||National Geographic’s Geotourism Program is a sustainable tourism initiative designed
to ease the negative impacts of mass tourism through a branding opportunity and grassroots
structure that empowers local stakeholders to showcase regional and cultural identity.
While previous studies on National Geographic’s Geotourism Program have investigated
the potential and achieved successes from certain perspectives, the Geotourism charter
mandates that program evaluation should consider all stakeholder interests (Boley
2009, Leonard 2011). This study contributes to a comprehensive evaluation by analyzing
progress from a previously unexplored perspective: that of the participating sites
in two regions: Sierra Nevada and Crown of the Continent (COTC) region.
Quantitative and qualitative data collection instruments gather information from participating
sites that then is evaluated by indicators in three categories: social, environmental
and economic. Social impact proves to be the strongest success of the project as
participants are encouraged to learn about the assets of their region, and share regional
information with visitors. The study also reveals that participants who buy into the
Geotourism Project by educating visitors and incorporating it into their business
planning documents recognize the greatest degree of project impact. Analysis of the
results yields recommendations for how stakeholder education and involvement, impact
measurement, and project positioning can be more effectively integrated into each
destination’s strategic plan.