The holistic geotourism approach is designed to maximize tourism benefits for a destination community, minimize negative impacts, and build a responsible tourism strategy that celebrates and builds on sense of place.
Definition of geotourism put forth by National Geographic and the Travel Industry Association of America (now USTA):
geo·tour·ism n (1997): tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.
Note—”Geology,” “Landscapes,” and other distinctive and authentic destination attributes may be added to the definition as appropriate.
This section contains information on:
- The 13 Geotourism Principles of the National Geographic Geotourism Charter for destinations.
- The Principles discussed.
- Starting a geotourism program for your community, region, or country.
- Geotourism projects worldwide, including Geotourism MapGuides, individual projects, prospective projects, and the Geotourism Magazine social-enterprise approach.
This section’s purpose:
- To provide a forum for exchanging methods and lessons learned;
- To help civic leaders introduce the geotourism approach to their communities;
- To help businesses adopt and profit from the geotourism approach;
- To encourage the geotourism approach in destination management.
NOTE: The URL www.geotourism.org leads directly to this page.
The goal is for tourism to help preserve, protect, and educate in ways that support the natural and cultural distinctiveness of appealing places and the well-being of the people who live there.
Why geotourism? Because the various types of excellent place-based, responsible tourism tend to be fragmented and perceived as niches—ecotourism, heritage tourism, geological tourism, agritourism, etc. Even “sustainable tourism” is often seen as mainly environmental. The geotourism approach is not a niche. By featuring the destination as a whole, a geotourism strategy can strengthen the case for responsible, beneficial tourism by embracing all tourism assets uniquely distinctive to the locale. Thus allied, advocates for those assets can form a constituency of stewardship. Together they have enough political and economic clout to challenge local threats to the place’s natural and cultural resources while building a unique marketing case for their destination.
OAS endorsement In 2013 the tourism ministers of the Organization of American States gathered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, declared geotourism to be the preferred approach for economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
For more about the geotourism approach, download:
- About Geotourism (PDF)
- Geotourism Strategy (PDF)
- About Geotourism Stewardship Councils (PDF)
- Geotourism Charter for destinations (PDF)
- Geotourism Code for tourism enterprises (PDF)
How to Start and Sustain a Geotourism Initiative—Some starting tips and an invitation to participate.
The Geotourism Study Read the Executive Summary of Geotourism: The New Trend in Travel, the landmark survey of U.S. travelers’ behavior and attitudes about sustainable practices, commissioned by National Geographic Traveler and conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America (now USTA). Conducted in 2002-2003, the study established that approximately half of American households that travel fit the geotourist profile—truly interested in the destination and eager to be responsible visitors. The full report is now out of print, and its findings need to be updated. Similar studies would also be welcome for other regions of the world.
For an academic account of the geotourism approach, download J. Tourtellot in Riposte Turismo (pdf).
National Geographic Videos:
What Is Geotourism? See what real geotourism practitioners have done from around the world.
“Choices” Put American audiences in a proactive frame of mind with this acclaimed 3-minute video (high-resolution version).It ironically lays out in two parts the difference between well-stewarded destinations and places that aren’t.
World Award for Geotourism At the 2011 World Travel Market in London the highest honor goes to National Geographic Traveler for pioneering work in geotourism:
Geotourism Challenge participants
From 2008-2010, National Geographic supported three open-source competitions conducted by Ashoka Changemakers and garnering hundreds of entries from around the the world. Finalists and winners exhibited notable social entrepreneurship in geotourism and destination stewardship, but all entries are well worth browsing, including the opportunity to contact and even partner with the principals.
Geotourism Challenge 2010: Places on the Edge – Saving Coastal and Freshwater Destinations
- Geotourism Challenge 2009: Power of Place – Sustaining the Future of Destinations
- The Geotourism Challenge 2008: Celebrating Places – Changing Lives
The other “geotourism”
Geotourism based on geographical character is an approach, embracing all distinctive aspects of a locale. But the word is also used to describe a niche topic, geological tourism. As of the 2011 International Geotourism Congress in Portugal, the two usages have been reconciled and clarified by the Arouca Declaration (downloadable in four languages), in effect incorporating and supporting geological tourism as an important part of the geotourism approach. Read Jonathan Tourtellot’s report on National Geographic Voices. See also Angus Robinson’s presentation in Australia 12 Nov. 2010. His co-authored article on Australia’s Red Centre illustrates how a geologically themed tour is enlivened by the same holistic approach, bringing in culture, history, and nature.