Geotourism deals with the natural and built environments.

Geotourism was first defined (Hose, 1995) in England. There are two viewpoints of geotourism:

Purely geological and geomorphologically-focused Sustainable Tourism as abiotic nature based tourism. This is the definition followed in most of the world.
Geographically Sustainable Tourism, the most common definition in the USA. This emphasises preservation of the geographical sense of a place in general, beyond simple geological and geomorphological features, as a new charter & concept in the sustainable tourism.

Definition of Geotourism
As a rule, geotourism refers to tourism activities that focus on visiting geological sites and phenomena – such as. As rocks, caves, cliffs, quarries and other outcrops, but also geoscientific educational trails, geological museums, mines u. or larger natural areas with special geological equipment (eg volcanic or karst areas). It is a special form of nature tourism. How Newsome and Dowling (2010) write: “Geotourism is a form of natural area tourism that specifically on geology and landscape”, and Heidi Megerle defined geotourism in 2008 as “… a branch of themed tourism based on the collection, processing, valorisation and marketing of the wide range of themes in the history of the earth and the landscape, including their interactions with vegetation, fauna, cultural landscape history and today’s landscape use by humans.”,

In addition, an understanding of geotourism occasionally appears in international literature, which largely equates it with ecotourism. This mindset was initiated by an initiative of the US magazine (and society) National Geographic. However, this view of geotourism has not prevailed, not even in English-speaking countries.

Thomas A. Hose, who has written extensively on geotourism, also notes a rather unusual notion of geotourism: “The provision of interpretation and service facilities for geosites and geomorphosites and their encompassing topography”; For years this author has confused the definition of the term with the description of the tasks to be performed in the context of geotourism. The author, who pronounce this criticism, however, confused tourism as an economic sector with the activities of tourists, namely travel.

Definitions of modern geotourism
Key definitions in the geological sense ((abiotic nature based tourism))include:

“…part of the tourist’s activity in which they have the geological patrimony as their main attraction. Their objective is to search for the protected patrimony through the conservation of their resources and of the tourist’s Environmental Awareness. For that, the use of the interpretation of the patrimony makes it accessible to the lay public, promoting its popularization and the development of the Earth sciences”.
“Geotourism is a knowledge -based tourism, an interdisciplinary integration of the tourism industry with conservation and interpretation of abiotic nature attributes, besides considering related cultural issues, within the geosites for the general public”.
“A form of natural area tourism that specifically focuses on landscape and geology. It promotes tourism to geosites and the conservation of geo-diversity and an understanding of Earth sciences through appreciation and learning. This is achieved through independent visits to geological features, use of geo-trails and view points, guided tours, geo-activities and patronage of geosite visitor centers”.
“The provision of interpretative and service facilities for geosites and geomorphosites and their encompassing topography, together with their associated in-situ and ex-situ artefacts, to constituency-build for their conservation by generating appreciation, learning and research by and for current and future generations”.
Geotourism (abiotic nature based tourism), a new approach
Geotourism adds to ecotourism’s principal focus on plants (flora) and animals (fauna) by adding a third dimension of the abiotic environment. Thus it is growing around the world through the growth of geoparks as well as independently in many natural and urban areas where tourism’s focus in on the geological environment.

Most of the world defines geotourism as purely the study of geological and geomorphological features.

“Looking at the environment in a simplistic manner, we see that it is made up of Abiotic, Biotic and Cultural(ABC) attributes. Starting with the ‘C’ or cultural component first, we note that of three features it is this one which is generally the most known and interpreted, that is, through information about the built or cultural environment either in the past (historical accounts) or present (community customs and culture). The ‘B’ or biotic features of fauna (animals) and flora (plants) has seen a large focus of interpretation and understanding through ecotourism. But it is the first attribute of the ‘A’ or abiotic features including rocks, landforms and processes that has received the least attention in tourism, and consequently is the least known and understood.This then is the real power of geotourism, in that it puts the tourist spotlight firmly on geology, and brings it to the forefront of our understanding through tourism”.

What is a GEOSITE? A geosite is a location that has a particular geological or geomorphological significance. As well as its inherent geological characteristics it may also have cultural or heritage significance.

