Geotourism refers to the tourism that enhances or sustains the geographical character of the place, its culture, aesthetics, environment, heritage, and the well-being of residents. The geotourism practices, values, and offerings include many aspects of a variety of tourism. They may include agritourism, heritage tourism, ecotourism, culinary tourism and many others. Geotourism involves elements that incorporate the concept of sustainable tourism, which is the commitment to enhancing the local economies while minimizing the negative effect on the local culture and the environment. Geotourism normally involves the regional communities offering the visitors with an authentic and enriching experience. It aims to acquaint the tourists with the local traditions and culture and also provides an in-depth opportunity to enjoy the unique natural beauty and biodiversity of the area. In this research paper, it provides an in-depth discussion of geotourism and discusses the impact it has on a region.
Geotourism can be considered as tourism that sustains the geographical character of the place that includes the culture, environment, heritage, aesthetic, and the well-being of residents for the good of the community (Miller & Washington 2009). It tends to expose the relationship between the personality of a place and tourism giving a sense of a place. Geotourism is sustainable tourism with the main focus on experiencing the geological features on earth in a way that fosters cultural and environmental understand, conservation and appreciation, and is locally beneficial. Protecting the environment from exploitation and encouraging the community and economic development is the main reasons behind the formulation of different tourism approaches (Dowling 2010). Although geotourism is incompatible with the loss of the cultural or the natural diversity, it does not aim at preserving a destination in amber. However, it aims at preserving the geographical diversity and the distinctiveness of the locale.
There are most people who question the different between geotourism and ecotourism. The difference is that ecotourism tends to focus on the nature, and it is a niche market. On the other hand, geotourism involves everything that gives a place its uniqueness. Geotourism tends to focus on all the human and human characteristics that make a place to be worth visiting (Miller & Washington 2009). That will include the historical buildings, flora and fauna, traditional architecture, grand scenery, and archeological areas. It also includes everything cultural such as dance, making of food, handicrafts, music, and other forms of art.
Geotourism is an example of tourism that usually tries to incorporate the resident’s attitude in all aspects of the tourism process. Geotourism tends to have the potential of increasing competitiveness and adding to the resident’s quality of life because of the focus on the unique qualities of the region. Geotourism normally turns to the residents so as to provide some suggestions of what tourism should look like in that region Newsome & Dowlin 2005). It can include residents nominating the local business and site of cultural and natural significance to be included in the map guide and distributed to the tourists. Geotourism tends to be synergistic in that all elements of the geographical character normally work together so as to create a tourist experience that is richer that sum of parts and that is appealing to visitors with the diverse interests. It is tourism that involves the community including the civic groups and local business that join so as to offer an authentic and distinctive experience to the visitor.
Although geotourism may not be a good strategy for attracting conventional tourists, it can be a better strategy for increasing the quality-of-life of the residents (Dowling 2010). That is by focusing on matching the resident’s desire for increased tourism revenue without having to sacrifice the local way of life and niche markets of tourists who desire local experiences. Geotourism is a strategy that bridges the gap between competitiveness and the quality of life of residents with its focus on sustaining the character of the place and also attracting the market that wants to have the same character of the place that the locals want to sustain (Tourtellot, 2000). It tends to inform both the hosts and the visitors as the residents get to discover their heritage through learning thing that they take for granted can be very interesting to the outsiders. As the local people get to develop skills and pride in showing off their locale, they tourists get more from their visit.
Geotourism may be developed at the landscape scale such as in the Big Bend, Grand Canyon, and the Guadalupe Mountains in the US. There are various landforms that offer sites of the photographic, scientific, and cultural interest. It may also comprise of visits to the quarries, road sections, and cuttings so as to view the exposed rocks that can show folds, phenocrysts, faults, and distinctive assemblages of minerals (Newsome & Dowlin 2005). With geotourism, activities may take place in all environments that include river valleys, tropical rainforest, and coastlines. The road cuttings may provide views of impressive rock structures; however, they may fail to offer for the additional components that add to the experience of the visitor such as visitor centers, sense of naturalness, wildness, interpretations, and walk trails.
Geotourism usually aims for the quality and not the quantity. The destinations tend to measure the tourism success through the numbers of the visitors and also the length of stay, quality of their experience, and how they spend their money. Geotourism tends to respect the local traditions and culture. The foreign visitors normally get the chance of learning the local etiquette that may include courtesy words in the local language (Miller & Washington 2009). On the other hand, the residents also learn on how to deal with the foreign expectations, which may differ from their own.
