Luxury amenities called a must for Virgin Galactic passengers visiting southern New Mexico

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – One of the high-fliers planning to take off from Spaceport America on the world’s first commercial spaceline says he and other space travellers will expect luxury amenities when they visit southern New Mexico.

Michael Blum, founder and president of an investment research and media firm and a former PayPal executive, told a space travel symposium Tuesday that people planning a flight on Virgin Galactic will be bringing friends and family. They’ll be looking for ritzy places to stay and things to do in the area, from upscale spas to desert horseback rides, he said.

Local businesses and entrepreneurs need to step up to offer those services, Blum said.

“We’re not talking about millions of people, but we’re talking about people with tremendous net worth,” he said.

Blum said he will bring 30 people to witness his suborbital flight, while others may be bring as many as 100.

When Spaceport was first being developed, Truth or Consequences and other nearby towns hoped to see related economic development, including new hotels. But so far only a new Holiday Inn has been built.

Virgin Galactic Chairman Richard Branson told a national hotel conference in 2011 that he might put one of his still-to-be-developed Virgin hotels in the area. But there has been no further word on that hotel, or others that have been rumoured to be considering development to cater to the space crowd.

The flights are expected to begin in 2014. Virgin Galactic is advertising suborbital spaceflights for $250,000.