Jonathan B. Tourtellot


Geotourism is described as “best practice” tourism that sustains, or even enhances, the geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. If tourism is used to support, and not erode, these attributes, the Caribbean will have a competitive advantage. It provides market differentiation. I am aware of the need to balance economic development with protecting the character of a place. However, it was not impossible to achieve this balance. It’s not a zero-sum game. You can do both. If a place fails to protect its character it will lose its pride in the short term and, in the long term, its ability to increase revenue from tourism.

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Thought Leader, Cultural Geographer & Destination Practitioner

Tourtellot is a global specialist in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship. He is also an editor with a focus on travel, geography, and science. Motivated by his desire to encourage protection of distinctive places, Tourtellot originated the concept of ‘Geotourism’, 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.” He helped the U.S. Travel Association develop the 2002 Geotourism Study, a landmark survey of American traveler behavior and attitudes about issues of sustainability. Tourtellot launched and ran the National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) for nine years. He is the primary author of the Geotourism Charter, a set of stewardship principles adopted by various world destinations from Norway and Guatemala to Portugal’s Douro Valley and the city of Montreal. He initiated and supervises the Destination Stewardship surveys reported annually as the cover story in National Geographic Traveler magazine’s November/December issue. In helping to expand Traveler’s coverage of tourism and destination management, he wrote the magazine’s first two feature stories on the topic, “The Two Faces of Tourism” and “The Tourism Wars,” both winners of the Lowell Thomas Award.

Tourtellot instituted National Geographic’s Geotourism Map Guide program, unique in that it invites full participation by destination residents and so raises awareness of distinctive local assets. Prior to his work in the tourism field, he contributed to several National Geographic books and served as project editor for several others, including Britain and Ireland, Into the Unknown, the first National Geographic Photographer’s Field Guide, and Exploring Our Living Planet. In books and magazines, he has covered places ranging from Icelandic volcanoes to Amazon rain forests and from the desert valleys of Nevada to the marshes of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. In 2012 he launched, a collaborative website and blog dedicated to destination stewardship and the geotourism approach. He serves on the Destinations Working Group for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and as advisor for several sustainable-tourism organizations. He is also the Principal of Focus on Places LLC. In his current role as Geotourism Editor for National Geographic Traveller, he ensures that vital topics like green tourism, climate change and resort sprawl stay in the mainstream conversation. He lives on a mountainside in northern Virginia.