The Impact of Tourists’ Perceptions of Space-launch Tourism: An Extension of the Theory of Planned Behaviour Approach

Space tourism is still a rather new concept for mainstream tourists. Even if that is so, various Asian countries have been strengthening their space exploration through increased investments. There is indeed tremendous potential to develop an ecosystem to support space-launch tourism activities.

Various Asian countries are fortifying their space investments, and smaller states within the region are showing ambitions of establishing national space programmes. The broad mission of those programmes is to establish/observe the remote-sensing, meteorology, communications, artificial intelligence, as well as navigation technology for the programmes. Meanwhile, space tourism is also becoming an industry that could potentially attract the attention of governments, businesses and tourists. Certain Asian countries (e.g., Japan, India, China, Singapore) are among those that have shown the greatest public interest and demand for space travel.

China is a leader in space exploration among Asian countries, since becoming a spacefaring state in 1970. In 2018, China launched more than 300 satellites and currently operates 200 satellites in space where these numbers are higher than other comparable Asian countries such as Japan, India, etc. More specifically, China has developed human spaceflight and counter space anti-satellite weapon capability, joining the U.S. and Russia as the only countries with such capabilities. Chinese consumers have displayed high interest in the space tourism market. Results from a demand analysis of suborbital space tourism conducted in 2013 found that China is a sizable market starting with 600 customers and could reach 128,500 clients by 2030. The Chinese, just like the Americans, have shown particular interest in space tourism making them potential clients.

Space tourism enables the country or company with the capability of operating a space programme to date to make millions of dollars by selling seats on their rockets to private companies and private citizens. Orbital and suborbital markets are the two main types of space tourism. Today, private space industries in certain parts of the world are keen to make investments in projects involving space tourism. A number of companies are competing in the space tourism area such as Space X, XCOR, Blue Origin, etc.

It is clear that there is a paucity of empirical research models that investigate the behavioural intention of space travellers. Most of the previous studies investigated space tourism from an outer space orientation perspective of tourists. To date, there is no research related to the tourists’ perception toward indoor space tourism (i.e., space-launch destination tourism). One potential reason for such research is that although space tourism is relatively new for some countries in Asia, there is a possibility to develop an ecosystem to support this type of tourism activities.

The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control, hedonic motivation, and intention toward space-launch tourism activities using the Wenchang spacecraft launch site as a tourism destination. An integrated conceptual research model was proposed based on the theory of the planned behaviour model. A web-based survey questionnaire was developed where a total of 444 questionnaires were collected followed by the subsequent empirical testing of the postulated hypotheses, using SPSS and Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). The results suggested that attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and hedonic motivation would positively influence intention. Subjective norm also displayed a significant positive influence on attitude, while attitude played a partial mediation role between subjective norm and intention. The findings indicated that the proposed model has more predictive capacity compared to the original theory of planned behaviour model. The theoretical and practical implications of the results were also discussed including limitations of the research.

The results suggested that attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and hedonic motivation would positively influence intention. Subjective norm also displayed a significant positive influence on attitude, while attitude played a partial mediation role between subjective norm and intention. The findings indicated that the proposed model has more predictive capacity compared to the original theory of planned behaviour model. The theoretical and practical implications of the results were also discussed including limitations of the research.

Dr Philip Wong Pong Weng
School of Hospitality and Service Management
Email: philipw@sunway.edu.my

 

This article was published on the Journal of China Tourism Research