Measuring Success of National Geographic Society's Geotourism Program


Clark, Charlotte

Leonard, Kristen





Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences


Geotourism is a method of implementing sustainable tourism developed by National Geographic Society (NGS) to promote stewardship of the world’s distinctive travel destinations. As of April 2011, fourteen regional destinations in six countries have undertaken this community-based marketing strategy, which aims to expand traveler access to authentic, sustainable travel options. The Geotourism Program has potential to contribute to environmental sustainability, benefit local economies, and preserve regional and cultural authenticity. However, NGS and destination partners need a system of evaluation to gauge impacts and measure success of all geotourism initiatives. In this study, I used participatory action research and case study methods to identify success indicators and develop three measures of success (MOS) tools: a Stewardship Council Assessment, Program Sustainability Assessment, and Web User Survey. These data collection instruments are based on evaluation interests of the Western U.S. Geotourism Collaboration. By implementing the same MOS methodology across projects, evidence of project successes may be aggregated to create a strong case for future project funding. Relevant background for each of the six western U.S. projects is provided in this report. Additionally, I report results from the research process and pilot use of MOS tools on three western U.S. initiatives: Crown of the Continent, Sierra Nevada and Greater Yellowstone Geotourism. Baseline data collected to date reveals that the most conclusive evidence of project successes are impacts related to ‘Regional Identity and Collaboration.’ Once fully revised, the comprehensive three-part MOS methodology may be integrated as a feature of the NGS Geotourism Program to measure success of existing and new initiatives. This research is meant to serve as a resource for future MOS development as the Geotourism Program continues to expand and develop.



Geotourism, Sustainable Tourism, National Geographic


Measuring Success of National Geographic Society's Geotourism Program


Master's project


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