Passion of the People – 1.5.4

Dark Skies Observation as a Competitive Asset

for Sustainable and Experiential Tourism

Astrotourism (or star tourism, dark sky tourism) first presented as a trendy tourism topic at the International Tourism Fair  (ITB) in Berlin in 2017, is increasingly becoming an attractive niche in cultural tourism. In line with this market trend, the tourist experience of the dark sky and raising awareness of light pollution are currently becoming competitive assets for sustainable and experiential tourism. Following recent research: 

  • travellers are putting more emphasis on traveling responsibly;  
  • environmentally sustainable travel gains importance; 
  • travelling slower and greener is increasingly essential as corporates and consumers show more dedication to slashing emissions;
  • there is a growing trend for nature-based off-grid retreats which promise access to widescreen wildernesss;
  • silent retreats are at the heart of a growing trend in transformational travel.

Astrotourism complies with these trends and allows tourists to connect with the natural world and gain a deeper appreciation for the cosmos, while also promoting sustainable tourism practices such as reducing light pollution and conserving dark sky areas. Additionally, astrotourism provides opportunities for local communities to benefit economically, preserving their culture and way of life while also preserving the environment. By combining elements of education, recreation, and conservation, astrotourism provides a memorable and meaningful experience that appeals to a growing segment of eco-conscious tourists. This presents outstanding opportunities for tourism, especially for providers who want to exploit lucrative tourism niches.

Some regions provide a unique and unforgettable experience for tourists who are interested in exploring the beauty of the night sky, while also supporting sustainable tourism practices. Astrotourism experiences are not easily replicated elsewhere and not so many regions in the world are suitable for a unique experience of stargazing: little light pollution and clear skies are a precondition for successful astrotourism. Some of the best locations for astrotourism include:

  • Atacama Desert in Chile, which is considered one of the best places in the world for stargazing due to its high altitude, dry climate, and limited light pollution;
  • Dark sky preserves and parks in the United States, such as Big Bend National Park in Texas, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, and the Great Basin National Park in Nevada;
  • Rural areas in Australia and New Zealand, which offer stunning views of the Milky Way and Southern Hemisphere constellations.

Light pollution – Image by cadopPixabay
Light pollution – Image by SAM7682Pixabay
Beauty of landscape versus light pollution – Image by Lukas BieriPixabay

Further Resources

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Forest – Light Pollution – stars


Astrotourism – Feeling the Universe

 The Sunday Night Astronomy Show – Astro Tourism

Astronomitaly e “I cieli più belli d’Italia” in Val di Sole sul TG1 – Astronomitaly

Astronomitaly “I cieli più belli d Italia” – OPC – Osservatorio Polifunzionale del Chianti

In Italia è possibile vivere off-grid? – Oak Church Ranch

Le grandi città italiane unite per un turismo sostenibile – intoscana

Online Resources

How to find dark sites

Wie man Oret zur Sternenbeobachtung findet

Map of light pollution

The Earth Observation Group (at the Colorado School of Mines) has long created night-lights maps of Earth

Astro-Turismo – U.A.I.

I migliori luoghi al mondo per fare “astroturismo” – METEORED

Esplora l’Infinito Celeste nella Magica Val di Sole! – URSUS Adventures

Ritrovare l’equilibrio con un rifugio off-grid – sistemarecasa

Offgrid Italia

Cosa significa vivere off-grid e 10 luoghi per sperimentarlo di persona – ecobnb

I ritiri spirituali in Italia in cui ritrovare se stessi – L’Officiel

Ho scoperto la meditazione silenziosa e non mi sono mai sentito meglio – VICE

Analisi del turismo sostenibile, uno strumento per valorizzare i territori e i contesti locali – ARCO

Further Readings

Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism (Valerie Stimac)

Astrotourism: Star Gazers, Eclipse Chasers, and the Dark Sky Movement. (Michael Marlin)

Theming in astrotourism – A practical handbook in designing experiences (Carlos Fernández Hernández et al.)

Teaching Materials

The Forbes study on tourism trends 2023

The CN Traveller study on travel trends

Dark Sky Tourism: An engine for sustainable socio-economic development (IAU workshop – video)

For Kids