Posts Tagged ‘Geotourism’

A rookie ventures into Utah slot canyons

Written by admin on May 19th, 2009. Posted in Buflife

Drying gear after Lower Eardley canyoneering adventure in Utah

Sporting my favorite Buff while drying gear after Lower Eardley canyoneering adventure in Utah.

This past weekend i had a chance to combine the ecotourism aspect of geotourism with field testing the uniquely versatile Buff headwear.

Lower Eardley Canyon may not be the tighest slot canyon in Utah but it certainly poses its own unique challenges, especially to a rookie canyoneer such as myself.

As long slogs up steep peaks are to bagging 14ers in Colorado, long slogs up hot, sandy dry washes are part of the game when it comes to canyoneering in Utah. The hike to the mouth of Lower Eardley Canyon isn’t that bad but the hike to the top is long and route-finding is challenging. Once in the canyon itself, the route is evident since there are no side canyons. After a few dry or barely wet but hoppable or wadeable pothole obstacles, comes the series of six rappels into six potholes that demand swimming. I read that sometimes, right after a flash flood when the water level in the potholes is higher, it’s possible to just jump rather than rappel into these potholes.

According to other, more experienced canyoneers, Eardley makes up in swimmer potholes what it lacks in the type of slithery tight slot passages of other popular slot canyons in Utah.

Verdicts: I look forward to my next canyoneering adventure. Trusty Buff seems a perfect choice for canyoneering headwear. Geotourism – at least that part of it that savors the natural environemnt –

is alive and well in the slot canyons of Utah.

Cruise lines appear to be sailing toward geotourism

Written by leehart on January 5th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism, Travel

Every industry has its canary in the coalmine and for travel, some would argue that cruise lines are the proverbial canary.
Travel industry pros skeptical about emerging industry trends are more willing to begin to gently embrace that trend if it can be shown that the major cruise lines are onto it.
So I thought I’d Google around and see what I could find out about the debates and tactics under discussion in the cruise industry.
March 2006. Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business publishes “From Ship to Shore: Sustainable Stewardship in Cruise Destinations.”
The report was produced by CI as part of its work through the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA), an initiative between CI and the International Council of Cruise Lines working to protect biodiversity in main cruise destinations while promoting industry practices that minimize environmental impacts.
“Although cruise tourism has the potential to overwhelm fragile destinations if not managed effectively, the industry is also a great potential ally for conservation, because many cruise passengers are attracted by the opportunity to experience new places and cultures,” stated Russell Mittermeier, president of CI, in the From Ship to Shore Foreword.
The report features stakeholder examples of tangible steps taken to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism while maintaining a destination’s natural and cultural integrity. It also offers recommendations on best practices for the cruise lines, governments, civil society and shore excursion operators.
For example, this latter group is encouraged to “form partnerships with local communities and indigenous people in order to include cultural elements in their shore excursions and implement operating procedures to minimize negative impact on the local environment and cultures.”
Feb. 2008. Geotourism was recognized as a new travel trend at the American Association of Port Authorities Annual Conference.
May 2008. Allies within the Belize cruise tourism industry signed a declaration of commitment to create sustainable cruise tourism practices. Conservation International hailed the accord between the government of Belize, the private sector, NGOs and cruise lines as the “first such document to address considerations by an established nature tourism destination,” and predicted the accord would become a role model for cruise line destinations worldwide.
June 2008. Conservation International and Cruise Lines International Association signed an agreement to renew the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance to minimize the cruise industry’s environmental footprint and protect biodiversity.
A press release about the agreement stated CI will continue to work with CLIA to develop and implement good practice standards and training tools for shore excursions, support conservation projects in key cruise destinations and raise awareness and support for conservation issues among cruise industry customers, employees and vendors.

