July 14, 2024

Francesca Street, CNN
Whether it’s a blast into suborbital space or a hotel stay among the stars, space tourism entrepreneurs believe one day we’ll all be opting for out-of-this-world vacations.
The team behind Moon World Resorts reckon so too — sort of.
They want to build a series of gigantic dome-like hotels resembling the moon, sitting here on planet Earth. More precisely, in Dubai.
Each sphere will be a 360-degree recreation of the moon on a grand scale, complete with realistic-looking craters and texture. Each recreated moon could tower 735 feet high (224 meters) with a 2,042 foot circumference, depending on location and planning permissions.
Canada-based entrepreneur Michael R. Henderson, co-founder of Moon World Resorts, tells CNN Travel that the crux of the project is the moon is a “recognizable brand.”
“Seven and a half billion people know it, everybody loves it,” he says.

Going global

According to Henderson, each Moon World Resort will be “a very luxurious and contemporary, fully integrated destination resort, with a lot of components inside that one would already know” — for example, a convention center, restaurants, spa, each with a lunar twist.
Artist renderings envisage spaceship-style interiors and themed entertainment — including what Henderson envisages as the attraction’s highlight, an experience that replicates what it’s like to walk on the moon.
“We will give you the ability in your lifetime to walk on what you will believe to be the lunar surface,” says Henderson.
Moon World Resorts has been in the works for two decades, a time line that Henderson, who previously founded a medical services company, suggests matches the slower pace associated with space tourism more generally.
The project comes with “tremendous technical challenges,” Henderson explains, but he and co-founder Sandra G. Matthews are working with independent engineers and architects to make the concept a reality.
“We basically have a plethora of groups around the world who we just pull in, as we need them. But obviously, once the project actually starts to build, then they will be located in a particular region,” he says.
The long term goal is to build four Moon resorts, one in North America, one in Europe, one in the Middle East and Northern Africa and one in Asia. Moon World Resorts is a licensing company, so Henderson envisages licensing each Moon World Resort to licensees with cash to splash.
The UAE, and specifically Dubai, has been pinpointed by the company as a “front runner” for the opening of the first Moon World resort. Henderson says this is because the UAE is “very popular for tourists” and home to “a lot of infrastructure” projects.
However Henderson also suggests there are “other options popping up,” declining to share more for now.

Moon fun

Space tourism currently comes with a hefty price tag, and for the time being it’s a barrier to entry for most travelers. Virgin Galactic, for example, has recently been selling space jaunts for $450,000.
Henderson says the Moon World Resort experience will be significantly cheaper, suggesting signing up to walk the resort’s “lunar surface” will cost guests US$500.
Cost can also prevent futuristic projects like Moon World Resorts from ever moving past the conceptual stage, but Henderson suggests the licensing model makes the project viable.
“It’s not so much looking for capital,” he explains. “The goal for a licensor, like us, is to find the licensee. And so once once you secure the licensee, then you’ve the money for the projects already there — because we’re not talking about small companies, these will be major international corporations.”
Henderson hopes the first licensee, who will be expected to invest US$5 billion on the build out, will be secured by the end of 2022. He foresees the first Moon World resort opening five years later, in 2027.
Henderson hopes each Moon World Resort will become a destination in its own right. Even if people aren’t staying there, or checking out the space age facilities, he envisages travelers going simply to gawp at the building.
He name checks architectural structures like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, as inspiration on this front,
“Obviously people like to see the renderings of what’s happening on the inside. But I think a lot of people are going to be excited when you look up at the world’s largest sphere — I think that’s going to be the mind blower,” he says.
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