Changing Planet

UNESCO’s Geoparks “Clarify” Geotourism

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.


Whose “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?


A Tale of Two Uses

Geologists in the late 1990s who saw the growing emphasis on ecotourism and protection of wildlife habitats were understandably eager to extend the same interest and protection to their own items of interest—everything from arches, fossils, and outcrops to historic mines and wine-producing terroir. Over the past decade, the UNESCO-affiliated geoparks movement began to highlight geological tourism. A geopark is not a park in the North American sense, but rather a classification of a place with both towns and notable geological features. Most geoparks are in Europe and China, but other countries are beginning to add their own. The municipality of Arouca is one such geopark and also the host of the November 2011 International Congress of Geotourism.

Roofs of free-form slate cap houses in the village of Paradinha, Arouca Geopark. (Jonathan Tourtellot)


By the late 1990s, “geographical character” also needed attention. World tourism had increased 20-fold since the mid 20th century (and has doubled again today). Done wrong, mass tourism was ruining places, but done right, tourism could help protect a destination from irresponsible development, exploitation, and other pressures. By National Geographic’s broad definition, geotourism is a tool for managing both tourism and destination stewardship holistically, supportive of both the visitor and the place. (If you turn to sources like National Geographic and local websites for your travel ideas, chances are you yourself are a “geotraveler.”) This approach combines responsible economic development with an appreciation for conserving, protecting, and celebrating the things that make a place special, including geological things. Geotourism map-guide programs and other projects are underway from Newfoundland to Guatemala and California to, yes, Portugal— the Alto Douro Valley, near Arouca.


A Need for Clarity

In Arouca, I got a surprise. Several geopark leaders were eager to embrace the broader definition. A major reason was that, along with promoting geology, geoparks are supposed to help local economies, i.e., “the well-being of residents.”

It seemed that in some cases, dedicated geologists—presumably consumed by enthusiasm for their field—were unduly optimistic in that regard: They imagined communities would reap riches from the floods of geotourists coming to admire their arenitic sandstones and mafic dykes. Well, not so many, it would turn out. To make things worse, those tourists who did show up might well be confronted by interpretive signage loaded with technical language suited to a second-year geology class. Such as “arenitic sandstone” and “mafic dyke.”

Another reason: Increasing numbers of higher-education courses and degrees in geotourism also prompted the need for clarification, as students are now committing themselves to dissertations in this new field. Several were in attendance at the Congress.

Three keynote addresses—not just mine—emphasized the value of bringing culture, nature, history and scenery into the tourism equation.

Arouca Geopark itself is a good example of how this works. Its several “geosites” include a slate quarry rich in fossils of giant trilobites and a curious formation seen nowhere else: “Rocks giving birth to rocks”—granite that releases nodules of biotite as it erodes. According to folklore, local  women thought the puck-size nodules promoted fertility.

But Arouca’s other cultural and natural connections are just as interesting: wines dependent on the terroir, flavorful beef from cattle raised in the mountains, lots of scenic hiking trails, a magnificent monastery made from local granite, and striking village roofs of free-form slate. You might not visit Arouca just for trilobites, but you would for the whole experience.

António Carlos Duarte, the Arouca Geopark manager, indicates a “Rock giving birth,” the pock marks showing where biotite nodules have popped out of the granite. The cornerstone came from Arouca’s “Pedras Parideiras” formation, unique in the world. (Jonathan Tourtellot)


What emerged from the Congress was the Arouca Declaration, written by attending European geopark leaders and delivered November 12, 2011 by Margarida Belém, president of the Arouca Geopark Board of Directors. In part it says, “We recognize that there is a need to clarify the concept of geotourism. We therefore believe that geotourism should be defined as tourism which sustains and enhances the identity of a territory, taking into consideration its geology, environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents. Geological tourism is one of the multiple components of geotourism.”

The dual geotourism concepts, of course, remain, but their relationship is now clearly established. After all, geologists have devoted careers to geological geotourism. One of them, Ross Dowling, of Perth Australia, first suggested to me the “type” versus “approach” distinction between the two concepts. I think he’s right. If I may steal and adapt a page from Einstein’s theories of Special and General Relativity, we could think of “special” and “general” geotourism. Special geotourism is just that: a specialty focused on  geological features. General geotourism is a strategy for protecting, showcasing, and enhancing all the distinctive assets of a destination.