Impact of geotourism on the region
All tourism tends to cause impacts that can either be positive or negative. The negative human disturbance caused by the recreation or direct visitation in the geological environment may result in erosion of rocks, graffiti, spoiling features such as speleothems, and damage as a result of digging, hammering, and collecting fossils. The negative impact on the region can occur on the rock formations and caves by the amateur collectors of fossils, minerals, and rocks and the professional souvenir hunters (Dowling, 2011). The region may also experience vandalism of the cave sites by the visitors carving their initials into the rock formations. With an increasing number of people visiting the areas, there is a high chance for negative impacts to occur in the area with the nature of the impact may be complex depending on the situation. The impact significance may depend on the source and the type of impact, the effectiveness of the management in place, environmental sensitivity, and other cumulative pressures. The negative environmental impact of geotourism is that it tends to pose a threat to the cultural and natural resources of the region such as beaches, water supply, and heritage sites through the overuse. Geotourism may also cause increase pollution through littering, traffic emissions, noise, and increased sewage production.
Geotourism tends to benefit residents economically. The travel business usually hires the local workers and uses the local suppliers, services, and products. When the members of the community understand the benefits of geotourism, they consider taking responsibility for the destination stewardship. Geotourism is also beneficial in that it tend to support the integrity of the region (Robinson, 2008). The destination savvy-travelers seek out a business that usually emphasize on the character of the locale. Therefore, in return, the stakeholders in the region who receive economic benefits will consider appreciating and protect the value of the assets (Newsome & Dowlin 2005). As residents of the region, it is our goals to protect and preserve the clean waters, working landscapes, forested areas, buildings, and the historic barns. It is also essential to preserve the strong ties to the community traditions and agricultural tradition as they continue to shape the rural lifestyle and the scenic landscapes. As the hosts, it is the responsibility of the members to share their traditions, landscapes and features with the visitors to the region in a way that will help the community sustain its memorable visitor experience for the many years to come.
Geotourism is a leading sector in investigating development for many countries. That is because of the benefits it can have in the regions such as employment opportunities, increase in gross domestic product, diversity in the sources of income, and attracting a lot of investments that is beneficial to the region (Robinson, 2008). The advancement in geotourism can help in creating jobs for the young people in the field of hotel services and restaurants created near the tourist areas. It also creates employment in the field of transport and communication and also the field of tourist guides and other tourist-related activities. Another impact of geotourism to the region is with regards to contributing to the alleviation of poverty through the stimulation of economic activities and mostly in the geoparks (Dowling, 2011). The geoparks are normally created to enhance the employment opportunities for the people living there and to foster economic benefits for this people. Geotourism contributes to reducing the rate of unemployment and migration the involvement of the members of the local communities in the geoparks activities. With geotourism, there are some employment opportunities created in the tourist enterprises such as guest houses, small hotels, and restaurants that are connected with the increase of the flow of tourists in the geoparks region (Tourtellot, 2000).
The economic impact of geotourism in a region can be measured by some indicators that include the reduced access to resources, fiscal impact, inflation, revenue sharing, leakage, and effect on income distribution. Geotourism does not only generate the government revenue through business and other taxes, but through industry-specific channels like departure taxes and payment of occupancy. The economic effect on the region is that geotourism tend to generate the fiscal costs through funding of the infrastructure. In some of the geotourism destination, the residents in these areas can benefit from the revenue sharing programs that may offer cash payment or funding for community projects like schools.
Geotourism aims at making the visitors aware of and also gaining an understanding of the geological features that surround them. The environment tends to be a fundamental element of the experience of the tourist. Geotourists are usually looking for attractive natural resources, special, and different that allows specific tourism activities. In some case, development of tourism in a region tends to consumer resources, requires a certain degree of infrastructure, and also creates waste that may cause degradation and the destruction of the environment. According to Holden (2009), the natural environment tends to benefit tourism through the conservation actions and the protection nature. Geotourism tends to cause a deep appreciation of the nature of the tourists and also the local population.
