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About Geotourism

Geotourism is tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of a place, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism encompasses a range of travel opportunities including culture and heritage, history, food, nature, the outdoors, water, music and arts.


The Geotourism MapGuide Program was launched by National Geographic in 2002 as a tool to help communities work together to create a shared identity and market their destination in a way that promotes sustainable development. Through crowd-sourcing points of interest from locals the process helps identify, develop, and authentically communicate a destination’s unique story of place - its brand identity. The resulting product is an interactive digital platform that functions as a living guide to the region helping connect travelers with the many attractions, businesses and activities through the voices of the people that live there.

Geotourism has been an important vehicle for creating destination partnerships that promote sustainable economic development for communities in the U.S. and around the world. While there is no one entity that owns Geotourism, the approach proliferated and became well known under the National Geographic Society’s Geotourism MapGuide program which ended in 2016. Former Senior Editor of Traveler Magazine Jonathan Tourtellot coined the term Geotourism back in 2002 as a concept for defining sustainable tourism.

MapGuide projects have been completed in the U.S. Gulf Coast States (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida), Greater Yellowstone, the Central Cascades (Oregon, Washington), the Crown of the Continent (Alberta, British Columbia, Montana), Newfoundland the Redwood Coast (California) and other destinations.

For more information about National Geographic's past Geotourism Programs visit