Geotourism Is What You Make of It

Portuguese folk dancers perform at the Arouca monastery. (Jonathan Tourtellot)

So I suggest that anyone with geological attractions and sustainable intentions add “geology” to the National Geographic geotourism definition if they so wish:  “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, geology, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” Geoparks may even want to list geology first, as the Declaration does.

Personally, I happen to be a fan of geology. Better understanding of deep Earth history certainly can help us gain a better perspective of the time it took to develop the planet we have today, and the value of the places on it.

Besides, the granite buildings are striking, the slate villages charm, and the wine tastes fine.

National Geographic Fellow Emeritus; Founding Director, Nat Geo Center for Sustainable Destinations; former Geotourism Editor, National Geographic Traveler; CEO, Destination Stewardship Center; President, Focus on Places LLC
  • Ross Dowling

    A great account of geotourism and I agree that it should be viewed as an approach to tourism rather than as a special niche. Central to the whole ‘geotourism definition debate’ is that it is the Abiotic (A) features of the environment, that is, the geology and landforms (together with climate of course) which underpins the Biotic (B) elements of flora (plants) and fauna (animals), which in turn shape a region’s Culture (C) that is, the past and present human activities. It is my contention that in this ‘ABC’ approach to the environment, it is the ‘A’ element that is least understood, yet is foundational to our understanding of the environment, and tourism related to it. Thus any attempt to put a greater emphasis on the Abiotic features of the Earth, that is, the geological elements and landform features, is welcomed. This approach to tourism is worthy and also encompasses a more narrow niche ‘geological tourism’ form or type of tourism, that will be of interest to those largely interested in things to do with the Earths’ landforms and the processes which shaped them.

  • John Conway

    The Arouca declaration is welcome in stating explicity what geotourism embraces – equally welcome is the insertion of the crucial word ‘geology’ into hte National geographic definition
    What is not made clear in either statement is the meaning of the phrase ” the well-being of its residents”. Does this mean treating them as part of the attraction? Does it mean conserving and not ‘damaging’ them like the geoheritage? Surely Geotourism should embrace some element of sustainable community development – ie the tourists should provide some benefit to the local community – through employment, or purcahse of goods made locally or using the services of local people. Access to the geoheritage is frequently free of monetary charge but may well “cost” the local community in other ways [being priced out of the housing market for example] or the tourist expenditure may leave with them in the pockets of international tour companies. Where is the defined benefit to those who implicitly own [or as some first nation peoples would say ‘belong to’] the land???

    • Jonathan Tourtellot

      “Well-being” does mean sustainable community development. It’s essential, including the ability of the community to manage tourism on its own turf and engage with visitors on its own terms.

  • Claudia Vaz Ferreira

    Thank Jonathan for your presentation about the concept of geoturism at the Arouca congress which I attended. As a tourism student and professional , I glad that this approach of geoturism refers that geoturism is not only about geology but as it is said “geographical character of a place—its environment, geology, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents”. Best Regards

  • Maria Helena Henriques

    Thank you for this excellent article which can be used as a resource in education on geosciences in secondary schools and at the universities, as it shows some main values on the geological heritage of Arouca region and explains how they can be used for geotouristic use.

  • Maria Helena Henriques

    Thank you for this excellent article which can be used as a resource in education on geosciences in secondary schools and at the universities, as it shows some main values on the geological heritage of Arouca region and explains how they can be used for geotouristic purposes.

  • Fernando Manosso

    Somente agora percebi que quando a declaração de Arouca diz em seu item 1, “…considerando sua GEOLOGIA…” acho que de acordo com as apresentações realizadas no congresso e a tese de geoturismo defendida pelos palestrantes, que a palavra GEOLOGIA, nesse caso, deveria ser substtituída por GEODIVERSIDADE. Uma vez que o termo geodiversidade não aparece em nenhum momento na carta de Arouca.

