Tennessee Valley Geotourism Program

Supporting economic growth, cultural heritage preservation, and ecological conservation in the East Tennessee River Valley through sustainable tourism marketing initiatives.

  • Client: Southeast Watershed Forum
  • Partners: National Geographic Maps Division
  • Project Duration: September 2010 – November 2011

Project Description 

Along the Tennessee River is a region rich in water, wildlife, history, culture, recreation, and natural beauty. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mobile River basins are among the richest, rarest and biologically important eco-regions in the world. The Tennessee River has provided a way of life steeped in outdoor traditions—from fly fishing to bass fishing, from whitewater rafting to power boating, from camping to hiking and from rock climbing to caving. For generations people here have relied on the region’s water resources for food, drinking water, transportation and energy. The area contains significant Native American history and archeological sites and there are Civil War battlefields, as well as scenic Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. The Appalachian culture shaped an independent spirit, while its art forms provide a wealth of unique hand-made crafts. The river was a source of community revitalization and economic development for towns like Chattanooga and Knoxville. All of this makes the East Tennessee River Valley a prime location for geotourism: tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. The challenge is organizing the diverse set of tourism stakeholders in the region to work collaboratively to promote this region as a world-class destination.

The Southeast Watershed Forum has partnered with National Geographic to promote geotourism development and contribute to the region’s competitiveness as a tourism destination by facilitating collaboration between all relevant business owners, local governments, interest groups and residents and helps market the region’s sustainable tourism assets. Solimar assisted in the implementation of key East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism activities such as the establishment of the Stewardship Council and the development of marketing tools and strategies that contribute to the ongoing process of promoting this unique region to the world. The MapGuide presents the East Tennessee River Valley region to more responsible and educated travelers who will be curious to explore this destination.

The MapGuide solution does not only help create a more positive and distinct image of the region, but also facilitates efficient cooperation among stakeholders in promoting the entire region as an integrated destination. In addition, by focusing on authentic local attractions and service providers, the Mapguide secures increased market visibility for smaller local businesses, which adds to the socio-economic benefits generated by tourism.

Major Activities

  • Facilitate relationship building and cooperation: establishment of the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism Stewardship Council to oversee and implement geotourism activities in the region.
  • Develop Geotourism MapGuide: members of the Council initiated a process of nominating attractions and tourism service providers, which adhered to geotourism principles. Initial nominations were reviewed and included in the MapGuide while Council members and local stakeholders continue to generate nominations and add to the content of the interactive platform. The Mapguide project has facilitated cooperation among stakeholders in the region, which continues to operate beyond the life of the project.
  • Develop online travel tools: continue enriching the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide with an interactive website that includes trip planning tools and information on the region’s authentic culture, history, and environment.


  • Strategic plan for increasing sustainable tourism and competitiveness in the East Tennessee River Valley
  • Establishment of the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism Stewardship Council
  • Creation and distribution of the East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide
  • Creation of a National Geographic co-branded website that provides information on sustainable tourism in the region and serves as a gateway for future geotourism-related solutions


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