Astrotourism “is increasingly sought after and not just in the countryside. People really want to see the sky”, said the president of the Dark Sky Association, Apolónia Rodrigues.
Without concrete data on the economic importance of this type of tourism, the official indicated that the increase in the “already specific demand” for astrotourism activities “began in 2013” and, since 2016, that it is even “more intense”.
“Currently, 30% to 40% of the demand is specific. In other words, they are not people who arrive for a holiday and then discover a Dark Sky destination, but they come because they really want to be in these places”, she stressed.
Apolónia Rodrigues was speaking on the sidelines of the first International Conference on Astroturism by Starlight, which took place, in the Alentejo towns of Évora and Mourão, with international speakers and the delivery of awards.
The Dark Sky Association, which integrates the organization of the conference, together with the Starlight Foundation, manages the Dark Sky Portugal Network, together with three Dark Sky reserves in the country: Alqueva, Aldeias de Xisto and Vale do Tua.
In 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic and “the feeling that sustainability was the future”, pointed out the president of the Dark Sky Association, Portuguese astroturism began “to have more visibility and definitively conquered the national market”.
In the case of the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, the first to be “born” and to receive certification, the activities were “always complete”, in the months of July and August, both in 2020 and this year, especially by the Portuguese, she said.
The official highlighted that this type of tourism “is not tiring” for residents of villages or rural areas, as it “does not harm the normal and daily life” of the locals and even boosts the economy.
“We have tourism, we have a normal life without disturbance and we have businesses that can be born and grow”, he stressed.
Apolónia Rodrigues noted that this tourism sector can still grow in Portugal, but stressed that it is necessary to “maintain the quality” of the tourist product, namely with a “commitment to combat light pollution”.
Also speaking to Lusa, the researcher Áurea Rodrigues, who studied consumer behavior in this area, considered that the launch of astrotourism in Portugal was a winning bet, since there are “several interested market segments”.
“There is demand from people, mainly from Northern Europe, where there is a lot of tradition in this area, and, for example, in England there are more than 20 thousand amateur astronomers and their sky is not able to observe the stars”, she explained.
Áurea Rodrigues, one of the speakers at the conference, stressed that “the mitigation of light pollution is not a factor that should be developed only for tourism”, arguing that it has “direct impacts on people's quality of life and health”.
In addition, he added, "municipalities can cut off unnecessary light sources", which, "out there, there are immediate savings".
The researcher also defended that tourists “will begin to associate territories that have a set of measures that are sustainable with those that have more quality” and that, therefore, provide “better holidays”.
“There are many rural destinations, but one that has more sustainable measures than the other and that proves that it has them will always be much more competitive than the other”, she concluded.