  • Carlos Neto de Carvalho

    Once again we missed the point to clarify (and not just “clarify”) what Geotourism should mean by definition. The Tourtellot’s National Geographic definition of geotourism “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents” is obviously a big basket where very different aspects of tourism approach, behavior and niches are mixed together. Certainly we may find there the sustainable tourism approach that was developed after the Rio Earth Summit, in 1992, and this should be followed by any tourism activity, despite the type of tourism we are talking about (well, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development is nowadays (or should be )almost in any development politics). The same is the case for Responsible Tourism, which can be seen as a behavior that enhances the well-being of a region’s residents by engaging local communities and attributing responsibilities to stakeholders in tourist development project decisions (see the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, from 2002). Finally we find well established, well defined but different types of tourism inside the definition of National Geographic, from Ecotourism to Cultural Tourism. So, besides a nice brand for National Geographic supported tourism projects of many different kinds, what Geotourism really is? It is for me clear, from our experience with tour operators and very different kinds of visitors that National Geographic Geotourism definition, and now reinforced by the “Arouca Declaration”, is misleading or, at least, confusing. Here I fully agree with the comment of Ross Dowling. Geotourism is geological tourism, where geodiversity, fundamental to support ecosystems and the building block of outstanding landscapes or human cultures, is highlighted through the geological heritage. Everyone knows geological world-famous tourism destinations, such as the Grand Canyon or the Etna volcano, and it is not really needed to know the geologist jargon to be wondered by the “mafic rocks” of the Iceland (geological) landscapes. The geologist may bring a more comprehensive understanding, both in space and time, about what make us travelling for. So there are millions of tourists travelling nowadays to experience geological wonders. Is there any problem to define Geotourism as a tourism niche of Ecotourism, such is Ornithological Tourism? Since 2000, 87 geoparks spread by almost all continents prove everyday that geological tourism, the geotourism, can be of great result for the sustainable development of their territories. As it can be found in the European Geopark Network Charter protection of geological heritage may create new tools that are used by local communities as alternative for development, usually through a sustainable tourism approach. But in a Geopark do we find only geotourism activities? Of course not! I’m a leader of Naturtejo Geopark under UNESCO and, as in many other geoparks or other geotourism destinations, most of them did not participated in the Arouca Declaration, we provide new experiences in cultural tourism for thousands of visitors, ornithological or gastronomic tourism for specific, but highly profitable targets. But what we realize is that are the geological wonders and the new approaches to geotourism, in the frame of the Global Geoparks Network, the “umbrella” for distinguishing the destination in a very competitive industry such as tourism. This “umbrella” works better by establishing bonds between different tourism niches and by developing both local and international cooperation networksm among rural areas.
    So, unlike Jonathan Tourtellot reports, and Arouca Declaration establishes, Geotourism cannot be” what you make of it” and certainly is always about rocks…and people!

    • Jonathan Tourtellot

      For the record, what we have been calling for convenience “the National Geographic” definition was coined by Jonathan Tourtellot and Sally Bensusen, independently of Dr. Thomas Hose’s geological meaning. Tourtellot later proposed the concept to National Geographic. It is derived from “geographical character,” also known as sense of place, integrity of place, identity of place, etc. It is indeed intended to serve as an umbrella, taking in all distinctive attributes of a place. Although National Geographic does use the word, appropriately, for community-participation map-guide projects, the “geotourism umbrella” is a concept, not a brand, and is available to all. Its first public appearance as such was on the cover of a study conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America (now USTA). Used as an umbrella, it is not necessarily about rocks, but can always include them if noteworthy. In geoparks, of course, rocks are a starring attraction. Either way, we wholeheartedly agree it is always about people.

  • Virgílio Faria

    Gostei muito de vêr a foto da Aldeia da Paradinha neste espaço.Gostaria de vêr também aqui publicadas as fotos dos “ASAPSÍTIOS” da Associação Amigos da Paradinha. Parabéns a todos os que protegem a natureza.

