Businesses are being urged to prepare to take advantage of the North East’s dark starry skies.
Astro-tourism is a rapidly expanding sector for local accommodation providers, many of whom have reported increasing numbers of visitors to the region to enjoy stargazing breaks.
Now more Stars for Profit training workshops are to be laid on to help businesses cash in.
The sessions are part of the Animating Dark Skies Partnership, funded by DEFRA through the Northern Lands programme, to help develop the stargazing tourism sector.
“This is the first full observing season since Northumberland became one of the world’s biggest designated dark sky areas,” said Richard Darn, training leader and amateur astronomer.
“We know many businesses have already seen the benefit in terms of additional bookings, but we need to raise our game again to ensure our world-class skies are matched by a world-class welcome.
“This a tremendous opportunity for tourism businesses to exploit our most natural asset – unforgettable starry skies.”
Last December the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park – Europe’s largest stretching for nearly 580 square miles (15,000 square kilometres) between the Border and Hadrian’s Wall – was created.
The neighbouring North Pennines AONB is also working to expand its UK-leading network of dark sky discovery sites.
The first three Stars for Profit training courses before the summer saw over 50 campsites and bed and breakfast owners, hotels and tour guides benefit from marketing advice and tips on how to become more dark sky friendly.
One of the businesses in Northumberland International Dark Sky Park - the Redesdale Arms, near Otterburn – has been inspired to stage its first stargazing weekend this Autumn.
Owner Carrol Armstrong said: “Many of our guests visit the national park because of the starry skies. Kielder Observatory has also been big attraction.
“We are passionate about promoting our countryside and offering astronomy breaks is a natural next step. We think it will be very popular.”
In the North Pennines AONB Cathy Reynolds, of Haggs Bank Bunkhouse and Campsite, near Alston, said: “We are in the darkest corner of the North Pennines and the night sky can look absolutely astounding.
“It’s a real asset and more and more of our guests mention how beautiful it all looks.
“We want to package up some of that magic and use local astronomers to provide a real outward-bound experience of visitors.”
Training workshops are being stage at: Slaggyford, Northumberland, September 15; Once Brewed National Park Visitor Centre, Northumberland, September 16; Kielder Castle, Northumberland, October 21; Elsdon, Northumberland, October 27; Bowlees Visitor Centre, County Durham, October 28; Harbottle, Northumberland, November 10; Allendale, Northumberland, November 11; Stonehaugh, Northumberland, November 18.
For details on how to book places visit www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk and click on dark skies.
Alternatively contact Richard Darn on 0775 367 0038, or email firstname.lastname@example.org