June 21 (Reuters) – With the recent disappearance of a $250,000-per-person expedition en route to explore the deep-sea wreck of the Titanic, extreme tourism is gaining popularity among the affluent who seek extraordinary experiences.

Apart from venturing to Earth’s highest peaks, a new realm of adventure tourism is taking shape – space travel. A fierce competition among billionaire entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson has ignited the growth of an embryonic astro-tourism industry.

Virgin Galactic Holdings, led by Branson, announced its inaugural commercial spaceflight named “Galactic 01” scheduled to launch between June 27 and June 30. The company boasts a backlog of approximately 800 customers who have secured tickets priced between $250,000 and $400,000 for the exhilarating 90-minute round-trip journey.

Since June 2021, Bezos’ space tourism venture, Blue Origin, has been offering 10-minute flights reaching an altitude of approximately 350,000 feet (106 km). Passengers on these flights experience moments of weightlessness before descending back to Earth. Interestingly, a Japanese billionaire has already purchased all the seats on SpaceX Starship rocket’s maiden voyage, an ambitious mission that aims to orbit the moon for three days, coming within 200 kilometers of its surface. Despite facing delays due to vehicle testing setbacks, the launch is highly anticipated.

While celestial exploration captures the imagination, terrestrial expeditions cater to the needs of wealthy adventurers who prefer to avoid arduous treks through challenging terrains. Instead, they opt for aerial views or private helicopter tours.

Before venturing into space, Branson established himself as a pioneer in extreme hot-air ballooning. In 1991, he became the first to traverse the Pacific Ocean in a balloon. Over the past few decades, other affluent individuals have set numerous distance, height, and duration records in this exhilarating pursuit.

For those seeking thrills on the ground, heli-skiing services have recently been introduced in the snow-covered Himalayan mountains of Indian Kashmir. Taking advantage of lulls in violence between Muslim separatists and the Indian government, adventurous skiers now have the opportunity to explore these challenging peaks from above.

Mount Roraima, a mystical flat-topped mountain on the Venezuela-Brazil border, has gained popularity among hikers and explorers. The mountain, which inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous 1912 novel “The Lost World,” was previously accessible only to the Pemon indigenous people. Today, it attracts thousands of hikers annually, with some fortunate visitors arriving at the summit via helicopter.

In conclusion, extreme tourism is on the rise, providing unique and exhilarating experiences for those with the means to indulge. From deep-sea expeditions to the Titanic wreck, space travel ventures, and even helicopter tours of remote landscapes, adventure tourism is capturing the attention and wallets of thrill-seekers worldwide.