Creating a Stellar Experience for Astro Tourists, with Michael Marlin

Episode 288

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Marlin is the quintessential Renaissance man and has led a life that reads like a novel—running away with the circus, seeing the world with his juggling act, living in a tree house in the jungle, writing and illustrating a book, dreaming up an illuminated show that would go on to play internationally, inventing a one-of-a-kind toy, and building a homestead where he lives in a solar-powered house.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Michael Marlin, known as Marlin, about his fascinating role as an astro tourism consultant, speaker, and author. I was so excited to discuss what dark skies tourism means for businesses and how destinations can begin to create a story that offers an amazing experience to their visitors. Marlin also shares some examples of where destination marketers can find creative examples of how businesses can leverage their proximity to a dark sky destination.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Marlin shares how he first became aware of dark skies and how that experience piqued his interest in astro tourism
  • How Haley’s Comet led to Marlin’s interest in performance artwork in the dark, which eventually led to his founding of theatrical a touring production called Luma
  • Marlin describes how people can find places with dark sky certifications and the impact of the certification on the local travel and tourism industry
  • Some of the places in the world where travelers can find dark skies to enjoy, including Norway, South Africa, and Hawaii
  • How social media is drawing people to dark sky experiences
  • Marlin gives his advice to communities in the path of the solar eclipse in North America in 2024 on how they can prepare to give their visitors and residents the best experience possible
  • How to create a positive and cohesive experience for people interested in Astro tourism, from music to folk stories, to help tourists understand what they are seeing in the night sky
  • Some travel industry trends coming to the fore right now, including sustainable tourism and eco-tourism, and how they feed into the theme of astro tourism
  • What a business or a destination can do to take advantage of their dark skies

How Dark Skies Impact Tourism Opportunites

Visitors interested in taking advantage of the experience of visiting a dark skies certified park have to stay overnight, which is a massive boost to the local economy. Marlin suggests how businesses, including hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment venues close to dark sky parks, can create content to enhance the experience they offer to astro tourists.

Destinations need to connect the dots for visitors and create an experience for when people come out to see the dark sky covering themes such as astronomy, music, and the culture and storytelling that connects us to space and the stars above us. Marlin shares the most important things destinations can do to enhance visitors’ view of the stars, including ditching white LEDs and going back to an amber-colored light in outside areas.

Dark Skies and Sustainability

On the podcast, Marlin discusses how dark skies connect to other key themes in the travel and tourism industry, such as sustainability and climate change. He shares why people who are interested in dark skies have an interest in protecting dark skies and are therefore more likely to be drawn to those causes.

Marlin explores how central Idaho dark sky reserve, Ketchum, Sun Valley, changed their lighting to achieve a dark sky certification and how that impacted on their contribution to slowing climate change. The International Dark-Sky Association works to protect dark skies and can also provide lots of resources on dark sky friendly lighting that destinations can seek out.

Communities Near Dark Sky Areas

Parts of North America are in the path of the upcoming solar eclipse in 2024, and on the show, Marlin shares advice and insights with communities in the path of totality. He discusses how they can prepare to give their visitors and residents the best experience possible by incorporating music and folk stories into the astro tourism offering to help people connect with what they see in the night sky.


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