It is well known that Chile has privileged natural advantages that enable and promote the development of astronomical research, especially in the north, where there is an average of two hundred and ninety clear nights per year. That is why about 40% of the world’s astronomical infrastructure is concentrated in Chile, a figure that would reach 70% in the next decade. Without going any further, last Wednesday the construction of the newly launched Giant Magellan Telescope started, reaffirming our key position in the astronomical world.
Astrotourism arises alongside this boom, because along with the data recollection and the building of knowledge, astronomy is a science that causes broad human interest. Thus the project Astrotourismo Chile arises in collaboration with the National Tourism Service (SERNATUR), the Chilean Society of Astronomy (SOCHIAS) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), among other public contributors from the world of tourism and scientific research.
According to figures from SERNATUR, during the year 2014, over 430 thousand people have engaged in some kind of astrotouristic activity, and this new joint effort is expected to significantly increase this number. There are 129 providers of astrotourism throughout Chile, distributed between Tarapaca and Biobío. The majority of it is concentrated in Coquimbo Region (47%), followed by Antofagasta (20%) and the Metropolitan Region with 17% of the offer, which includes public scientific observatories, museums, tourist observatories that allow visitors to use telescopes, astronomical parks, planetariums, camping sites and tours, among others. Plus, one must take into account the organization of special events dedicated to the contemplation of eclipses and other celestial phenomena.
The alliance between tourism and astronomy creates a strategic virtuous circle, giving feedbacks to both parties. On the one hand, tourism contributes to the popularization of science and increase the people’s social value of this important discipline, while astronomy allows the tourism industry to expand and diversify its offer. Another major beneficiary of this initiative is the people; thanks to this, the public can enjoy comprehensive, recreational and educational activities.