Blog-a-thon: UNESCO’s Geoparks “Clarify” Geotourism

This blog-a-thon excerpt comes from Johnathan Tourtellot, a National Geographic Fellow who writes for National Geographic’s Daily News blog.  To access the complete article, follow this link.

In a major step forward, an International Congress in Arouca, northern Portugal, has just decided what “geotourism” means. It’s been an issue. What, you never heard of geotourism? Read on. It’s about the way we travel. Sometimes it’s also about rocks.

john.jpgWhose “Geo” Goes Into “Geotourism”?
Geographers and geologists usually get along. The two fields are so closely related that universities may put them in the same department. They share the same prefix, geo-, from the Greek, ge, Earth. And that’s where the confusion started.

For the past 10 years or so, two different meanings for the neologism “geotourism” have both been growing in acceptance–in different parts of the world, for different reasons. One concept derives from geology. Dr. Thomas Hose, an English geologist, is said to have first proposed that tourism focused on geological features be called “geotourism.” In tourism-industry parlance, that’s a niche market.

The other concept derives from “geography.” National Geographic has defined 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.” (“Environment” includes geology, of course, but it’s not explicit.) This concept is an approach, rather than a focus on a single topic.

As the person who introduced that sense of the term, I am just a bit biased. The idea was for tourism to help protect places, but I knew some geologists didn’t care for the alternate meaning. So when I accepted an invitation to keynote last week’s international geological conference, I did so with some trepidation. The organizers wanted to “clarify” the meaning of geotourism. Would I be pelted with rock hammers? …Keep reading this article here!

Photo Credit: Johnathan Tourtellot

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