Geotourism subject of interest
Among the interests of geotourism are :

natural objects and geological and geomorphological processes (eg sea coasts, rock formations, volcanoes, karst forms, geysers, mobile dunes, glaciers, waterfalls, rock accumulation, minerals and fossils);
anthropogenic objects associated with the exploitation of minerals (eg inactive quarries and mines of historical importance);
exhibitions and museums related to earth sciences, eg palaeontological or geological museums (see State Registry of Museums), expositions in Geoparks);
creations of material human culture – architectural objects due to the used rock raw material and stone elements of their equipment, eg megalithic constructions, stone castles, bridges, buildings hollow in rocks, stone floors;
stone elements from archaeological excavations, eg arrowheads, stone tools and other utility items.

History of geotourism
Geotourism is not such a new phenomenon on the one hand. Ever since tourism has existed, people have set out on their journey, which in the broadest sense can be considered “geological”: for example, show caves (like the Postojna caves or special rock formations (like the Loreley).) Mount Vesuvius as an active volcano has been visited for centuries precisely because of this particular geological feature, and entire landscapes are attractive destinations due to their geology-related design, such as the Middle Rhine Valley and the karst landscapes of the Swabian and Frankish Alb). On the other hand, of course, in these examples, the question arises to what extent the interest of the visitors was actually focused on geology or simply on spectacular sights.

A more geoscientific conception of geotourism developed from the 1980s, when the area was increasingly discovered as a field of activity for trained geoscientists. If one wants to convey more geoscientific phenomena to the visitors, these must be explained accordingly, be it by trained travel guides or by publications or signage in the area.

Geotourism in practice
In Poland, geotouristic attractions of supra-regional importance include, for example: the Wieliczka Salt Mine, JuraPark Bałtów, the Bear Cave in Kletno or the mobile dunes in the Słowiński National Park. There are relatively few routes leading to geotourism facilities (eg Małopolska Geotouristic Trail, geological path “Kamieniołom Kielnik” in the Olsztyn commune). Most often, geotouristic objects are included in general, multifactorial routes. Geoparks are also created, which in the future may become the National Geoparks and hit the list of the European Network of Geoparks (eg Geopark Kielce, Geopark Kamienny Las in Roztocze).

Geotourism in high schools
The first university in Poland and in the world where one could study the Geotourism specialty was AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków – Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection (1999/2000). Currently, the specialty of the students also propose other state and private universities, Pedagogical University in Krakow, Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice and the Technical University in Kosice (Technická univerzita v Košiciach).

Geotourism in science
For several years, geotouristic magazines have been published, including:

Geoturystyka / Geotourism – issued by the Scientific Association Stanisława Staszica, together with the Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow;
Acta Geoturistica – jointly issued by the Technical University of Košice, IAGt, Slovak Academy of Sciences and the University of PJ Šafárik in Košice;
Geoheritage – published by Springer Link.
There are also books devoted entirely to geotourism, eg: Geotourism. Sustainability, impacts and management (2006), Geotourism: The Tourism of Geology and Landscape (2010), Global Geotourism Perspectives (2010); Geotourism: a variety of aspects (2011), Geotourism (2012).

Geotourism issues are also raised at scientific conferences. In 2004, the 1st International Conference GeoTour (1st International Conference Geotour) took place, which is organized alternately by the Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection of AGH in Kraków and the Technical University of Košice. In 2008, the Inaugural Global Geotourism Conference took place in Australia. At many geotourism conferences, thematic sessions are devoted.

National Geographic ‘Geographical Tourism Program’
The geographical-character definition of G.S.T (geographical sustainable tourism) was heavily influenced by the National Geographic Society, which defines G.S.T as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. The concept of Geographical sustainable tourism with coining of the word geotourism, was introduced publicly in the USA in a 2002 report by the Travel Industry Association of America (as of 2009 this organization adapted name to U.S. Travel Association) and National Geographic Traveler magazine. National Geographic senior editor Jonathan B. Tourtellot and his wife, Sally Bensusen, coined the term in 1997 in response to requests for a term and concept more encompassing than ecotourism and sustainable tourism.

