Halfway between cultural tourism and ecotourism, geotourism is currently booming.
This new way of travelling is targeted towards eco-friendly travellers, who give importance to the environmental, and socioeconomic impact of tourism.
What characterizes geotourism?
The term “geotourism” first appeared in National Geographic Society articles only about 20 years ago.
It is a form of environmentally friendly tourism, which aims to support and enhance the geographical character of a tourism destination, its biodiversity, culture, heritage and the well-being of its local population.
Geotourism relies on the synergy of different modes of action:
- Involvement in the community and local businesses;
- Respect for local traditions and culture;
- Promotion of nature conservation;
- Waste management;
- Resource-saving (quality over quantity);
- Ensuring economic benefits for the local population;
- Encouraging tourists to share their experience of geotourism, mainly through social networks.
How does geotourism relate to sustainable travel?
The aim of sustainable tourism is mainly to reduce the negative impacts of mass tourism on nature and host populations.
It concerns all forms of tourism that are based on respect for nature and concern for the well-being of the inhabitants of the areas visited; geotourism is therefore entirely in line with this approach.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines this type of tourism as “a way of travelling that takes into account current and future economic, social and environmental impacts while meeting the needs of visitors, travel professionals and host communities.”
Like the sustainability concept, geotourism focuses on tours in destinations where the discovery of natural landscapes and the culture of local people are the primary motivations of the traveller.
Ecology and the preservation of the ecosystem are also part of the values conveyed by this philosophy.
Geotourism initiatives on the rise
Several projects are emerging to address issues in the earth sciences.
Climate change, natural resource management, and the fluctuating global economy are among the topics considered.
The joint efforts of UNESCO and the GGN (Global Geoparks Network) have made it possible to create quality standards for countries interested in supporting a sustainable economic development strategy that includes tourism.
There are already 77 geoparks across the globe, including several in Europe.
The geopark concept has three main components:
- The preservation of the geological features of a site,
- Stimulation of the regional economy
- Organizing activities to inform people about the benefits of sustainable tourism.
These initiatives are most often centred around spectacular places such as fjords, canyons, mines, glaciers, etc.
Besides, new partnerships with several scientists and researchers have made it possible to promote the heritage of sites that were previously less touristy.
Where to experience geotourism?
There is a vast choice of ideal destinations to experience geotourism.
Here are three ideas of destinations in the world where to practice it:
The Monts d’Ardèche Regional Nature Park, France
In this Park, more than 300 million years old, nothing is missing to fascinate travellers who love geology.
The area still bears the deep traces of ancient volcanoes; this place is full of geosites that are remarkable for their educational and aesthetic quality, but also for their rarity.
To enhance its heritage, the Parc des Monts d’Ardèche has applied for the world Geopark label supported by UNESCO.
The Ray-Pic waterfall (Péreyres), the Mont-Gerbier-de-Jonc, the Devil’s Bridge (Thueyts), the Mont Mézenc, the Aizac and the Jaujac Coupes are the must-see sites.
The Oki Islands Geopark in Japan
Inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Geoparks, this territory in the Sea of Japan consists of 180 uninhabited islets and four inhabited islands.
More than 100 geosites focusing on the links created between ecosystems, culture and geohistory over time can be found here.
On many of these islands, visitors can admire tall, ancient trees and massive rocks sculpted by nature that have inspired tales and legends.
Dogo Island, in particular, is characterized by its large, dense and lush wooded areas, where magnificent temples and sanctuaries are hidden.
The Masungi Reserve in the Philippines
One can only be impressed by the immense network of rope walls and suspension bridges installed between the karst cliffs.
The Masungi geotourism project was designed to protect the forest that was threatened by illegal logging.
For almost 20 years, the challenge was met with the support of local community activities.
Today, we are witnessing the full restoration of this site and its development for tourism.
The Masungi Reserve has recovered 90% of its forest and wildlife is now back.
Geotourism and the future
The trend towards geotourism is set to grow over the next few decades, but always in line with environmental, social and political developments.
China, for example, could become a popular destination by 2030.
Due to its high air pollution levels, it is expected that China will have to turn towards environmental protection and a more responsible approach to tourism.
Geotourism will continue to evolve and have a positive impact on the world when travellers choose from the very beginning tourism oprerators that already engaged in ethical, socially inclusive and environmentally friendly travel.
Ever experienced Geotourism ? Share your story in the comments.