Sophie Souyet of Amatista Travels on How Astrotourism is Creating Business Opportunities in Chile

Promoting a destination's unique assets abroad is one thing, building and maintaining those quite another. For Chile's Coquimbo region to be considered a prime location for astrotourism, individuals - entrepreneurs - need to offer the right guidance and experiences. The start-up Amatista Travels is one of those.

This February I was invited to participate in a tour around Coquimbo, during which I had the opportunity to sit down with the region's governor, and to hear first hand from Amatista Travel founders Sophie Souyet and Iván Olivares Rojas how growing interest in astrotourism is impacting their business - and lives.

Sophie, interest in Chile as destination for astrotourism is expected to grow significantly this year, due to the total solar eclipse in July which can be seen especially well in and around Vicuña, in the Coquimbo region. As a small tour operator specialized in offering astrotourism experiences, how important do you think astronomy is for the region's economic competitiveness and reputation?

We think astrotourism is growing significantly in our region. New tours appear each year, like our own company, Amatista Travels, a year ago. For us it has been an incredible experience quitting our jobs to dedicate our time 100% to astrotourism. We feel - and we can see it in our TripAdvisor comments - that we are doing an good job teaching people, in simple words, basic things about our cosmos and the universe.

In Chile people don't know much about astronomy. For us it is a mission to change people's view about the universe and to help them understand that we are part of this whole creation. "We are star dust"

In Coquimbo region there are astrotourism tours for everyone. For us, reputation is very important. We work hard to earn it: from the moment we pick up someone at their hotel, until the experience is finished. We even contact participants of our tours the day after to send them astro-photographs, social media links, and to thank them for visiting us.

We want to make a difference and we think we have done a very  good job in our first year. We hope that in a few more years our company will be well-known, so that everyone can enjoy this unique, personalized experience offered buy a young couple (us).

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Founder and editor of The Place Brand Observer. Believes in the power of storytelling to connect people, to spread ideas and to make this world a better place for all. Impact entrepreneur and founder of the Sustainability Leaders Project.