2023 / 10 / 27
Since we held the 1st Starlight Meeting in Gredos in 2018, many things have changed, or are in the process of changing. The most obvious example is the integration of star tourism into travel trends, but also the sensitivity regarding the dangers of light pollution and, above all, the role of the Starlight Network as protectors and disseminators of the night sky.
Five years later, after celebrating for the sixth time what has become the most important astro-tourism event of the year, we have verified that there are stars that not only do not fade but shine more brightly every year. This is attested to by the more than two hundred professionals who have gathered this year in Cuenca to set the course of the sector and make strategic decisions that will mark the course of astronomical tourism in 2024.
These are some of the main conclusions of the VI International Starlight Meeting:
The Starlight Foundation, through its certification system, is currently the major international reference in this "new" segment of sustainable and responsible tourism that is astrotourism. The data confirms this:
Presence in Spain, Portugal, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Italy, Austria, Costa Rica or Cyprus, among others.
More than 60 Starlight Tourist Destinations,
19 Starlight Reserves, half a hundred other territorial certifications such as Starlight Sites, Starlight Stellar Parks or Starlight Trails.
More than 85 accommodations, including 5 inns, a monastery, a mountain refuge, and several campsites.
In total, more than 130,000 km2 of protected dark sky and over 1,500 professionals trained as Starlight Guides and Astronomical Monitors.
But we must continue working, strengthening links and agreements with the signatory institutions of the Starlight Declaration and with all those national and international organisations whose main objective is the protection of the night sky, promoting local, regional, national and international initiatives in defence of this heritage of all that is the starry sky.
Without stars, there is no astrotourism... But there is no astronomy, science, biodiversity, culture or health either.
Raising public awareness of the dangers of light pollution is everyone's job, especially that of professionals in the sector, who must join forces to make citizens and public administrations aware of the need for intelligent lighting, not only for the sake of economic savings and energy efficiency, but also to avoid losing such a valuable resource as our night sky.
As an example of good practice, the Starlight Award goes to the Diputación de Soria for its project to renovate public lighting in almost 70% of the municipalities in the province.
Astronomical guides are the direct intermediaries between the stars and the public participating in astro-tourism activities. In the words of astrophotographer and Starlight Astronomical Monitor Fr. Fernando Ruiz: "We accompany people to the best experience of the universe.... Which is the universe itself! That is why it is so important that these guides have quality training, such as that offered by the Starlight Foundation, which allows them to work with rigour and adapt their content, making it entertaining and giving value to the territory to which they belong.
In addition to this training, the dissemination of astronomical knowledge requires creativity, adaptability and innovation. Always looking for a way to connect with the public, regardless of their age, and to surprise them.
Currently, there are many means and tools, including technological ones, that can facilitate this work, such as audio-visual media and even AI, as Starlight Guide and Trainer Juan Vicente Ledesma explained to us.
Astrotourism is a sustainable and responsible form of tourism that combines the observation of the night and daytime sky, as well as dissemination and leisure activities related to astronomy. But it is also a resource to promote territories with fewer possibilities that see in star tourism an excellent opportunity to increase quality visitors.
A maxim when creating an astro-tourism product is the integration of the sky with the other resources of the territory... And imagination, because the stars "go with everything" (or almost everything): art, gastronomy, nature activities, etc.
The media also has a very important role to play in astronomy and astro-tourism communication, as well as a great responsibility. Handling key concepts well, knowing reliable sources and adapting their language to make astronomy and/or astrotourism appealing even to the less familiar public.
In addition, the collaboration between specialised and general media, as well as print, radio and television, with digital media, is what will make the message (e.g., night sky protection) reach a wider audience.
On the other hand, astro-tourism initiatives, especially those that belong to the Starlight network or intend to do so, must remember that the only way to give visibility and value to their stars is to work on communication on a continuous basis (never in isolation): keep their websites updated, create a brand image, and work closely with the media.
In order to promote the growth of the starlight tourism sector, it is essential to establish lines of collaboration and support between the business sector, public administrations, scientific institutions, and reference entities such as the Starlight Foundation. Taking advantage of synergies and making this emerging segment of sustainable tourism, astrotourism, grow together is crucial.