Astro-Tourism is the Next Big Travel Trend

India's Ministry of Tourism looks up to the stars to showcase the latest form of nature-based travel
Representational image At the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, an astrostay has been set up
Representational image At the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, an astrostay has been set up

The tourism industry in India is slowly but surely coming back to life. With COVID-19 cases decreasing day by day, and trains and flights resuming services, people are checking off their travel lists albeit with safety precautions.

International destinations, and hotspots in the country, are not on the cards right now. Instead, travelling to remote and less populated places is the new norm. Given this scenario, the a webinar was held on February 6 - &lsquoAstro-Tourism The Next Frontier of Nature-based Tourism&rsquo. It was organised by the Ministry of Tourism as part of the &lsquoDekho Apna Desh&rsquo webinar series.

The amalgamation of astronomy and tourism today has paved the way for a more sustainable and responsible form of travel i.e. astro-tourism. The 75th webinar of the series explored the rise of this nature-based tourism in a post-COVID world. 

Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) in collaboration with the International Astronomical Union are working towards expanding terrestrial astro-tourism in India. At the Pangong Lake in Ladakh, an astrostay has been set up. Sonal Asgotraa, Project Lead of Astrostays, said that during the day, visitors take pictures of the serene lake, and at night, the locals narrate their traditions and folk tales whilst guiding them to spot constellations. The five-member team, known as &lsquoastropreneurs&rsquo, consists of locals from the area. They are trained and equipped with a Dobsonian telescope as well as stargazing mobile apps such as Stellarium.

Kevin Govender, Director, Office of Astronomy for Development elucidated the importance of hospitality to host travelers. Astrostays provides a distinctive package that includes science, technology, tourism, and hospitality. 

Jaideep Bansal, Chief Operating Officer of GHE said that astro-tourism in India aims to create livelihoods and income opportunities for local communities in remote areas. Moreover, astro-tourism is one of the most environmentally-friendly forms of travel. The current development model focuses on economic benefits and value creation for tourists.

At present, an astropark is being developed in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh. The future of astro-tourism in India is thus, promising. As a low-maintenance resource, the night sky offers significant potential for the tourism industry.

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