What is Geotourism?
Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of a place, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well- being of its residents. Geotourism encompasses a range of niche including adventure, nature based travel, eco, and agri-tourism, cultural and heritage travel.
Geotourism is synergistic: All the elements of geographical character work together to create a tourist experience that is richer than the sum of its parts, appealing to visitors with diverse interests.
It involves the community. Local businesses and civic groups join to provide a distinctive, authentic visitor experience.
It informs both visitors and hosts. Residents discover their own heritage by learning that things they take for granted may be interesting to outsiders. As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their locale, tourists get more out of their visit.
It benefits residents economically. Travel businesses hire local workers, and use local services, products, and supplies. When community members understand the benefits of Geotourism, they take responsibility for destination stewardship.
It supports integrity of place. Destination-savvy travelers seek out businesses that emphasize the character of the locale. In return, local stakeholders who receive economic benefits appreciate and protect the value of those assets.
It means great trips. Enthusiastic visitors bring home new knowledge. Their stories encourage friends and relatives to experience the same thing, which brings continuing business for the destination.
When done poorly, tourism can significantly damage a destination and its appeal. When done correctly, tourism can bring economic benefits and create an incentives to conserve natural assets and cultural heritage. Geotourism encourages visitors and residents alike to work for the long-term sustainability of a place.
What is the Go Blue Central America Geotoursim website?
The Go Blue Central America Geotourism website is an online platform that provides local residents and tourism businesses a powerful tool to tell their story and promote their destinations and products at a global scale alongside one of the most recognizable and trusted brands in the world.
Local residents will generate most of the content for the Go Blue Central America Geotourism website by “nominating” local points of interest, businesses and unique experiences. Each approved nomination will be featured on its own webpage within the website (including a description, photos and video, and contact information), as well as placed on an interactive map of the region.
In addition, the Go Blue Central America Geotourism website will feature other inspirational content and travel planning tools that will help attract and connect visitors from around the world to the participating destinations and their local businesses and points of interest.
Twenty-two Geotourism website projects have been completed or are underway in 16 countries around the world, and Geotourism websites average 20,000 unique visitor hits per month…with the most popular websites reaching up to 40,000 visitors per month.
How is the website developed?
Led by local organizations like the Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance and the CORAL Reef Alliance, the first step is the formation of a local ”Geotourism Stewardship Council” made up of residents, community and government leaders, environmentalists, and business owners. The Council’s overall role is to guide the development and coordination of the Geotourism website to ensure that it accurately reflects the character of that destination and its residents.
Public forums and presentations are then held throughout the region to increase local awareness of the project and to encourage local residents to complete site “nominations” of local businesses and attractions that will be featured on the Geotourism website.
Next, the local Geotourism Stewardship Council, along with National Geographic’s technical team, review the nominations, edit and verity the content, and incorporate it into a well-designed and interactive National Geographic–branded Geotourism website.
Finally, National Geographic and project partners launch a global marketing campaign to promote the Geotourism Website through its network of publications and partners, through innovative online marketing and social media channels, and through national and international press coverage.
Who will maintain the website once it is completed?
Once the Geotourism website is completed and launched, the local Geotourism Stewardship Councils continue to oversee and ensure the website’s sustainability. These efforts are supported through an ongoing relationship with National Geographic. In addition, the Council works with the project participants and local residents to continue to develop new content for the website and encourage cooperative efforts to better promote the destination as an outstanding and sustainable tourism destination.
How does Geotourism benefit local residents?
First, the Geotourism Program gives communities and local businesses a chance to share their story and market their tourism products to a global audience. By providing this market access to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, the website allows visitors to find the authentic and often “undiscovered” attractions that are truly unique to the destination and exist nowhere else. This improves the visitor experience, give visitors more things to do, and often keeps visitors at a destination for a longer period of time…something that can create benefits for everyone. The website can also increase the financial benefits of tourism to micro, small, and medium-sized businesses.
Second, the Geotourism Program highlights and celebrates those businesses and local initiatives that are striving to support sustainability and protect the natural and cultural resources that define and bring visitors to a destination in the first place.
Third, the Geotourism Program encourages more tourism businesses to adopt tourism “Best Practices” by offering sustainability training and supporting signage to all participating businesses. In addition, the Geotourism Program encourages businesses to display visitor “Code of Conduct” signage that informs visitors the various ways in which they can support Geotourism at the destination, as well as reduce their negative impact to natural and cultural resources.
What are some of National Geographic’s other Geotourism Websites?