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Pack your bags! The DarkSky Approved Lodging Program is now live.

January 10, 2024

On January 9th, 2023, DarkSky International officially launched the highly anticipated DarkSky Approved Lodging Program.

This new program offers lodging facilities with naturally dark skies and responsible outdoor lighting at night the opportunity to join the acclaimed and growing list of places officially certified by DarkSky International.

The DarkSky Approved Lodging Program sets a new standard in the travel industry, encouraging hospitality companies to actively participate in safeguarding the night from the damaging effects of light pollution while providing their guests with an awe-inspiring and educational experience under pristine dark skies. 

The program is being launched at a time when astrotourism – tourism centered on traveling to destinations with ideal conditions for stargazing and observing celestial events – is at an all-time high. Currently estimated at half a billion dollars annually worldwide, the astrotourism industry and phenomenon has been recently highlighted in magazines such as Condé Nast TravelerForbes, and National Geographic.

Places dark enough to experience the awe and wonder of a star-filled night sky are dwindling, making such places highly sought-after travel destinations. With light pollution growing at an alarming rate, nearly 10 percent each year, 80 percent of the world’s population now lives beneath light-polluted skies (99 percent for those living in Europe and the United States).

Unfortunately, the growing astrotourism industry is being threatened by its own popularity. With more people traveling to these dark sky localities, increased tourism infrastructure is adding to growing light pollution in these often rural areas. The DarkSky Approved Lodging Program provides a trusted solution. 

With more than 210 certified places worldwide, encompassing parks, reserves, sanctuaries, urban areas, and communities, DarkSky Approved Lodging is the newest addition to DarkSky’s award-winning International Dark Sky Places conservation program. 

Developed in partnership with premier hospitality company Under Canvas, this independent third-party certification is now available to similar lodging and camping facilities that meet DarkSky’s strict guidelines that evaluate and address the impacts of artificial lighting at night, ensuring the preservation of these dark sky locations and the unique and awe-inspiring experiences they provide to their guests. 

DarkSky International is a trusted organization within the astronomy and conservation communities, with a well-known brand identity and a robust public following. Becoming DarkSky Approved is guaranteed to elevate the reputation of any hospitality company that attains this prestigious status.

Two people holding hands by a canvas tent beneath a starry night sky.
Under Canvas, Lake Powell

Becoming DarkSky Approved

What started in the desert with Under Canvas, Lake Powell has now evolved into a successful model for evaluating and addressing the impacts of artificial lighting at night. The program has been designed to preserve the nighttime environment and enhance the experience of their guests while ensuring that lodging accommodations and tourist infrastructure in dark sky locations do not threaten the natural resource that supports them.

The DarkSky approval process centers on four primary criteria: sky quality, habitat identification, lighting design, and education. Applicants to the DarkSky Approved Lodging Program must also provide a detailed lighting management plan to ensure compliance into the future.

Sky Quality

Qualifying locations must start with a night sky dark enough to allow viewing of the Milky Way with the naked eye. Sky quality measurements must be included in the application to confirm compliance and provide a baseline for annual reviews conducted to maintain certification.

Habitat Identification

Even the light of one full moon is enough to drive behavior changes in some species. It is important for DarkSky Approved Lodging to be aware of the natural environment that surrounds them, further informing their lighting strategy to protect critical wildlife habitats. 

Lighting Design

Approved locations must shield light sources and minimize light intensities to allow the human eye to become dark adapted, improving visibility and enhancing the night sky experience. Each light fixture must fulfill a specific purpose and have a set curfew realized through the use of a time clock, motion sensor, or localized control. These lighting standards are based on DarkSky’s Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

Education

All DarkSky Approved Lodgings must have plans to educate staff about their night sky sustainability efforts. Outreach materials for guests are also required to raise awareness and spread the message about the importance of preserving the natural nighttime environment.

More information available here

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