The Department of Economic Development is planning to build on its status as an ideal location for stargazing by asking the Manx public to nominate further Dark Sky Discovery Sites.
Laurence Skelly MHK, the Department’s Member with responsibility for Tourism said:
‘The development of specialist niche tourism markets to attract high spending visitors to the Isle of Man is a cornerstone of our strategy for the visitor economy.
‘This is proving successful with total visitor spend increasing by just over 5% to £103M in 2012, with spend by Leisure Visitors increasing by 14% to £47.7M.
‘The criteria for establishing a Dark Sky Discovery Site are that it must be away from the worst of any light pollution, provide good sightlines of the sky and have good public access, including wheelchair access.
‘Additionally, all sites need to have the approval of the relevant land owner.
‘Once we have the suggestions, we will assess and hope to submit up to 15 additional sites for approval. I would be grateful to the public to provide suggestions by the 31st July 2013 so that we can seek to consolidate our Island’s ‘dark skies’ status and hopefully encourage further visitors to our Island.
‘It is encouraging to see that further developments are in place to exploit the growing interest in stargazing and the Island, which aim to attract new visitors to the Island outside of the summer season.’
New products have already been developed in response to the award of ‘dark skies’ status. Isle of Man Railways offer ‘Pie in the Sky’ stargazing suppers at the Snaefell Summit Hotel throughout the year and the Regency Hotel are offering a Dark Skies Weekend travel package during October 2013.
Howard Parkin, Chairman of the Isle of Man Astronomical Society, is assisting the Department of Economic Development with this initiative. He said:
‘In recent years there has been a considerable increase in interest in our natural environment. This includes our own views of the Manx night skies which have been recognised as an asset that need to be protected and maintained.
The night skies over the Isle of Man are some of the clearest in Europe. This presents us with a great opportunity to promote the subject of astronomy and to make people aware of our natural environment which can help attract visitors to the Island.’
Anyone interested in nominating a new Dark Sky Discovery Site should contact Julie Colquitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01624 693858.