  • Tom Hose

    I would gladly have keynoted and given an account of its development and evolution to the conference, as the originator of the term geotourism to mean geological tourism, had its organisers had the foresight to actually send me that invitation . . . Leaving it to others to bring up one’s intellectual baby, and in its early years I was seemingly it sole source of succour with many fellow geologists actually hostile to it at various geology conference presentations, does not always achieve a wholly satisfactory outcome for the father!
    My development of geotourism arose as a direct result of noting that the loss of geosites was not something, unlike the loss of a wildflower meadow or ancient woodland, that aroused the concern of the public. It was clear that there was little public understanding of the scientific and cultural significance of geosites, let alone their potential tourism revenues. My doctoral thesis was the first to consider geotourism, as geological tourism, as a field of academic study and it looked extensively at the efficacy of interpretative provision and the use visitors make of geosites – not always those intended or expected by providers! I will always be grateful to the late Michael Stratton of the Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham for initially nurturing my early academic studies on geotourism; likewise to the numerous colleagues, such as in Dudley and what was to become the Jurassic Coast, who gave me access to their sites and shared their thoughts on geoconservation and tourism. Geotourism gained UK-wide recognition with the first anywhere in the world dedicated national geotourism conference, with international attendees, in Belfast in 1998. The original UNESCO Geoparks Feasibility Study, published in 2000, specifically employed both my original 1995 definition and freely quoted with some acknowledgement from my published work, thus establishing the primary geological basis of geoparks. On a similar thread, my early development of geotourism was as a potential means to provide funding for geoconservation and to engage with local communities so that they would recognise and benefit from the economic spin-off.
    Lamentably a very heavy teaching and administrative workload at my former university prevented my authoring the book I had long intended to write. Thus promoting an approach generally supportive and inclusive of my own to geotourism was left to those editors and authors at two geographically close Australian universities with more free time, greater funding and very supportive senior colleagues. Indeed, I was delighted to be asked to twice show one of them some of the key English geosites and to share my often unpublished thoughts with him on geotourism; a hospitality offer warmly repaid, and gladly acknowledged by me, at the Perth conference some years later. However, at that conference’s closing session I must admit that I cannot recall, as several delegates commented at the time, being invited as the term’s originator by its organisers to the on-stage closing session to help explore and define the future of geotourism!
    My chapters in the Australian edited books and various other books (including four for the Geological Society of London), published conference papers and journal papers have sought to emphasise the relationship that must exist between geotourism and geoconservation; one of these drew early attention to the niche nature of geotourism. In recent years I have given some attention to the historical antecedents of geotourism in Britain and Europe, as well as in Tasmania. In England these antecedents can be traced back to the late seventeenth century. Mine and cave tourism is a lot older than many practitioners realise! Equally, concerns over the exploitation of the geotourism resource, and hence early thoughts on sustainable (geo)tourism, can be traced back to at least the eighteenth century. It might also be argued that geologists were perhaps the first group to recognise the finite nature of natural resources.
    Late next year the Geological Society of London is hosting a conference that will enable academics and practitioners, geologists and non-geologists – indeed the intention is to have a broad range of papers and attendees – to examine the history of geotourism. Entitled “Appreciating Physical Landscapes: Geotourism 1670-1970” [see for details] the conference will recognise and explore the pioneering geotourism work in Britain and Europe and later in Australia and America. It is intended to encourage its greater study and the call for papers has just been issued. The conference will be followed by at least one field excursion to explore key early coastal geotourism sites in southern England.
    Geotourism has pleasingly not stood still and my own writings and definitions have evolved in the light of personal and shared experiences, but fundamentally geology lies at the core and not the periphery of geotourism. Meanwhile, if the rules of scientific precedence applied to the humanities, with the publication of the definition of the geological basis of geotourism in 1995 (and it had been presented at a conference in 1994 in the USA!) National Geographic, as a latecomer in 2002, would be asked to find another term for their geographical approach to tourism; just a thought!

  • John Conway

    I favour a more overt reference than “well being” in the geotourism definition. The geopark movement has always focussed on sustainable development – i.e. promoting the local economy, local employment etc. We see it in some geoparks or high touristic areas that either there is little or no income generation – e.g. day visitors bringing their own food etc. – or that the income primarily goes to large companies, maybe even foreign companies. One of my MSc students did his research on the potential of Victoria Falls becoming a geopark and found the view of the local community was that they only get the menial low paid jobs and that the main tourism business is with internationally owned hotels or integrated travel companies. Hence huge numbers flow through, little income reaches the local people – and if you take some of the ‘first nation’ philosophies – it’s the people and the land that are intimately associated, not by people ‘owning’ the land in a western economic sense but by being part of the land – yet we see tourists flowing through, taking advantage, maybe causing environmental damage, but contributing nothing in return. I don’t advocate paying to see the landscape as happens in US national parks [I spent the summer touring the western US states, trying to stay in small local hotels and eat in local cafes etc. rather than letting a tour company pre-book hotel chains] but prefer the UK model where we visit an national park without barriers, and so hope that people will spend in local cafes & hotels etc.

