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Tuesday, October 29, 2002 www.imakenews.com/tourism   VOLUME 1 ISSUE 8  
A publication of the Michigan State University Tourism Resource Center and Department of Park, Recreation & Tourism Resources
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Joe Fridgen

Don Holecek
Lori Martin
Kathy Adair
Fong Bristor
Seoki Lee
JeongHee Noh
Joe Deming
Geo-Tourism:  The New Hyphenated Tourism
By Don Holecek & Joe Fridgen, MTB Editors
Tourism is a complex industry.  Academics, who study it, as well as tourism marketers, have coined a multitude of short hand expressions to convey specific aspects of tourism.  Some, which are in common use today, include:  agriculture-tourism, eco-tourism, cultural-tourism, green-tourism, mass-tourism, and sustainable-tourism.
A new hyphenated form of tourism, geo-tourism, was introduced by speakers at the Travel Industry of America’s (TIA) annual Marketing Outlook Forum (October 9-12, 2002) in Hollywood, Florida.  Geo-tourism is defined by TIA as:  “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of the place being visited - it’s environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well being of its residents.”  Geo-tourism is a broad umbrella under which most of the other hyphenated types of tourism are covered and adds a dimension to the equation that the others commonly miss—“the well-being of its residents.”
Geo-tourism is an appealing concept for a number of reasons.  First, it captures the multiple benefits a significant proportion of tourists seek when traveling such as: scenic natural landscapes, interesting architecture, authentic local entertainment and cuisine, unique souvenirs and shopping experiences, new entertainment options, wildlife in their unspoiled natural environments, and different people and cultures.  These can be found in large cities such as New Orleans or San Francisco, smaller communities such as Frankenmuth, MI, or Hershey, PA or less populated rural regions such as the Leelanau Peninsula or Mackinac Straits region.  What makes a destination a geo-tourism venue is the sense of place it conveys to visitors—spirit, soul, song, and cuisine. 
Second, geo-tourism recognizes that local residents are an important component of any tourism destination, and that their well-being needs to be balanced with the interests of the tourists they host.  In some settings, the well being of residents may be most closely linked to creating jobs for them which may best be provided by large-scale development.  In an otherwise similar situation, the preservation of local natural environment and cultural assets may supplant job creation as what residents deem most important to their well-being.  Low impact tourism would be a more appropriate development option in such a situation.
Third, preservation of character of the place and not necessarily preservation of what exists is a hallmark of geo-tourism.  Development, which enhances character, is not only acceptable but is encouraged.  This is generally a more practical/economically feasible tourism development strategy than preservation per se.
Geo-tourism is not the only approach to tourism development one may want to consider nor is it the best strategy for all destinations.  TIA research suggests that over 50% of U.S. tourists fit nicely into the geo-tourist category, and these tourists are especially active travelers with relatively high incomes.  Their share of total domestic travel expenditures far exceeds the 50% share of tourists they collectively represent.  Thus, geo-tourists represent a large tourism market segment, and their relatively high spending on travel makes them an interesting target market. 
Click here to view
“The Geotourism Study: Phase I Executive Summary” sponsored by National Geographic Traveler and prepared by The Research Department of the Travel Industry Association of America.
Published by Lori A. Martin
Copyright ©2002 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. All rights reserved.
Published by the Tourism Resource Center and the Department of Park, Recreation & Tourism Resources. MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity institution.
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