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 any actual data on the economic importance of this type of tourism, the official said 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”, Rodrigues said.
Apolónia Rodrigues spoke during the first International Conference on Astroturism by Starlight, which took place in the Alentejo towns of Évora and Mourão, with international speakers and giving away of awards.
The Dark Sky Association, which integrates the organization of the conference, along with the Starlight Foundation, manages the Dark Sky Portugal Network, plus three Dark Sky reserves in the country: Alqueva, Aldeias de Xisto and Vale do Tua.
Rodrigues stressed the fact 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 improves the economy.
“We have tourism, we have a normal life without disturbance and we have businesses that can be born and grow”, he said.
This tourism sector has the potential to grow in Portugal, but it is necessary to “maintain the quality” of the tourist product, that is with a “commitment to combat light pollution.”
Áurea Rodrigues, one of the speakers at the conference, said that “the mitigation of light pollution is not a factor that should be developed only for tourism”, and that it has “direct impacts on people’s quality of life and health”.