Geotourists relish the distinctly different

Written by leehart on January 4th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism, Travel

More than a century ago the great American author noted Mark Twain opined, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
Therefore, it is disturbing to note State Department stats showing just 30 percent of Americans possess a valid passport.
Travel and interacting with people in other cultures enriches our lives and I contend that traveling with respect and humility for other cultures helps make it harder to contemplate war. Pay attention when you travel and beyond foreign language, dress, customs and religions, at the heart of it, we are share some core aspirations. People want to live in peace and want to make their world and the world around them more comfortable and safe for their friends and loved ones, especially their children.
A travel industry-wide mindset focused on pleasing everyone and making folks “feel at home” is eroding the distinctive characteristics that drew visitors to a destination or attraction in the first place. As underscored by a Travel Industry Association report, people are beginning to realize that destinations are morphing into homogenous places that offer similar experiences. Characteristics such as unique local customs and cuisines, architecture and culture are the primary draws for those consumers who take the most trips, spend the most money and produces the greatest volume of visits overall.
A pet peeve of mine on this topic is the rise of the all-inclusive resort. Perfect for time-strapped travelers and others who like a more predictable experience, all-inclusives insulate visitors from the authentic natural attractions, small local businesses, villages and towns of the “real people.”
There are other forces at work too, that if left unchecked, will lead to further erosion of the diverse and vibrant cultural fabric of this planet. Many immigrants who came to this country at the turn of the last century hid their languages, cuisine and customs in an attempt to blend in and be an American. In the same way, indigenous people, frequently shed their traditional food production and preparations, traditional attire and cultural customs in order to better assimilate into enviable Western culture.
Therefore I believe it’s important to propel the principles of geotourism, which at its core “represents restorative and reconstructive forms of tourism that enhances a destination’s natural and cultural distinctiveness, as well as provides a high-quality visitor experience.”
I am relieved the TIA study finds that the travel habits of the 55.1 million Americans who could be classified as geotourists are guided in their travel decisions by a high awareness of the world around them and have a seemingly insatiable appetite for unique and culturally authentic travel experiences that protect and preserve the ecological and cultural environment.

Geotourism: lessons from Guatemala

Written by admin on January 3rd, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

For me, culture and heritage are important components of the package that is geotourism. While it’s critical to preserve the planet and our fellow creatures, it sometimes feels to me as if not much emphasis is placed on preserving cultures. All over the world cultures are becoming extinct. Tibet is the most obvious example, but joining Tibetans are hundreds of indigenous cultures that are in danger of extinction. My favorite part of traveling is interacting with indigenous cultures. I contend they are the keepers of the world’s magic. Not magic like slight of hand, but that magic comes alive when people are still deeply connected to the natural world and all its wonders through their cultural mythology and spiritual beliefs.

The following story illustrates what I mean about magic as well as helps answer the question about “basics” of gaining acceptance in a new culture. Passing through the indigenous highland village San Andreas Xecul in Guatemala in 2001, I met TS Harvey (still a grad student then) who was studying language use and attempting to catalogue and cross-tab the different ways the Quiche Maya communicated their medical problems which varied dramatically depending on whether they were taking to a local curandero (traditional healer), sacerdote (mayan priest), or a traditional western trained doctor. To do so, Tenny had to earn the trust of the priests in particular who still carry heavy sway in villages in this area. In fact, Tenny was unable to visit the local San Simon effigy (a entirely different story but a fascinating and important Mayan deity, aka Maximon) until he was moved to a new host home or Tenny could risk eroding the trust he’d built up with the priest and associated cofradia with whom he was working closely.

Tenny said his approach to gaining the trust he needed to do his research was to let the Maya be Maya and he be true to who he was. Because of the nature of his work and trust gained, Tenny had been offered to become a priest. Doing so would have opened more doors for him and his research but he didn’t feel such a course was an honest approach. “It’s a slower road but one with more respect and one where you can sleep at night,” he told me.

Tenny told me the village was experiencing “soul loss” and that about 15 people had died mysteriously in the past two months including some young children and teens who had gone rapidly from playful, healthy kids to dead. The villagers believed shades (spirits) were wandering through the town and they couldn’t get rid of them. If you saw a shade and didn’t get treatment right away you would die. Tenny said there were no obvious clues to what had been killing the people. He said the local Mayan priests (very few Catholic priests there) were really busy either trying to eradicate the shades or tending to funerals.

