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The Rise of Dark-Sky Tourism
Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP --  The Herman Group Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP -- The Herman Group
Austin , TX
Wednesday, August 21, 2019


The Herman Trend Alert

August 21, 2019

The Rise of Dark-Sky Tourism

As the population of the planet increases, so does the use of electricity. Just take a look at any night-time photograph of the earth from space and you can easily see the effects of humanity.

Most of the earth suffers from light pollution

Would it surprise you to know that 80 percent of the earth's land mass suffers from light pollution? (I have fond memories of camping beneath the stars in the Colorado Rockies and seeing the spectacular Milky Way light up the sky.) Sadly, according to the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute, not only is the previous statistic true but for 99 percent of the population of Europe and the United States, the night sky is masked by man-made light. That is why Dark-Sky Tourism is becoming so popular.

Dark-Sky Tourism is taking off

Throughout the globe, travelers are now sailing, hiking, back-packing, and flying to the planet's last-remaining dark skies to see a clear, unpolluted view of the sky. They go to see the remarkable expanse of the Milky Way, shooting stars/meteors streaking across the horizon, the sky covered horizon to horizon by constellations, and of course, the planets.

Interest in Astrotourism increasing

The awards program of the International Dark-Sky Association established in 2001 to award destinations working to preserve their dark skies sparked a new trend in astrotourism. In March 2015, my husband and I journeyed to Svalbard to see a total eclipse of the sun. Two years later, in 2017, about seven million people traveled throughout the US to see the total solar eclipse; similar numbers are expected in South America this year when an eclipse will be visible across a band of this area of the Southern Hemisphere.

More Certified Dark-Sky Parks as well

Because of the growing concern about light pollution, there is an increasing number of designated dark-sky places, like parks and communities, recognized and certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. There, travelers may combine adventure travel with their desire to witness the un-light-polluted heavens and enjoy stargazing tours or star parties. Now, thanks to this growing trend, many of the world's great observatories like those in Mauna Kea, Hawaii and the Canary Islands, are open to visitors; some even offer short astronomy courses and/or stargazing evenings.

Some of the Best Dark-Sky Parks in the World

The southwestern US is blessed with an abundance of dark-sky places, including Natural Bridges in Utah, the world's first designated dark-sky park; Flagstaff, Arizona, the dark-sky city; the Cosmic Campground in New Mexico; and the Grand Canyon, which hosts an annual star party in June. If you have deeper pockets, consider the Iriomote-Ishigaki National Park in Okinawa Prefecture that in 2018 was named Japan's first accredited dark-sky place. The remote sub-tropical Yaeyama Islands off Japan's southern coast is the site of this 406-sq-km park. Remote areas of northern Britain are the locations of some of Europe's darkest skies, e.g., Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park. If you are more adventuresome, you might want to take a trip to isolated parts of Mongolia or Central Asia, where you can also stay in a yurt and imbibe the local culture. There are even star-gazing hotels in Chile, Botswana, and Scotland that specialize in unencumbered views of the night skies.

The Future of Dark-sky Tourism Looks Very Bright

In the past, I have talked about the growing trend for adventure tourism; this is only one more example of peoples' desires to experience the natural world in all of its splendor while they can. Expect to see an increase in all kinds of travel providers (including hoteliers, cruise lines, and especially tour companies) focused on giving travelers access to dark skies and other natural wonders.

Special thanks to Journey Beyond, the adventure tourism company, and to Lonely Planet writer Megan Eaves and Journey Beyond writer Charles Rawlings Way for raising our consciousness to this important topic.


Joyce L. Gioia, CMC, CSP
Austin, TX