The National Geographic Society defines Geotourism as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”
The idea is that all elements of a place’s geographical character work together to create an experience that is richer than the sum of its parts, appealing to visitors with diverse interests. Geotourism builds on a destination’s “sense of place,” to emphasize the distinctiveness of its locale and benefit visitors and residents alike.
Benefits of Geotourism
- Fosters community involvement as local businesses and individuals join forces to provide a distinctive, authentic visitor experience
- Instills a sense of pride as residents discover the things about their locale they take for granted, which may be interesting to visitors
- Improves the local economy since businesses in the tourism industry hire local workers, and use local services, products, and supplies
- Creates respect for local culture and tradition. For example, foreign visitors learn local etiquette while residents learn to deal with foreign expectations that may differ from their own
Characteristics of the Geotourist
- They seek out businesses that emphasize the character of the locale
- They are environmentally aware and prefer businesses that actively work to reduce pollution, waste, energy/water usage, landscaping chemicals, and excessive nighttime lighting
- They look for quality, not quantity
- They like to learn and share what they have learned. Their stories encourage friends and relatives to experience the same thing, which brings continuing business for the destination
When residents understand the benefits of geotourism, they have a sense of duty to take responsibility for and protect the value of their destination’s assets. The foundation for this destination stewardship is embedded in the concept of sustainable tourism, which like a doctor’s code of ethics, means “First, do no harm.” Secondly, though, it means anticipating development pressures and applying limits and management techniques that preserve natural habitats, heritage sites, scenic appeal, and local culture.
Geotourism a new way to think about travel. In this framework, travel is seen as a positive force in the world we explore and success is measured not just by numbers of visitors, but by length of stay, how they spend their money, and the quality of their experience. Geotourism is also a call to action to harness the power of the traveler and invest it in the protection of the world’s unique and beautiful places.