Why geotourism matters to me
Geotourism: Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a placeâ€”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.”Â 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 â€“ 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 destinationâ€™s customs, geography, and culture.
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