Students studying Travel and Tourism at Perth’s North Metropolitan TAFE have worked with five Astrotourism Towns in regional WA to develop innovative visitor packages. The Dark Sky Tourism Product Development Project is an initiative between North Metropolitan TAFE and Astrotourism WA. It has been running for four years and has proven to be an invaluable way to connect the Travel and Tourism student cohorts to the regional Tourism Industry, bringing new ideas and inspiration.

The aims of the visitor packages are to leverage the WA’s world-class dark night sky, grow local tourism economies, foster collaborative marketing, and develop new products to drive visitation to the regions.

The packages included all aspects of tourism. Students worked in teams of three or four to research stakeholders, markets, and local attractions before creating the three-night packages. The packages are fully costed and ready for implementation trials for tourism industry operators.

This year’s packages were developed across three Western Australian regions for the Shires of Dandaragan, Morawa, Shark Bay, Upper Gascoyne and Wickepin. Students worked with Local Government teams to generate trip deals such as “Star Trekker”, “Dinner Under the Stars” and “Wildflower Wonders and Celestial Nights”.

Steve Mulholland, Lecturer Travel and Tourism, North Metropolitan TAFE said, “This was a great opportunity for our Diploma of Travel and Tourism Management students to work with Astrotourism Towns and liaise their Community Tourism Managers in developing tourism packages tailored to each town. Working with real clients adds considerable value to the students learning and prepares them for their future roles in the Tourism Industry. Adding to the experience was the timing. The students were working on their projects at the time of the Total Solar Eclipse, in Exmouth, on 20 April 2023. They were inspired and motivated by the phenomena and although we didn’t get to Exmouth, we all watched it live at Yagan Square.”

Carol Redford, CEO, Astrotourism WA said, “I am impressed with the professionalism of the dark sky packages that the students collated. They looked at the Astrotourism Towns with fresh eyes, and with that has come new ways of thinking about how local tourism operators can collaborate to generate more tourism for their region.”

The students identified key assets, married these together with selected market segments and created valuable insights for operators,” she said.

North Metropolitan TAFE Lecturer in Travel and Tourism, Steve Mulholland (far left) with Diploma of Travel and Tourism Management students (left to right), Henry Thang, Tia McKay, Spike Harler, Sascha Metcalf and Haru Yamaguchi. All witnessed a livestream of the April 2023 total solar eclipse in Yagan Square, Perth.

Astrotourism WA is working with 18 regional Local Government Authorities to develop the Dark Sky Tourism sector of WA’s Tourism Industry. Together, they have not only mapped out dark sky destinations for visitors, but they are also working towards reducing light pollution to protect the night sky asset and enable international dark sky accreditation in the future. Australia has achieved four internationally accredited dark sky places, however none of these are in WA.

Carol Redford, CEO of Astrotourism WA said: “Western Australia is perfect for tourism under the stars. This is because Perth is the most isolated capital city on a continent in the world and most of our artificial light is concentrated in the small area of Perth. In a world where light pollution has destroyed the view of the stars for millions around the world, WA is sitting pretty for a burgeoning Dark Sky Tourism Industry. The recent eclipse in Exmouth has boosted awareness about WA’s word-class dark night sky and the next eclipse just around the corner in July 2028.”