Interview with José Jiménez 

To talk about Chile is to talk about astrotourism

José Jiménez 

 To talk about Chile is to talk about astrotourism

José Jiménez is Executive Director of the companies AstroÁndalus and Planetario Go, both based in Spain. He will be one of the featured speakers at the Vicuña 2023 World Astrotourism Summit, where he will talk about his experience of the northern lights in Norway and Finland. He will also take the opportunity to weave alliances with local companies to incorporate Vicuña into their tourism packages. 

How did you enter the world of astro-tourism?

I studied environmental science and for me astronomy was a hobby for many years. But as my professional career developed, I decided to specialise in that part of the environment that is hidden, which is the night. 

There I realised that very little was communicated about this reality, and that is when I found the possibility of astronomy and astro-tourism as a tool to raise awareness of our natural (nocturnal) environments for their conservation. 

You mean the conservation of dark skies?

Of course, but also the conservation of habitats that support the biodiversity of our natural areas. There are many animals and plants that are nocturnal, and the intrusion of light pollution has huge consequences for our natural ecosystems. 

The seed that led me to make the leap from the environmental discipline to astrotourism was to become aware of how fragile many of our fellow humans were in the face of light pollution.

Today you specialise in astro-tourism, and particularly in the Northern Lights. How did you come to specialise in that? 

AstroÁndalus is the first agency in Europe specialised in scientific tourism. All our travel packages have that orientation. We specialised in Northern Lights because on a holiday I went to Norway with my girlfriend and some friends and we had a fantastic experience. When we came back we said we had to set up an agency so that other people could experience the same thing, and so we did. 

What is the experience like for your clients? 

It's an arctic environment, with temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, and yet when you get under that coloured display, we have clients crying, hugging us, and screaming. 

I'm an astrophotography buff, and one of the things that motivates me to put the camera aside and enjoy the show is an aurora borealis. I've been there 25 times, and I've seen them over 90 times, but they still amaze me.


Is the future of astrotourism going in that direction, in delivering unique experiences that take your breath away? 

Absolutely, and the slap in the face that the pandemic gave us made us point even more in that direction. If all this has taught us anything, it's how fragile everything is, and that you don't know when your time is up. That's why you shouldn't fill your shower with money but with experience, and that checklist should include an aurora borealis or a sky full of stars. 

What are the points of contact between Vicuña and the rest of the world in terms of astro-tourism? 

I don't know if they are aware of it, but Vicuña (and Chile) is a world reference, not only because of the things they are doing, but also because of how good they are at collecting information and compiling data. In Spain, Norway, the United States or Finland, the meeting point to talk about astrotourism is to talk about Chile, because it has a lot of buzz. 

Do you feel that this World Astrotourism Summit will make Vicuña "sound" even more? Will it allow it to definitively become the World Capital of Astronomy? 

Undoubtedly. This is a further endorsement of the work being done in Vicuña, and will generate a synergy that will bring together relevant actors on the world scene in the field of astro-tourism.

What are your expectations? 

I'm going with great prospects of learning a lot about what is being done there, and also with the excitement of seeing an area that has made astro-tourism its flagship. But we are also going with the intention of forging alliances that will allow us to develop tourist packages in the future with companies there, which I know are very professional.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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