The Dish and the Discovery Centre: science tourism in the national capital

Inspiring Australia ACT is working the tourism industry and the National Capital Attractions Authority to put Canberra’s science on the tourist map.

Amy Shira Teitel visits Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (Photo: @CanberraDSN)

Amy Shira Teitel visits Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (Photo: @CanberraDSN)

When American TV presenter and space historian Amy Shira Teitel (pictured) visited Australia for National Science Week in 2016, she couldn’t wait to get to the ACT. After all, the first images beamed from the moon landing were received at NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek tracking station near Canberra.

But space nerds aren’t the only visitors interested in Australia’s science attractions. Questacon’s market research has found that many people are interested in a taste of science while they’re seeing the world.

Inspiring Australia ACT is running a pilot program to develop Australia’s potential for science tourism. Some attractions—like Questacon, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla and the CSIRO Discovery Centre—are overly appealing to science enthusiasts.

Other attractions may have some hidden science. Could Floriade explore the science of tulips and how they got to Australia?

ACT Manager Ingrid McCarthy is talking with the stakeholders to see how science can help boost Canberra’s tourism dollar.

“We’re working with tour operators and destinations that might have some sort of science in them and asking them how we can help them,” Ingrid says.

“There’s a niche segment of the tourism market—families in particular—who are interested in learning while they’re on holidays. Scientific conferences also bring large numbers of international visitors who want to know what they can do or see pre- and post-conference. Our aim is to make this easy for tourists and tourism operators.”

“For tourists, it might be apps, maps and guides, or information on two-day adventures. Tourism operators might want our help to see the science in their products and tips on marketing it.”

Canberra is just the beginning. The stromatolites in Shark Bay on the western coast, the geology of Flinders Ranges, the underwater biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef, and the dark skies perfect for stargazing are just a few of Australia’s diverse science tourism opportunities.

Visit the Inspiring the ACT website

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