Picture of Yosemite National Park

A view of Yosemite Valley in California's Sierra Nevada

Photograph by Hsilaica/Dreamstime.com

As a membership society for those who have a passion for knowledge, adventure, new discoveries, and all things real and amazing, National Geographic has long inspired curious and conscious people to explore the world. We do this through our magazines, TV programs, and films, as well as through our travel publications, including Traveler magazine, our Travel and Adventure websites and mobile apps, our maps and guidebooks, and our Unique Lodges and expert-led trips.

Authentic, sustainable tourism is important to National Geographic, but it’s especially important to the places we visit and showcase. That’s why, since 2002, we’ve collaborated with destinations and experts around the world to create and share principles, methods, and tools to implement sustainable tourism programs under the banner of geotourism.

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place—its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.

Geotourism is ...

Environmentally responsible - committed to conserving resources and maintaining biodiversity

Culturally responsible - committed to respecting local sensibilities and building on local heritage

Synergistic - bringing together all elements of geographical character to create a travel experience that is richer than the sum of its parts and appealing to visitors with diverse interests

Why Geotourism?

Geotourism is not a niche market. The 2003 Geotourism study, sponsored by National Geographic and conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America, found that 65 million American households are predisposed to support the principles of geotourism. As the global population of travelers increases and destinations become more globalized and homogenous, these principles are resonating with travelers across the globe.

The benefits of geotourism are many:

It benefits residents economically.

Travel businesses do their best to use the local workforce, services, products, and supplies. When the community understands the beneficial role of geotourism, it becomes an incentive for wise destination stewardship.

It supports integrity of place.

Destination-savvy travelers seek out businesses that emphasize the character of the locale. Tourism revenues in turn raise the local perceived value of those assets.

It informs both visitors and hosts.

Residents discover their own heritage and how the ordinary and familiar may be of interest to outsiders. As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their locale, tourists get more out of their visits.

It means great trips.

Enthusiastic visitors bring new knowledge home, telling stories that send friends and relatives off to experience the same thing—a continuing business for the destination.

How We Support Geotourism

National Geographic works with local communities, regions, states, countries, and organizations to build coalitions and products to support geotourism marketing and stewardship based on local knowledge and needs.

Products include Geotourism MapGuides, printed maps, and mobile apps built around places and themes submitted by local people and editorially reviewed and vetted by National Geographic to provide a comprehensive guide to the places most recommended and respected by locals.

These products are created, maintained, and promoted in collaboration with a local geotourism stewardship council that is convened by National Geographic with representatives from local public, private, and civic organizations, including conservation, tourism, preservation, business, government, and transportation.

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