Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism


Geotourism Program with National Geographic

In 2003, National Geographic inaugurated the Geotourism program, a collaborative and continually evolving approach to sustainable tourism development that combines the expertise and the design capabilities of the National Geographic Maps Division and local people to celebrate, promote, and facilitate wise stewardship of cultural, historic, and natural resources.

The approach involves extensive engagement with local residents in the planning, development and deployment of communications products that engage people within a destination and promote travel to it. In partnership with Solimar International, the Geotourism process also includes strategic business planning and destination marketing to make the most effective use of the promotional and informational tools created.

Twenty-two Geotourism MapGuide projects have been completed or are underway in fourteen U.S. states and twelve countries, more than three million MapGuides have been printed and distributed in hard copy, and 13 interactive websites have been created to promote sustainable travel to some of the world’s most important tourism destinations.

The value of the National Geographic brand and the Geotourism approach with Solimar has the potential to succeed where many other tourism strategies cannot. The Geotourism approach first focuses on building strong community alliances of individuals and organizations that are most familiar with the valuable environmental, cultural, historical, and assets of a destination. Utilizing the development of co-branded National Geographic marketing materials, this process helps to bring people together, create a shared vision and catalyze action among local stakeholders over a 12-18 month time horizon.

Building Destination Partnerships

Each Geotourism project begins with the convening of a local Geotourism Stewardship Council that may go by any name and may be new or coalesce around an existing group. This group works to generate grassroots participation in and support for the project, bolstered by extensive local media coverage and National Geographic and Solimar technical support. NG and Solimar will work in parallel with the Council and the destination to help promote the project and define and implement strategies to build the systems and skills required to manage, promote, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the destination.

With our support and technical assistance, the Geotourism Stewardship Council launches the process by soliciting nominations from communities, private businesses, and government, of the sites and attractions that best represent the area’s character and heritage. We then work with local partners to create and implement an online Geotourism MapGuide that clearly conveys the destination’s unique attributes to local residents and visitors alike. The Geotourism MapGuide is a destination website and online interactive map of the destination’s authentic, place-based attractions, businesses, stories and history, as seen through the eyes of local residents.

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Geotourism is “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”

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What to Expect

  • Geotourism Stewardship Council - The Council provides the conduit through which the program is implemented and assumes responsibility for program management after completion of the project. It is envisioned as a regional body of stakeholders representing communities, non-profits, business, and government that represent the natural, cultural, scenic, historic and other important features of the destination. The Council will oversee and help implement the Geotourism process and will meet regularly to help generate local nominations, review the information and materials created, and utilize the products established through the project to sustain and promote the destination.
  • Geotourism Strategy - The Geotourism Strategy, to be developed in collaboration with the Stewardship Council, will define the vision, goals, timeline and objectives of the Geotourism project, and a strategy for project implementation. NG and Solimar with work closely with the Council to complete the strategy development process.
  • Destination Business and Operating Plan - In parallel with the development of the National Geographic MapGuide, a business and operating plan will be created using best practices and lessons learned from the 22 Geotourism projects that have already been completed and Solimar’s experience in destination management and marketing in more than 100 tourism destinations. These plans will include, but not limited to:
    • An Organizational Strategy, and technical assistance to transform the Geotourism Stewardship Council into a self-sustaining Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMMO).
    • A Funding Strategy for ongoing product development and marketing efforts that will potentially include direct revenue generation strategies (sponsorships, commissions, advertising, etc.); government support (through grant programs, tax policy, and other means); and cooperative marketing programs.
  • Branding and Marketing Strategy – To ensure the most effective use of the promotional materials, Solimar will develop a branding strategy through a participatory process followed by a comprehensive marketing plan that includes social media, public relations, advertising, and travel trade marketing components. Implementation of the marketing strategy will include development of landing pages and content to be integrated into the National Geographic co-branded MapGuide, development of an editorial calendar, engagement with savvy local social media communities, and other promotional activities.
  • National Geographic Society Co-Branded Online Interactive Geotourism Mapguide – Solimar will work with the Stewardship Council and local residents to product a richly interactive Geotourism website and other communication products—including the development of a printed NGS Destination Map—for your destination. The site will include solutions that enable nominations of Geotourism sites by Geotourism Stewardship Council partners and by the general public. Solimar will provide the technical support to lead this process and verify all nominations.
  • Geotourism MapGuide Launch Events – A regional high profile launch event will be held with key stakeholders to explain how to identify and nominate sites for the MapGuide—followed by an event to celebrate the completion of the website and serve as the jumping off point for large-scale destination marketing activities.

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