New Addition to the Travel Lexicon: ‘Geotourism’

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  07.19.07 | 11:29 AM ET

imageIn our ongoing quest to chronicle the comings and goings in the travel lexicon we bring you “geotourism,” a term describing travel that, in the AP’s words, “focuses on a destination’s unique culture and history and aims to have visitors help enrich those qualities.” Coined several years ago by the National Geographic Society’s Jonathan B. Tourtellot, the term hasn’t yet caught on among most travelers. But according to the AP, “it’s on the lips of travel professionals who describe it as a step beyond the better-known environmentally friendly ecotourism. While geotourism encourages treading lightly on nature, it’s also about authenticity and making a place better by visiting and spending money.”

Despite the best intentions of many travelers, few places significantly benefit from their visits, according to Leo Hickman, whose book, “The Final Call,” explores the impact of travel on the globe.

“Tourism is a very lop-sided deal in its current form whereby the buyers—us tourists—get by far a better deal than the sellers—the people living in the destinations,” he said in a recent World Hum interview. “I saw very few examples whereby the people in the destinations said they felt they were getting an equitable deal—of the dozen or so destinations I visited, I can only think of three examples off the top of my head, two in Costa Rica and one in Kerala, India.”

The question of what constitutes enrichment in a given place can get complicated, but finding examples of tourist traps isn’t too challenging.

In the AP story, Tourtellot points to the Costa del Sol in Spain, otherwise known as the “Costa del Concrete,” as an example of a place where tourism has taken a big toll.

“It’s not necessarily that a big hotel on a beach is a bad thing,” Tourtellot told the AP. “It’s how the hotel is designed. It’s where the hotel is located. What’s a bad thing is nothing but ugly, look-alike hotels going on for mile after mile.”

However you want to define it, it’s clear that travelers are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact they have. Some are even taking up a form of travel that constitutes another recent addition to the travel lexicon: voluntourism.

Photo of Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio beach by kristinpia, via Flickr (Creative Commons).

1 Comment for New Addition to the Travel Lexicon: ‘Geotourism’

travelina 07.19.07 | 3:30 PM ET

Thanks Jim for writing about this.  For more about geotourism, and a list of tour operators who practice it, see National Geographic Traveler’s Center for Sustainable Tourism:

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