    I suspect many ‘locals’ would be happier if there were no tourists because they do not benefit, they suffer from transport, crowding, inflated prices, ultimately risking being forced out as housing is effectively reserved for those rich tourists who will pay for holiday rental or second homes. In some UK areas tourism could actually be a disaster for the local community.

  • Linnea Iantria

    The definition is one that I truly welcome, as someone who was the architect of one of the first B.S. Degrees in Geography with a concentration in Geotourism. In May of 2012 we will graduate ten young men and women who possess the skills that can help communities look at the pros and cons of tourism, and evaluate their tourism assets. When designing this degree, we looked at the ultimate goal of providing graduates able to look tourism development as protecting not only the natural assets of a community, but its culture, heritage and aesthetic assets as well. It was essential that these students understand that each community has a unique tourism position, and, in fact, some communities have no tourism position at all. It was important that we place the same emphasis on an asset of geologic significance as we do on unique cultures and traditions. I believe that this declaration clarifies the overall importance of recognizing all assets of a community’s tourism potential equally. I also believe that this helps define the need to involve the community in the tourism process, not just involve the needs of a single entity. A community must benefit from tourism in order for that tourism development to be successful. Having consulted on tourism to a number of communities, I find the most successful – in all ways – are those communities who welcome tourism in a positive manner, while putting controls in place so that tourism will have a minimal negative impact on its citizens. This definition recognizes the value of viewing tourism impact in a holistic way, and also recognizes the value of protecting the very assets that tourists come to see.

  • Tom Hose

    In developing, defining and promoting the geology-based approach to geotourism – and one that predates by several years the National Geographic unsurprisingly geographically approach – I did so from the background of having an initial joint honours degree in geology and geography; hence it cannot be suggested that I am unable to understand both sides of the debate that really should not even have been launched if National Geographic had done its homework at the outset. Having worked in museums (in natural science curatorial and education posts), schools (as a head of geology), and finally in a university in leisure and tourism I believe, even setting aside I was the first to define and publish the term (not to mention the slight matter of submitting the first doctoral thesis anywhere on geotourism), I am well qualified to examine the debate for geology-based versus geography-based geotourism. It is perhaps worth pointing out at that in England, perhaps unlike mainland Europe, geography only became a discrete recognised university discipline in the late 19th Century, whilst geology had achieved such status somewhat earlier – is this for geotourism history repeating itself?!
    I have already given several conference keynotes and presentations, let alone written a small number of publications, in which I have addressed the issue of the supremacy (by precedence and widespread usage, especially in Europe and by UNESCO) of the geology based approach to geotourism. If the world’s oldest national geological society, the Geological Society of London (founded in 1807) was happy to publish the term in its publications that included my contributions prior to the National Geographic launch then it should be obvious that geotourism as a geology based and focussed activity was already well enough established in the UK and Europe. Colleagues such as Jonathan Tourtellot in the USA would have to have tried pretty hard not to have identified that the term was already in fairly widespread usage in the geology community and with some inroads into the tourism industry, unless of course they had parochially restricted their overview to just the USA!
    The geographical approach advocated by National Geographic is essentially a re-branding and lumping together of already established, and well recognised in the academic tourism literature, niche tourism market segments. National Geographic has shown itself superb at branding and selling its approach, with countries such as Norway signing up to the associated Geotourism Charter, but it still does not mean that their approach is widely accepted or valid; the Charter seems anyway to build upon already common and promoted sustainable tourism practices sometimes badged in other ways by different organisations. The geological approach I have put forward, and which has been supported by colleagues in Europe, Australasia and South America, is a new one but with connections and antecedents in recent and historic tourism provision which I have explored and acknowledged. Perhaps National Geographic in order to fully and freely air the debate would be prepared to publish articles by geologists promoting the geology based approach in ‘Traveller’ magazine? I would be delighted to oblige and could almost send in something by return of post, although I’d be happier to have just a bit more time to write the sort of measured article for which I believe I am known!
    Just to whet the ‘Traveller’ magazine Editor’s appetite for the ensuing debate I will close with the latest definition of geotourism due to be published in Europe this month in a geographical journal volume dedicated to geological geotourism: “The provision of interpretative and service facilities for geosites and geomorphosites and their encompassing topography, together with their associated in-situ and ex-situ artefacts, to constituency-build for their conservation by generating appreciation, learning and research by and for current and future generations.” It even includes a sustainable tourism component, just like the first geological geotourism definition (Hose, 1995)!

