Backgrounds to a current trend: Astrotourism at ITB Berlin NOW
As a current trend, astrotourism is a reaction by increasing numbers of city dwellers who no longer experience a completely dark night sky because of light pollution. Experiencing vast distances in a calm, dark landscape can be the perfect contrast to everyday life, according to Etta Dannemann, general manager of Visit Dark Skies, speaking at ITB Berlin NOW. One consequence of the pandemic has been a growing awareness by travellers of regional destinations. This also applies to those places which are ideal for the stars and the sky. “An increasing number of concepts are being produced, along with the necessary infrastructure, to enable people to observe the stars”, explained Dannemann. Garden furniture has been developed for sky watchers, training is available to become a star guide, and specialist accommodation is being provided. This is a growing market.
Astrotourism was different in 2020: the Covid 19 pandemic restricted travel, making it impossible to go to remote destinations where the skies are dark, such as Namibia or La Palma (Canary Islands). Public astronomical observatories had to close, and star parties were cancelled.
With an upturn in regional tourism there was also greater interest in regional star parks where people can observe celestial objects. The pandemic created better conditions for astrotourism: fewer con trails due to reduced air traffic meant that nights became much darker.
Under the label of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), an increasing number of star parks have been created on the Colorado Plateau in the USA and also in the United Kingdom, and these are helping to support local tourism. More regions in Germany are also showing an interest in becoming star parks, added the astronomer Dr. Andreas Hänel, spokesman for the Dark Sky specialist group and former director of the planetarium at the Museum am Schölerberg Osnabrück.
Text: Antje Lückingsmeier