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How to attract stargazing tourists? Leiden Observatory launches a new manual for astrotourism

How to create an unforgettable astronomy experience for tourists? And how to create fun activities that also have scientific and educational value? The Astronomy & Society Group at Leiden Observatory has translated a manual that answers those questions. The Observatory’s public engagement team hopes to inspire people in the field of astronomy to get involved in public engagement.

Astronomy is a hot and great subject to involve the public in science and scientific concepts - and many astronomical research facilities around the world traditionally offer touristic experiences aiming at the wider public. Once the Covid-19 pandemic is easing in many parts of the world and activities slowly start to catch up, institutions start looking ahead for their astrotourism activities.

How to create the perfect experience?

How to create unforgettable astrotourism experiences? How to create an environment that people will want to go back to and suggest to their friends? Adapted from the original in Spanish developed by VERDE Ltda (Astroturismo Chile), ’A Design Manual for Astrotourism Experiences' gives the step-by-step for planning and executing a perfect astrotourism experience. The publication has been recently published by the International Astronomical Union’s European Regional Office of Astronomy for Development (E-ROAD) and the Leiden Observatory’s Astronomy and Society Group.

Every detail counts

An exciting astronomy experience must take every single detail into account, from a well-built website to offering blankets to tourists during night observations to levelling an explanatory talk to a specific audience: it shouldn’t be too hard, otherwise visitors get disengaged, but also not too easy, because they should bring home something new.

Contributing to sustainable tourism

‘Astrotourism focuses on the forgotten side of nature tourism, the night sky,' says Pedro Russo, coordinator of the Astronomy and Society Group in Leiden. ‘With the urgency of sustainability practices in tourism, astronomy can play a big role in that transformation by promoting the importance of clear, dark skies - not only to astronomical research, but also as heritage for humankind, and our gateway to the Universe.’

Astrotourism webinar

Last 28 June, the IAU E-ROAD hosted  a webinar, Dark Sky Tourism: An engine for sustainable socio-economic development, to discuss the many aspects of sustainable tourism and the role astronomy plays in it. Russo: ‘Astrotourism is a very powerful way of engaging people of all ages with the importance of clear, dark skies as part of the scientific, cultural and natural heritage for humanity.’

The webinar was recorded and is available online: https://www.youtube.com/embed/hcwv1gOj1to

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