Astrotourism finding new patrons

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Friday, 8 February 2019

A recent example is the  solar eclipse on January 6. Since this eclipse was not visible from Asia, many flew to the US as it was clearly visible from there.

PUNE: One of the latest trends in tourism combines wanderlust with a keen interest in stargazing.  Appropriately called astrotourism, it includes travelling to see the northern lights or a solar eclipse.  People interested in celestial events combine tourism with some infotainment. 

People with high income and an inclination towards the stars, skies and space are fascinated by it. However, now, young couples are eager to introduce their little ones to this kind of tourism.

The astrotourism trend is catching up fast. A recent example is the first solar eclipse of this year which took place on January 6. This event caught the fancy of many around the world and since this eclipse was not visible from Asia, many flew to the US as it was clearly visible from there.

Arvind Paranjpye,  Director, Nehru Planetarium, Nehru Centre, Mumbai said, “For the past few years, astrotourism is becoming a topic of discussion. In fact, people from other countries are coming to India to watch the sky over our country as  the southern part of our country is one of the ideal spaces for sky watching because of its location. Like southern India, Leh and Ladakh are  popular destinations for watching the uninterrupted skies,” he said, adding that away from the city’s hustle bustle and lights, people can locate many stars which otherwise would be difficult to see. 

“I remember, there was a huge flux of astronomers and other amateurs to India in 1997 for watching the Magellanic cloud and total eclipse,” said Paranjape.

Earlier, besides astronomers, some amateurs or astronomy students would make it a point to visit such events, but nowadays, even travel companies add this in their itineraries. Similarly, there are tours organised by groups to visit the northern lights,” said Paranjpye. 

Agreeing that astrotourism is increasing, science enthusiast Mayuresh Prabhune said it holds importance more as an educational/informative trip, rather than mainly tourism. 

Prabhune said, “There has been increased awareness among people about astronomical events because of science institutes conducting tours, offering apps, through news, for events we need an expert to understand. This expert can tell what to see and how to see. Instead of calling it tourism, it would be viable to call such tours ‘specialised’ tours since these are expensive ones and only people who can afford it can go for it,” added Prabhune.

In short, astrotourism is a way to connect with the natural world as we spend most of our day with technology. It is a pleasant disconnect from the world of Artificial Intelligence and a way to plug back into the intelligence of the universe.

Related News