Geo•tour•ism n: Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.
National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations
There are many different forms of tourism… so why Geotourism? Because Geotourism values, practices, and offerings include many of the best aspects of a variety of types of tourism including ecotourism, heritage tourism, agritourism and culinary tourism to name a few. It encompasses a set of elements that incorporate the concept of sustainable tourism - a commitment to enhance local economies while minimizing the negative impacts on the environment and local culture. Sustainability is the ability to live and develop within our means, without degradation or depletion of resources. These resources include the natural environment, human resources, cultural resources, as well as many others. In sustaining these we create a gift that is given from this generation to future generations.
How can Geotourism help us create that gift?
Geotourism protects the destination. It anticipates development pressures and guides the creation and application of limits and management techniques that preserve the regions natural habitats, distinct features, heritage sites, esthetics, and local culture.
Geotourism conserves resources. Environmentally aware travelers seek out and visit businesses that reduce waste, energy consumption, water usage, hazardous chemicals, and excessive lighting.
Geotourism values quality, not quantity. Destinations measure success not just by numbers of visitors, but by length of their stay, the way in which visitors spend their money, and the quality of their experience.
Geotourism involves the community and increases the awareness of both visitors and hosts. Residents discover their own heritage by learning that things they take for granted may be interesting to outsiders. As local people develop pride and skill in showing off their region, tourists get more out of their visit.
Geotourism benefits residents economically. Regional tourism businesses hire local workers, and use local services, products, and supplies. When community members understand the benefits of Geotourism, they take responsibility for destination stewardship.
Geotourism means great trips. Enthusiastic visitors bring home new knowledge. Their stories encourage friends and relatives to experience the same thing, which brings future business to the region.
Who Are Geotourists
In reviewing detailed information about U.S. travel trends and detailed information about the offerings within Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom it is easy to determine that many Americans would have a keen interest in what the Northeast Kingdom has to offer. In short Geotourists are drawn to the types of experiences and offerings that can be found in our region. According to the Travel Industry of America, Geotourists can be placed into one of eight user groups. Each user group has a unique set of characteristics and tourism interests. To follow is a sampling of those groups:
16 million Americans are GEO-SAVVY TRAVELERS who:
Are affluent and well educated
Average 7.9 trips per year
Prefer culturally, socially, and environmentally oriented travel
Prefer the outdoors and experiential travel
Prefer small-scale accommodations in small towns or rural areas.
18 million Americans are GOOD CITIZEN TRAVELERS who:
Have an average household income of $71,000
Average 6 trips per year
Most are age 55 and older and well-educated
Are environmentally conscious and civil minded at home, but may not know how to take these practices with them when they travel
21 million Americans are URBAN SOPHISTICATE TRAVELERS who:
Have an average household income of $77,000.
Average 6.7 trips per year
53% are over age 50
Seek out authentic cultural & historical experiences when they travel including going to local events, staying in historic towns and villages, and dining on local food
Are environmentally conscious and aware of businesses that are environmentally friendly and promote sustainable tourism.
22 million Americans are WISHFUL THINKERS who:
Make up the largest group of Geotourists
Are the youngest group with an average age of 32
Are the least wealthy and the least traveled
Would like to travel more if they had time and money
21 Million Americans are OUTDOOR SPORTSMEN who:
Travel mainly domestically
Often travel for the purpose of hunting and/or fishing
Enjoy backcountry settings
Tend to not participate in cultural events
Connecting Geotourists To Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom
When asked if they are willing to give preference to a travel or hospitality related business that protected natural and historic sites even if it cost more, over 50% of these types of travelers said yes - equaling more than 49 million American travelers.
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom contains more than 1,300,000 acres of land. Almost 200,000 acres are either publicly owned or have public recreation/access easements which provide some of the finest, most remote, and diverse outdoor recreation opportunities in New England. Public Lands include Big Falls State Park in Troy, Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area, Willoughby State Forest, Averill Mountain WMA, Bill Sladyk WMA in Holland, the Long Trail State Forest in Jay and the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.
The Northeast Kingdom has 21 Museums and Historical Societies including the Bread & Puppet Museum, Shores Memorial Museum, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, and the Missisquoi Valley Historical Society.
Approximately 20% of Vermont’s farmland is located within the Northeast Kingdom.
71% of Americans say it is important to not damage the environment while traveling.
53 state-endangered or state-threatened plant and animal species reside in the Northeast Kingdom. Endangered species include the Bald Eagle, Canadian Lynx, and American Marten - all recently returned to the state after a long absence and are extremely rare. Threatened plant species include the Green Mountainhair Fern and Great St. John’s Wort.
61% of Americans say a travel experience is better when the destination remains unspoiled and preserves its natural, cultural, and historic sites.
16 Districts in the Northeast Kingdom are listed on the National Register of Historic Places including Main Street in St. Johnsbury, Thresher’s Mill in Barnet, Crystal Lake Falls in Barton, and the Judge David Hibbard Homestead in Concord.
The Northeast Kingdom has the largest amount of surface water of any region in Vermont, excluding Lake Champlain. The region is famous for its pristine lakes.
54% of Americans feel that these places are few and far between.
The Northeast Kingdom is the most sparsely populated region in Vermont. The region accounts for 21% of the land area in Vermont, but contains only 10% of the state's population.
Geotourism…The National Geographic Connection
Tourism can have a profound impact on any community and not always to the benefit of the residents. Increased traffic, consumption, and lack of understanding from travelers can result in negative experiences for all involved. Tourism is also vital to any local economy in terms of creating and maintaining jobs and keeping local businesses afloat.
But how can communities promote tourism while at the same time maintaining the character of the region that made it a desirable tourism destination in the first place? They can do so by developing and engaging in programs that encourage responsible growth, embrace the regional heritage, and provide enjoyable, exciting travel experiences that showcase the unique aspects of the region while encouraging travelers to be respectful of our communities and resources. This is the vision of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations.
The National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations began working with community leaders and organizations in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in 2006. The concepts set forth in the Geotourism framework were developed by the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, which was founded in 2001, and continues to function as a clearinghouse for information and resources related to Geotourism.
One of the main benefits afforded the Northeast Kingdom through its partnership with National Geographic is recognition. The National Geographical label is known worldwide and brings instant recognition and creditability to the Northeast Kingdom Geotourism project. Another major benefit of partnering National Geographic is the expertise and standards of quality that National Geographic brings in so many fields to include tourism, technologies and map development. Additionally, working with National Geographic connects us to a collection of Geotourism destinations across the world. The Northeast Kingdom can look to these destinations to gain insight and strategies to promote Geotourism.
Today the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations is growing the collection of Geotourism Destinations Worldwide. As they do so they are also working on enhancing the offerings of their Geotourism Program. These offerings include the Geotourism MapGuide, Geotourism websites, assistance and guidance in internal program development and much more. Today destinations all over the world benefit from their offerings. To follow is a sampling of the National Geographic Geotourism Destinations:
Appalachia (the first Geotourism MapGuide)
Crown of the Continent (Alberta & British Columbia)
North California Coast
The Future of Geotourism in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom
The Geotourism Program in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom has come a long way since 2006, but it is not a program with an end date. Geotourism remains a crucial way for this region to protect and preserve a way of life and an environment that is treasured by residents and visitors alike. With the invaluable knowledge and support of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, many key area organizations and community leaders worked together to launch the program. In the years to come we will continue to employ Geotourism as a method of protecting and preserving that which we, as residents, value most about our home.