Geotourism normally benefits the environment through encouraging sound destination stewardship, which keeps the growth to the sustainable level and also minimizes the negative impacts like resource pollution and overcrowding. Those places that implement geotourism have been of great benefit for many travelers known as geo-tourists; they get to experience and extremely rich experience that includes an immersion in the culture, natural resources, and heritage of a certain tourist destination. It also has benefits for the residents of the region through promoting the local services and employment (Newsome & Dowlin 2005). Geotourism impacts the region positively as enthusiastic visitors get to bring new knowledge home through telling stories that will send the relatives and friends off to experience the same thing they experience, which means continued business for the region. Geotourism helps in conserving resources as the environmentally aware tourists tend to patronize the businesses that reduce waste, pollution, water usage, energy consumption, and excessive nighttime lighting.
In regards to the culture impact of geotourism on the region, it plays a role in promoting local cuisines, handicrafts, and products as the cultural components. Geotourism normally helps the travelers to enjoy and trend lightly, a local sense of the place. It ensures a proper consideration of the host communities, customers, cultures, traditional products, lifestyles, and the socio-economic systems (Robinson, 2008). Geotourism is tourism that enhances the material life of the local communities without resulting in a loss of the traditional employment systems, social disruption, or acculturation. The geoparks normally try to revive the traditional foods, traditional culture, and local arts through exposing them to the tourists (Dowling, 2011). Thus, geoparks through promoting geotourism and the innovation strategies help in reducing the negative socio-cultural impact of tourism in their regions. With the help of geoparks, it is right to say that geotourism helps in reviving the traditional culture and works on sustainability through activities presented in the parks and also allows for cultural exchange between then different regions.
Geotourism can be essential to the host region in preserving its folk culture and history. In most of the countries or areas, many of the traditional folk customs and costumes are usually continued or reestablished for the benefit of the tourists and the folklore festivals organized so as to attract visitors. In most countries there are cultural centers. For instance, the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii tend to provide its guests with an opportunity of viewing limited historical aspects of lifestyle; thus, providing the nation with the chance of maintaining its traditions (Newsome & Dowlin 2005). Geotourism tends to benefit the region through bringing together people of different views to help them to understand one another. As geotourism provides tourists with relevant information, it can be a tool for effecting understanding among people and cultures through causing people to consider their traditional stereotype of other cultures.
Knowledge and education
Geotourism impacts the region through promoting knowledge and education and enhancing the geological awareness. Knowledge is a very influential outcome of geotourism experience. Dowling & Newsome (2006) tend to emphasize on the educational purpose of geotourism that includes appreciation, learning, and a sense of wonder. According to Farsani et al. (2010), geotourism is a new movement that is helping the travelers to increase their knowledge regarding natural resources, ways of preserving them, and the culture identity of hosts. Therefore, the activities involved in geotourism may empower tourists to attain the knowledge and the understanding of the local communities, natural resources, and geology of different geosites in the region. With this knowledge, it may help in enhancing efforts of sustaining and preserving the natural resources and also raising awareness of the values of the resources.
Geotourism also impacts the region through adding value to the local tourist products in the region, and it contributes to the diversification of tourist products. In most cases, the regions have established cultural resource base so as to attract the business and leisure travelers with numerous fairs and exhibitions and various creative industries (Dowling, 2011). So as to increase focus on tourism to the region, geotourism can act as an attraction in the region, and this will help to add value to them local tourist products and also promote iconic geological sites. Through developing geotourism activities, it can be a significant attraction for the domestic tourists in the region and also encourage the tourists to experience the domestic tourism products.
Geotourism is knowledge-based tourism. It normally aims at providing the tourists with the relevant information regarding the formation of the geology in the region. In this way, geotourism is not just about showing off the great sights, but it also involves informing the tourists how the wonders came to be. Geotourism also involves encouraging the tourists and the local communities to work together so as to maintain the quality of the geological sites through following the preservation guidelines. Geotourism helps in minimizing the negative impact of tourism such as environmental pollution. Those regions implementing geotourism have been of great advantage to the geotourists as they gain rich experience involving immersion in the heritage, culture, and natural resources of a particular tourist destination. Visitors in the regions help in improving the economy and also preserving the environment. Through geotourism, the foreign visitors get to learn the local etiquette and the residents learn how to deal with the expectation of these visitors.
Based on this paper, it is possible to conclude that geotourism has various impacts that are influenced by a large number of factors. In some regions, geotourism is among the few options for economic survival while others consider it as a combination of negative and positive factors. When taking into consideration the positive impact of geotourism on a region, it is necessary that people should raise awareness on the importance of geotourism and the benefits that originate from it.
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