Elsewhere, while “visiting” San Simon in Xecul, I noticed a villager assembling the items for his “burn.” They included the usual assortment of copal and candles as well as two cans of green chile. I hadn’t seen green chili used as an offering before and was told that chili smoke is supposed to repel evil spirits (and Conquistadors a long, long time ago). Fireworks thrown into the fire ended this prayer offering. It was explained to me that the ashes are saved and resold for those who would sprinkle them on someone whose love they hoped to attract.

In my journal I wrote that my experience during that month in Guatemala reminded me of a poster I’d seen in the States that sagely proclaimed “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

If Tenny didn’t believe in the possibility of spirits causing illness, could he have “seen” what he was studying? Could the Mayans fall sick, cure broken hearts, be healed by their Mayan priests and gods if they didn’t believe in them?

Especially when traveling among indigenous cultures I have found it’s important to suspend my Western beliefs about nature and especially God at least long enough to really see people and their daily lives and belief systems in refreshing, sometimes startling, but always interesting and enlightening ways.

Why geotourism matters to me

Written by leehart on January 1st, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

Geotourism: Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well being of its residents. – National Geographic’s Center of Sustainable Destinations

I like geotourism because I see it beyond the mere marketing niche into which some folks try to pigeonhole the concept. It’s what communities, states and countries turn to when they want to ensure that mass tourism doesn’t obscure the local landscape, water supplies, land affordability and cultural heritage and diversity.

According to a market research study on geotourism, jointly funded by the Travel Industry Association and National Geographic Traveler, “today’s traveler craves and expects authentic experiences. They want to return from a trip renewed or changed in some way.”

In it’s simplist terms, geotourism is about the rise of the “traveler” over the “tourist.”  Travelers seek out authentic experiences, local flavor, and meaningful engagement with the destinations and cultures they visit. I’ve always been a traveler so geotourism resonated with me immediately. Having spent the last few years deeply engaged in tourism marketing it seems absolutely essential to adopt and prople the principles of geotourism especially in such a naturally breathtaking state as Colorado, poster child of what many folks think of when they think of the great American West.

So i floated some test balloons. On the ground, the reaction to my idea for a geotourism initiative has been more positive than any idea I’ve ever put forth. When I explained the concept to private citizens, business owners, allied non-profit leaders, civic leaders, public land managers, history buffs and fellow tourism industry marketers and leaders nearly everyone had the same reaction. Without exception folks responded with a sigh of relief. Finally, through geotourism travelers could be encouraged to actually help improve and resolve the social conditions, environmental challengs and unique character of the places they visit. Geotourism could help make it acceptable to measure success not by sheer numbers of visitors but by the quality of their experiences. It seems clear that geotourism is the answer to the question of how to ensure a thriving tourism economy that also preserves the promise of The West and all its colorful landscapes, skyscapes and people.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Colorado’s many mountain resorts. Indeed in 2007, overnight trips totaled 28 million and overall tourism spending amounted tonearly $10 billion. The challenge for tourism promoters is to to balance inevitable progress while retaining the elements that attract so many visitors who contribute to local and state economies through direct expenditures and tax revenues that support community vitality.

Yet there are skeptics who must be convinced the geotourism pays before they’ll hop aboard one of the tourism industry’s newest niche “-isms,” (joined by agritourism and heritage tourism). Through the initiative I’ve spearheaded, I hope to prove there is marketplace interest and demand geotourism as a framework for response to these TIA stats:

71 percent of the traveling public indicates that it is important to them that their visits to a destination not damage its environment.
61 percent – nearly two-thirds – agree that their travel experience is
better when the destination preserves its natural, historic, and cultural sites and attractions.
58 percent support controlling access to National Parks and public lands so they can be preserved and protected.
53 percent of travelers agree that their travel experience is better when they have
learned as much as possible about their destination’s customs, geography, and culture.