AN influx of stargazers has boosted Galloway’s economy, according to a report compiled for Forestry Commission Scotland.
Of 35 guest houses and bed and breakfast operators surveyed, 77 percent reported an increase in bed nights through the winter season, adding to a rise of more than £40,000 for the accommodation providers.
The report authors said the results represented only a partial assessment of the benefits of Dark Sky status, and the actual economic impact was likely to be much greater.
Keith Muir, FCS’s head of tourism and recreation in Galloway, said: “There are hotels running specialist weekends now on stargazing and they’re already booked up.
“We’re hearing more and more people talking to our staff out in the parks, saying that they’re coming here and they’re asking specifically about the night sky and where to go, and that has increased.
“So we’re hearing more and more that people are coming and we can see through the counters we have at different car parks that more people are going at night - we presume for dark sky gazing.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “Dumfries and Galloway is the only part of the UK that has a Dark Sky Park and it is a great asset to our region. There has been a real increase in interest in astronomy and the night sky recently, and there is no better place to experience it than in Galloway.
“I want to see the Dark Sky Park continue to be developed as part of our region’s tourism offer so we can build on its success so far.”
SNP MSP for South of Scotland, Dr Aileen McLeod, submitted a motion to Parliament highlighting the achievement.
She said: “The fact that we welcomed so many visitors to the area for the unique stargazing opportunities is fantastic but even better is the time of year we are able to do that.
“Traditionally the winter months can be slow for guest houses and B&Bs, however with stargazing season lasting from October to March this is a great boost to local businesses.
“I look forward to getting back to the Park myself and hopefully this year I’ll do a bit of stargazing as well.”