Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Geotourism Summit

This week, The National Geographic Society Center for Sustainable Destinations hosted the Geotourism Summit, an international gathering of tourism industry experts and stakeholders. The mission of this organization is to promote responsible travel to the world's most fascinating destinations through "enlightened destination stewardship." The best description of Geotourism can be found on their website: Geotourism incorporates the concept of sustainable tourism—that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations—while allowing for ways to protect a place's character. Geotourism also takes a principle from its ecotourism cousin,—that tourism revenue should promote conservation—and extends it to culture and history as well, that is, all distinctive assets of a place.

Yesterday, I enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer as a greeter at the Summit. My experience was very rewarding because it exposed me to two of my passions, tourism and sustainability. In between greeting and directing the Summit's participants, I was able to listen to a couple of the presentations. In particular, I enjoyed the panel discussion, "Geotourism At Work: Destination Stewardship Strategies." Basically, the panelist spoke on their personal and professional experiences as well as their ideas for promoting Geotourism in the travel industry. These industry experts spoke about selling Geotourism with a unique story about the destination, make it meaningful, relevant, and real to outsiders. Its really all about information sharing. Social media tools have and will continue to be critical to the Geotourism movement. The next big knowledge sharing tool will be one that is able to accurately match local knowledge with expert knowledge and make it reliable knowledge for others to read and share. The panelists also addressed the need to get our youth involved. Being that these experts are from all over the world and are very familiar with the concept of a Gap year for service and travel, they emphasized the market for voluntourism in our current global recession.

Please check out the links for more information on the Geotourism movement and the NGS Center for Sustainable Destinations.