thrill of outer space. They want something new and interesting -- the room with the best view of Earth from space."

And when is all this likely to happen? Well, if the professors are right, mark these dates on your calendar:

2010 -- You'll start seeing some travel guides advertising space travel. (Yeah, just two years from now.)

2010-2015 -- Suborbital trips will be available to tourists, with the price going down from the millions for two weeks to eventually shorter journeys for a more reasonable $80,000. (Hey, when you think about the price for gas these days, maybe that's almost a deal.)

2021 -- An expected 13,000 passengers a year will be taking trips into space, generating revenues of $700 million annually.

2025 -- Hotels in space. (Start booking reservations early.)

Geoff Williams is a business journalist, primarily for Entrepreneur magazine, and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale, 2007).

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