So National Geographic ‘s Geographical sustainable tourism (G.S.T program) is “best practice” tourism that sustains, or even enhances, the geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

National Geographic ‘s Geotourism program incorporates sustainability principles, but in addition to the do-no-harm ethic focuses on the place as a whole. The idea of enhancement allows for development based on character of place, rather than standardized international branding, and generic architecture, food, and so on.

National Geographic G.S.T (Geographical sustainable tourism)Charter
National Geographic Society has also drawn up a “G.S.T Charter” based on 13 principles:

Integrity of place: Enhance geographical character by developing and improving it in ways distinctive to the local, reflective of its natural and cultural heritage, so as to encourage market differentiation and cultural pride.
International codes: Adhere to the principles embodied in the World Tourism Organization’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Principles of the Cultural Tourism Charter established by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
Market selectivity: Encourage growth in tourism market segments most likely to appreciate, respect, and disseminate information about the distinctive assets of the locale.
Market diversity: Encourage a full range of appropriate food and lodging facilities, so as to appeal to the entire demographic spectrum of the geotourism market and so maximize economic resiliency over both the short and long term.
Tourist satisfaction: Ensure that satisfied, excited geotourists bring new vacation stories home and encourage friends to experience the same thing, thus providing continuing demand for the destination.
Community involvement: Base tourism on community resources to the extent possible, encouraging local small businesses and civic groups to build partnerships to promote and provide a distinctive, honest visitor experience and market their locales effectively. Help businesses develop approaches to tourism that build on the area’s nature, history and culture, including food and drink, artisanry, performance arts, etc.
Community benefit: Encourage micro- to medium-size enterprises and tourism business strategies that emphasize economic and social benefits to involved communities, especially poverty alleviation, with clear communication of the destination stewardship policies required to maintain those benefits.
Protection and enhancement of destination appeal: Encourage businesses to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, aesthetic appeal, and local culture. Prevent degradation by keeping volumes of tourists within maximum acceptable limits. Seek business models that can operate profitably within those limits. Use persuasion, incentives, and legal enforcement as needed.
Land use: Anticipate development pressures and apply techniques to prevent undesired overdevelopment and degradation. Contain resort and vacation-home sprawl, especially on coasts and islands, so as to retain a diversity of natural and scenic environments and ensure continued resident access to waterfronts. Encourage major self-contained tourism attractions, such as large-scale theme parks and convention centers unrelated to character of place, to be sited in needier locations with no significant ecological, scenic, or cultural assets.
Conservation of resources: Encourage businesses to minimize water pollution, solid waste, energy consumption, water usage, landscaping chemicals, and overly bright nighttime lighting. Advertise these measures in a way that attracts the large, environmentally sympathetic tourist market.
Planning: Recognize and respect immediate economic needs without sacrificing long-term character and the geotourism potential of the destination. Where tourism attracts in-migration of workers, develop new communities that themselves constitute a destination enhancement. Strive to diversify the economy and limit population influx to sustainable levels. Adopt public strategies for mitigating practices that are incompatible with geotourism and damaging to the image of the destination.
Interactive interpretation: Engage both visitors and hosts in learning about the place. Encourage residents to promote the natural and cultural heritage of their communities so tourists gain a richer experience and residents develop pride in their locales.
Evaluation: Establish an evaluation process to be conducted on a regular basis by an independent panel representing all stakeholder interests, and publicize evaluation results.

Success and efforts in service to achieving geographical sustainable tourism status
Success models: Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, Crown of the Continent in Canada and Montana and Appalachian Range were the first three US destinations to actively enrol the program with measured success. In Process: Lake Tahoe’s 1960s tourism brand presents a daunting challenge to becoming a G.S.T destination. Sustainable Tahoe is the one organization to provide a tangible demonstration of how geographical sustainable tourism can create long term economic regional prosperity, that includes 100 feet of lake water clarity: Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village NV (North Lake Tahoe) was the first west coast college to offer a geographical sustainable tourism class as part of their Interdisciplinary Studies.

Geographical Sustainable Tourism(G.S.T) as a science
Missouri State University’s Bachelor of Science in Geography features a concentration in Geographical tourism—the first degree of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, and is one of only three such degrees offered worldwide. Missouri State’s (Geographically Sustainable Tourism) degree (G.S.T Bachelor’s degree) is the first to be associated with a department of geography.

Source from Wikipedia