Solimar & Geotourism
Alabama as well as Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi partnered with National Geographic and Solimar to promote Geotourism development. This partnership contributed to the region’s competitiveness as a tourism destination by facilitating collaboration between local business owners, governments, interest groups and residents, helping market the region’s sustainable tourism assets.
Solimar has managed activities such as: the establishment of the Stewardship Council and the development of marketing tools and strategies that contribute to the ongoing promotion of the unique region. The Geotourism MapGuide presents the U.S. Gulf Coast States region to the world through an online interactive map, mobile application and print map.
The Geotourism MapGuide focuses on authentic local attractions and service providers, and secures increased market visibility for smaller local businesses and attractions, which adds to the socio-economic benefits generated by tourism in the region.
Geotourism is defined as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”
Geotourism involves regional communities by providing the visitor with an authentic, enriching experience and connects tourists with local culture, traditions, offering them in-depth opportunities to enjoy the area’s unique natural beauty and biodiversity.
Geotourism also benefits the environment by encouraging a destination stewardship that keeps growth to sustainable levels and limits negative impacts such as overcrowding and resource pollution and benefits residents by promoting local services and employment.
The Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center
The Tuskegee Center is a commendable example of what we are trying to promote with the Geotourism program. The National Geographic Society, in collaboration with the Alabama Tourism Department, unveiled a new four-state Geotourism project. As a result, some 341 Alabama listings are featured on the U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism interactive website.
The tourism project started more than a year ago with a call for organizations and citizens to nominate local points of interest. More than 100 Alabamians submitted nominations that included sites and attractions unique to their area such as local restaurants, wildlife and scenic trails, bed and breakfasts, historic attractions, fishing destinations, museums and art galleries. In Tuskegee, the sites featured include the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee University and the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.
The Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center preserves and presents the stories about the history of Native, European and African Americans in Tuskegee.
The Center was established in 1997, originally to serve as a permanent memorial to the victims and survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The center showcases the historic past of Tuskegee in Macon County. The center represents one historic place, three historic cultures and the many tragedies and triumphs of the American South.
22 Geotourism MapGuide projects have been completed or are underway in 14 U.S. states and 12 countries. More than 3 million MapGuides have been printed and distributed in hard copy, and 13 interactive websites have been created to promote sustainable travel to some of the world’s most important tourism destinations.
Because of National Geographic and Solimar International’s commitment to community-based tourism development, the Geotourism approach has the potential to succeed where many other tourism strategies have not.