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Stars shine bright for WA Tourism Industry

20 October 2021

We dropped by our Perth campus to sit in on an industry talk with Carol Redford, founder of Astrotourism WA and astronomy’s very own ‘Galaxy Girl’.

Our Certificate III in Tourism students, along with the Diploma of Travel and Tourism Management students, were thrilled to hear from Carol on all things tourism and discover the potential of our state’s dark night sky asset. Carol shared her experiences with our students and lecturers, including her journey from accidental astronomer to successful businesswoman.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

I’m Carol Redford, sometimes known as “Galaxy Girl” in astronomy circles. It’s a nickname that I’ve had since I fell into stargazing.

I owned and operated the observatory in Gingin for about five years between 2007 and 2012. In the last few years, I founded Astrotourism WA with the aim to utilise our dark night sky asset in Western Australia, increase the number of overnight stays and grow the dark sky sector of our tourism industry in regional WA.

How far out do people go if they are looking to go stargazing?

We are so lucky. Perth is the most isolated city on a continent, with 80% of our population living here in Perth. That means most of the light pollution is here, you just have to go 45 minutes to an hour out of Perth and you’re under spectacular dark skies. The further you go though, the better they get of course.

We just have beautiful, beautiful darkness – apart from growing overnight visitation and the tourism economy, the other side of this is making sure that WA stays dark. We need to make sure that we control our light pollution by pointing the light down instead of up into the night sky, that way we can protect this asset of ours. Light pollution is increasing a lot around the world and we are losing our dark skies, if we can protect it and keep it pristine, tourists will come here forever.

Why is the tourism industry so important given the current climate and challenges over the last 18 months with the Pandemic?

It’s been hard for some operators, especially those who are geared up for international or interstate tourists, it’s been really tough and that’s why the Tourism Council WA has been trying so hard to make sure they support them. On the flipside, a lot of other tourism operators are inundated, they are oversubscribed and exhausted out there. I have spoken with people out in the Wheatbelt who I work with and they have all said the caravans just keep coming in. To have the domestic eyes opened up to our wonderful regions is quite impressive. You’ve got a lot of people who are buying caravans for the first time or going camping for the first time or travelling for the first time into the regions and they are incredibly surprised. Our stunning landscape is just incredible.

It will be interesting to see what happens when we can all go travelling again. I imagine WA will quickly lose our domestic tourists and they will flock to go back to the overseas destinations that they love so much. But I think we have a real opportunity to corner new international markets and encourage them to come and see our dark night sky.

Why is it important for someone like yourself in industry to pass on your knowledge to our tourism students? Why do you think students should study tourism at TAFE?

It’s incredibly important. I’ve learnt over the years working out in the regions that having a foothold in the community and that communication and engagement at ground roots level is critical. It’s what North Metropolitan TAFE here is all about, the students here are at ground-roots level and it is so important to have this connection with them. I hope to inspire them. You just never know what minds, hearts, and souls are sitting in those classrooms. You just don’t know who you are going to inspire to build an observatory in the regions or someone to start a communications business to help operators promote themselves to international markets, all sorts of opportunities. That is why I am here today, to just inspire those minds and keep them engaged in such an amazing, vibrant industry.

What would you say to someone considering studying tourism at TAFE who isn’t sure whether to take the plunge?

Test the waters! Why not go out and try different things like going on a few tours! Of course with the intention to enjoy it but also with the mindset of ‘how could I help this person, how could they improve their business, what things could they do to engage the visitor’. I would really encourage students who are thinking about studying tourism to get out there and just do it to start with and see whether it can really inspire them to take that next step and get qualified and start a career. 

 

Are you interested in travelling and exploring the natural wonders of WA while getting paid for it? Check out our tourism courses. Applications are now open.

To learn more about Carol and Astrotourism WA, visit their website:

 

Pictured: Carol Redford, Astrotourism WA (left) and Karen Robinson, Head of Programs Art Design and Tourism (right).