How to Begin a Geotourism Program

START SOMETHING

Perhaps the best way to launch a local geotourism initiative is with a catalytic project—something the community can focus on. A geotourism project helps local communities discover their distinctive tourism assets while providing economic incentives for protecting those assets. A project should have a deadline, to keep participation active. Done well, such projects helps to foster local knowledge, excitement, and support for the distinctive characteristics and tourism attractions of the region.

See Geotourism Around the World for examples, such as:

  • Geotourism MapGuides or mobile apps
  • The Geotourism Magazine model
  • A geotourism-themed festival
  • Development of a geotourism visitor center
  • Geotourism storytelling
  • Geotourism education for young people
  • Official declaration of a protected or special district
  • Reinvention and rebranding the destination

FIRST STEPS

The first recommended step for launching a geotourism program is to convene the core of a Geotourism Stewardship Council. See About Geotourism Stewardship Councils (PDF).

6 Steps to Enact a Geotourism Strategy

  1. Convene a steering group of destination stakeholders to begin recruiting a Geotourism Stewardship Council or Committee. Consider holding an initial workshop about geotourism and good destination stewardship
  2. Propose a vision/mission statement for stakeholders to discuss and adopt.
  3. Adopt the Geotourism Charter or similar guiding principles.
  4. Launch a formal Stewardship Council dedicated to helping people achieve the mission in accordance with Charter principles.
  5. Adopt an initial project—with a deadline! A timetable is usually necessary for keeping the council energized and focused. Develop a funding strategy and time line for the  project. See Geotourism Around the World for ideas.
  6. Develop long-term, self-sustaining plan for the Council, so that it can continue guiding the destination’s geotourism strategy beyond the initial project.

Community visioning

One way to address these steps is with a visioning exercise in tourism management and destination stewardship. A community meeting can address these key issues:

  1. What do we want?
  2. What help do we need to get there—
    a) From our community?
    b) From a regional “Sustainable Destination” knowledge network?
  3. Who will take time to work on it?

Answering these questions will help the Council and its supporters reach steps 4, 5, and 6 with a consensus approach and plan of execution..

So who are destination stakeholders?

Tourism businesses:  Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs); large tourism-industry corporations probably less so.
Other businesses:  Supplies, services, and retail

Government: agencies for economic development, regional planning, tourism, environmental protection, culture, etc.

Civil society: Organizations for historic preservation, nature conservation, beautification, cultural associations, local agriculture, etc.

Interested people!

    • Residents (the tourism hosts)
    • Tourists (the tourism guests)
      In some cases, two additional populations may have a role:
    • Seasonal residents
    • Diaspora populations living overseas

Additionally, any field of endeavor that benefits from sense of place, from real-estate to the creative professions, may be helpful to a Stewardship Council. See Valuing Sense of Place.

What is the Council’s relation to government?
While appropriate government agencies should be at the table, government should not have a majority of membership nor the right to appoint all members. One purpose of the council is to maintain responsible tourism policies, even if the government changes, and to do so reasonably free of short-term political pressures.

To the private sector?
Any appropriate business willing to commit publicly to the principles of the Geotourism Charter and stand by that commitment is a potential Council member. Furthermore, business owners with an eye on the bottom line can help the Council keep its plans within the realm of financial reality.

Think about a long-term, self-sustaining plan right away
In most cases, a Geotourism Stewardship Council is new, umbrella-style institution and needs a way to sustain its activities. Member organizations can help a lot, but long-term planning should provide for a sufficient revenue stream that also benefits members and the destination as a whole. Business certifications, festivals, dues, marketing media—all number among various ways to do this. Experience has shown that it is important to plan for institutional self-sustainability, right from the start.