    • Jonathan Tourtellot

      This discussion is of academic interest, but it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize: Protection of places. To my knowledge, no one disputes Prof Hose’s chronology (although early “widespread usage” may be debatable), but today both meanings of geotourism are in play. Both can be regarded as legitimate derivations, unless the entire field of geography goes back to the Greek dictionary and renames itself on the ground that “geology” got there first.

      What’s more, both geotourism concepts are mutually supportive.

      The purpose is to use tourism to protect places, while educating the public and providing local economic benefit. Here’s a case in point. Ironically, my last feature in National Geographic Traveler (a travel magazine, not an academic journal) happened to be about a geologically themed trip across Iceland: “Life Atop a Cauldron,” April 2011. In that story I note Icelanders’ debate about plans for a geothermal plant amid the Gjástykki fissure swarm, on the active spreading zone in northern Iceland. The matter is currently in play. One can imagine Icelandic advocates using the geological geotourism focus to suggest protecting the area for its pure value as a geosite, which is considerable. One can further imagine using the geographical-character geotourism approach to bolster that argument economically with a broader tourism appeal that also includes the region’s saga-related heritage, its notable bird-watching, its dramatic scenery, and such cultural folklore as the “13 Yule Lads.”
      Strengthening tourism appeal was, I believe, the intent of the Arouca Declaration. Academia’s most helpful role would be urgently needed actionable research that helps local advocates make the case for tourism-supported protection of distinctive places, geological or otherwise.

  • Tom Hose

    Perhaps to show something of the nature and thinking behind geologically based geotourism as developed in Europe it is worth noting some portions of the text of a Geological Society of London published book chapter, ‘Geotourism, or can Tourists become Casual Rock Hounds?’:
    “This chapter summarises a theoretical framework for research on geology and tourism – geotourism – and the results of early visitor studies undertaken at interpreted earth heritage sites within England. In presenting it the author is keenly aware of the disparate perceptions and needs of at least two distinct groups of likely natural heritage researchers and managers. These are: professional earth scientists generally interested in the academic, educational and research value of a site, but with little or no knowledge and/or interest in either more popular approaches or tourism; and heritage and conservation managers with a limited knowledge of earth science conservation and with some understanding of the tourism industry and of attractions management” (Hose 1996, p207);
    “Geotourism offers both a new packaged tourism project and the potential to constituency-build for the earth sciences and earth heritage conservation.” (Hose 1996, p211);
    “Geotourism, unlike many other forms of tourism is not limited by the seasons; it has the potential to extend the nature and timing of tourism provision. It also offers an alternative attraction to relieve visitor pressure on other natural and cultural heritage sites.” (Hose 1996, p211).
    The chapter more or less concluded with a quote the thrust of which might sound very familiar to anyone who has followed the geological versus geographical geotourism issue:
    “At the heart of tourism is the concept of travel; a chance to see new and strange sights, to learn about other places of the world, and to talk to others with different cultures and viewpoints. . . For many people seeking a cultural return from their travel the educational opportunity is a real motivation for their touristic perambulations.” (Ryan, 1991, p27).

    Quite clearly aspects of sustainable tourism, and economic and community benefits are implicit within the chapter text. The text also discussed visitor/tourist typologies employed in Europe and the USA. The particular text can be cited as: Hose T.A. (1996) Geotourism, or can Tourists become Casual Rock Hounds? In Bennett, M.R. (ed.) Geology on your Doorstep. London: The Geological Society. pp 207-228.

  • Bahram Sadry

    Jonathan’s presented concept could be coining and called with other words such as G-Tourism or Sus-Tourism or even good –tourism, because it’s not a brand. Please find out more at: geotourism misconceptions/
    On the other hand The concept of identity of a place , geographically ,emerges on geopark philosophy and it seems that there is no need to any insisting on sustainability with coining confusing things and words, because coining the word “geographically tourism” as sustainable tourism concepts seems to be a journalistic action and not an academic investigation on a new branch of sustainable tourism in the 21 century, such as abiotic nature sustainability investigations by experts in the world .

  • Sam Scriven

    From a practical point of view retaining the geological focus of the term ‘geotourism’ seems preferable to me. The whole idea has a specific agenda and that is the promotion of geological heritage with the aim to generate suport for its conservation. This is something that is sorely needed.

