How to Begin a Geotourism Program


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. Examples:

  • Geotourism MapGuides or mobile apps
  • The Geotourism Magazine model
  • A geotourism-themed festival
  • Development of a geotourism visitor center
  • Official declaration of a protected or special district

It’s best first to convene the core of a Geotourism Stewardship Council and then decide on an initial project.


Geotourism map-guides are the oldest projects used to promote the geotourism approach. Generally conducted as a cobranded product with National Geographic Maps, they require formation of a “geotourism stewardship council”—an ad hoc committee that brings all stakeholders to the table. Teaming up with National Geographic is not necessary—a university or neutral nonprofit organization can play the same role—but the Geographic name, while commanding a premium price, does help get people to the table, generate media attention, and spur excitement about the project. See Geotourism MapGuides for more information and a complete list of MapGuide websites.

Geotourism Magazine This new social franchise model from Montreal offers a way to for tourism to combine community benefit with civic participation and geotourism marketing. Read more.

Other types of projects Various destinations are experimenting with different catalytic projects that can help develop a geotourism mindset, a constituency of stewardship, and corresponding economic benefits and improved quality of life. Lake Tahoe has organized a multisite geotourism festival, Greater Yellowstone and the Kakheti Region of the Republic of Georgia are looking at possible Geotourism Visitor Centers, and many places are seeking official protected status for their geotourism assets including of course, at the highest level, the UNESCO-maintained World Heritage List. With local philanthropic support, Fogo Island, Newfoundland is building itself into an artist retreat and cultural center by adapting traditional materials, foods, and design distinctive to the place.

Other geotourism projects and initiatives around the world

OAS San Pedro Sula Declaration (pdf): Organization of American States declares geotourism the preferred model for Western Hemisphere countries.
Alaska geotourism initiative
Mongolia rural geotourism
Rhode Island, USA
Brasov, Romania [completed]
coastal voyager ships, Norway    
Cook Islands, South Pacific
Carriacou, Grenada
Bocas del Toro, et al., Panama
Tibetan/Szechwan, China

Namibia video to come

Getting Started

The first recommended step for launching a geotourism program is to form a steering committee for convening a full Geotourism Stewardship Council. See About Geotourism Stewardship Councils (PDF).

A new start-up kit, in development, will explain further how communities can pull together to launch a geotourism program. Sections will cover

  • Recruiting a Geotourism Stewardship Council or Committee,
  • Holding an initial workshop,
  • Defining the destination and goals,
  • Developing a funding strategy and time line for the first project,
  • Planning for the long term

Contact us if you want to receive a copy.