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Selling tickets

Tickets for the Virgin Galactic flights are being sold by travel agents as well as by the company itself. Around two-thirds of the 300 ticket sales so far have been through travel companies.

The American magazine Travel Weekly has details of the system. Virgin Galactic train 'accredited travel agents' or ASAs, and in the US they have an exclusive agreement with the Virtuoso network.

The magazine say that the top Virtuoso seller so far is Coastline Travel in Garden Grove, California, with four reservations for 'astronauts in waiting'. or ASWs. Coastline say that their bookings have come mostly from referrals from existing clients, though they also advertise in magazines.

Another of the travel agents, Park Avenue Travel in Pennysylvania, say that inquiries increase significantly whenever Virgin Galactic makes news, such as when it unveiled the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane last year. They've opened up a dedicated space travel website and this summer will hold a general information event for up to 500 targeted clients from across the US.

The company credit Virgin Galactic with the way in which clients are kept involved in the period while they await their flights.

Five more names joined the list of accredited travel agents in March 2009 when Virgin Galactic announced the names of the Scandinavian travel companies who'll sell seats on their flights. There's one in Finalnd, one in Denmark, and three in Sweden.

Meanwhile Virgin Galactic's official training provider, the National Aerospace Training and Research Center (NASTAR) in Philadelphia,  is organising events for signed-up customers as well as 'try before yoiu buy' prgrammes for prospective passengers.

And the travel agents say they're enjoying the challenge of opening up the new market for space tourism.

'I've been selling luxury vacations to clients for 30 years, and this is by far the most fun,' said Lynda Garrett of Alpine Travel in California. 'And knowing that you are becoming part of history is humbling.'


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