Astro-tourism is a new travel trend that Cyprus is beginning to embrace. The idea is to that tourists can add to their island experience by stargazing at night. The experience is at its best in the great outdoors where the light pollution of towns and cities doesn’t obscure the stars.

Astro-tourism in Cyprus is a project funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Cyprus government through the country’s Research and Innovation Foundation AKTI/ The latter hopes to promote this new sustainable tourism sector in Cyprus.

Though only in its first year, the research carried out by AKTI project and research centre and six other partners already shows promising results.

“We have measured light pollution in different places and Cyprus compares favourably with other countries,” the agency explains.

The objective is to initiate a new section in the Cyprus tourism industry by increasing the number, the quality, the expenditure of the tourists and the number of local jobs in the periphery. Within this objective, the agency aims to research and create direct and indirect experiences within real, virtual and blended augmented reality environments where the visitor could expand his or her astronomical knowledge in a practical, simple and efficient way.

This experience will be an added value tool for Cyprus, where the weather conditions secure clear skies for most of the days and nights. The overall goal is to conduct research that will focus on “beyond the state-of-the-art” innovation in the field of astrotourism leading Cyprus to be added on the world map of the astrotourism “hot” destinations and creating the proper environment to host and offer astronomy experiences for both experts and enthusiasts at an entry level.

The project has also an environmental background. “The development of artificial lighting at night has made human lives easier. However, this results in light pollution that can have negative effects on both humans and wildlife,” the agency explains.

Environmental background

Wildlife have evolved to tailor their activities to natural changes in light. A significant proportion of wildlife species are nocturnal; therefore, the artificial light has detrimental effects on them. Turtles, bats, insects, migratory birds, frogs and plants are among the victims of light pollution.

“The success of astro-tourism relies on dark skies, hence this [the promotion and implementation of a new sustainable tourism sector] would encourage the reduction in artificial light which would have positive effects on both the human population and biodiversity of Cyprus,” the agency indicates.

The project partners have already approached stakeholders such as government departments and companies, with the aim to get authorities to adopt broader measures, such as the installation of shielded lamp posts and street lights which shine directly on to roads instead of illuminating whole areas, including the sky.

During the 36 months of the duration of the project, until 2023, much is going to be accomplished, if the organisers have their way. The plan is to create astro-parks, set up astro-villages, offer astro-tours, develop a relevant programme and fill it with events.

The project consortium’s seven partners all have different expertise in relation to the project. Along with Akti, the project’s consortium includes Top Kinisis (coordinator), the Research Centre on Interactive Media, Smart Systems, and Emerging Technologies (RISE), the University of Nicosia Research Foundation, the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, Adelve and 1010 Asteroskopeion.

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