Honduras, National Geographic Announce "Geotourism" Partnership

Angela Burnford
National Geographic Traveler
October 25, 2004
Last Friday in Washington D.C. the government of Honduras announced its
plan to become the first country with an official "geotourism" strategy. The
concept, developed by the National Geographic Society, refers to
"tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of a
place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the
well-being of its residents."

Honduran President Ricardo Maduro declared his government's adoption of the strategy in the presence of international dignitaries at the Organization of American States.

President Maduro and Honduran minister of tourism Thierry de Pierrefeu signed an agreement to follow the tenets of geotourism. Those include

• following international codes for sustainable tourism,

• establishing policies and practices based on cultural and natural preservation, and

• building community-based tourism partnerships that emphasize economic and social benefits to locals.

Accordingly, geotourism principles will be integrated into every aspect of product development and marketing.

Supporting partners who signed the agreement include the National Geographic Society; Counterpart International, an international development nonprofit; and the George Washington University. All are based in Washington, D.C. The entities pledged to assist the Honduras Institute of Tourism in its implementation of the geotourism strategy.

"We have been trying to find a [tourism] strategy for two and a half years," de Pierrefeu, the Honduran tourism minister, told the audience. He added: "Then we found that someone had done this before us: National Geographic. We are convinced that Honduras is the ideal territory for the implementation of geotourism."

President Maduro believes that geotourism will play a pivotal role in poverty alleviation in Honduras. According to the president, poverty is reduced not from a top-down approach but from the bottom up. He explained that geotourism does just that, offering technical assistance and training to locals who will then receive direct economic benefits from tourism.

One of the first steps in implementing Honduras's geotourism strategy will be the creation of a National Geographic Geotourism Map Guide. The map will include Honduras's north coast, Bay Islands, and eastern Honduras, home to the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve.

Supporting partners have also agreed to assist the Honduras Institute of Tourism in the creation of a center for attracting scientific, academic, volunteer, and educational travelers to Honduras. Called the SAVE center, it will actively engage visitors to enhance natural, cultural, and historic assets of Honduras.

"Adopting geotourism as a national strategy builds on the measures Honduras has already taken to base its tourism development on authenticity," states Jonathan B. Tourtellot, the director of sustainable tourism at the National Geographic Society. "National Geographic applauds Honduras's efforts and hopes to help both Hondurans and foreign visitors learn more about the rich cultural and natural heritage of the country."

Though it is the first nation to officially adopt a geotourism strategy, Honduras is not alone in its recognition of the value of geotourism. The Cook Islands, a South Pacific destination popular among Australians and New Zealanders, is currently writing a new tourism master plan based on geotourism principles (see related TravelWatch story). Tourism officials say they are eager to adopt the new plan and are awaiting its completion.

Click here for a copy of the geotourism principles on which the agreement signed by President Maduro was based. (Adobe Reader is required to view this file. Download it for free here.)

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