    The problem is that the lack of understanding and even willingness to understand value of geology means that it could find it difficult to hold its own within a holistic apprach. Wildlife, culture and the aesthetic aspects of landscapes are easier to promote to tourists and if the National Geographic definition is used geotourism will inevitably be drawn towards these areas taking focus away from the rocks.

    We need that special focus still because although there is an established movement to designate geological sites, especially through geoparks, there remains a good way to go before geological conservation is regarded in the same way as environmental or wildlife conservation. The message needs to remain clear: Rocks are worth thinking about, worth learning about and worth looking after.

  • John Conway

    Interesting as this debate is about terminology, i welcome those comments that direct us back to the fundamental issue which is recognising the value of geology in the understanding of our home, our planet – where all our resources come from, and in particular how we must conserve a planetary system that sustains us. Nice view, cuddly furry things and hte like are interesting, but Geotourism as coined originally by Tom Hose and promoted by the Geoparks is about valuing the planetary system, understanding how it works, and conserving important examples where we can see this and show it to others to increase their understanding, not just gaze at it!

    • Jonathan Tourtellot

      Presumably everyone in this discussion wants tourism to recognize the value of geology. It’s a fine idea. Tourism, however, is an economic undertaking and depends on people who are spending their money to enjoy a holiday.
      Now imagine two geoparks of comparable variety and number of communities. Geopark A markets itself thus: “Come admire our scenery, taste our food and drink, listen to our music, hike in our hills, watch our wildlife, and discover our fascinating rock formations!” Geopark B concentrates on the rocks, asking only: “Come discover our fascinating rock formations!”
      Which is more likely to increase popular appreciation for geology? Geopark B sings to the choir. Geopark A uses the geotourism approach (geographical character) to get people in the door. Once there, tourists will appreciate the story in the rocks if practitioners of topical geotourism (geology) tell it well—beginning perhaps with how those savory local dishes and subtle wines relate to what lies beneath the visitor’s feet.

  • Marcos Nascimento

    Dear Jonathan Tourtellot
    I agree with you. Of course, the Geopark is the most interesting and important to say we can.
    But those of us working geotourism and its Geodiversity just want it to be preserved, enhanced and interpreted to society. And not only used as a contemplation of the landscape.
    We value our geodiversity and geotourism / geopark it helps a lot.

  • Bill Witherspoon

    Dear Mr. Tourtellot,
    Your article and accompanying discussion make interesting reading. Unfortunately when one does a Google Search on “Geotourism” by itself, there is still little or no hint of the earlier geological sense of the term (first published by Tom Hose, though I’d swear I have heard geologists using the term as early as the 1970’s) which your article acknowledges, and no sense of the lively ongoing discussion that can be read in the responses. (I found this article only after searching on “geotourism geology.”)

    Would someone who has been in on this discussion longer than I undertake to work on the Wikipedia article, which is the third item I found on my Google search, and the first place I turned to for help after coming up empty in

    • Jonathan Tourtellot

      Ironically, when I first submitted the Wikipedia entry, I included not only the National Geographic definition, but also both the geological definition and a lesser-known geocaching usage. For reasons unknown to me, a Wikipedia editor deleted the other two meanings. Seems to me they should be restored.

  • Bill Witherspoon

    Thanks for your response. I could tell looking at “history” that the Wikipedia article had begun with 3 definitions (the 3rd relating to geocaching) and that someone had curtailed the other two. Thanks for explaining that you had begun the article and that an administrator had made that change. One way to reinstate your original intent in this matter would be to begin with a “disambiguation” and a branch to a stub article on the “geological” sense of the term. Those who use the term in that sense could flesh out that article as you have the geographic definition. Alternatively, since in this (Nat Geo) article you seem to be seeking a compromise that brings geology back into view, you could edit the existing Wikipedia article yourself. You could at least replace the article’s definition with the one you put forward here: “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, geology, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” An additional paragraph acknowledging the Hose definition and the point of view that geotourists gain an understanding of how geology undergirds a place’s unique character is also desirable.

  • […] Accordingly, geopark managers reconciled the two usages in the 2011 Arouca Declaration on geotourism. As the originator of the National Geographic definition, I think that if people want to insert “geology” into it, they should go right ahead: “ . . . geographical character of a place—its environment, geology, culture, etc.” Read more on this. […]

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