The Harbinger Consultancy

Geotourism Workshop: Put the Locally Driven Destination Development, Stewardship and Marketing Approach to Work for Your Community

Virtual Training

Multi-day Course Project Preparation Program Administration and Leadership

Learn how to put Geotourism to work for your community. Introduced more than 20 years ago through National Geographic, this community-led approach has been used by destinations around the world to guide development, catalyze locally driven marketing, foster stewardship, and align tourism with the good of the place and the people who live there.

Learn how to put Geotourism to work for your community. Introduced more than 20 years ago through National Geographic, this community-led approach has been used by destinations around the world to guide development, catalyze locally driven marketing, foster stewardship, and align tourism with the good of the place and the people who live there.

In 2002, National Geographic began collaborating with destinations across the United States and around the world to craft a holistic approach to tourism development, marketing and stewardship that put communities in the lead. National Geographic called this approach “geotourism.”

Together with the Travel Industry Association of America (now the US Travel Association), National Geographic defined geotourism as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” An in-depth survey of U.S. travelers helped to define the market for tourism that supports and celebrates the natural and cultural character of a destination and the well-being of the people who live there. The survey found that—even back in 2002—roughly half of America’s traveling households were truly interested in the destination and eager to be responsible visitors.

Over the course of 14 years, National Geographic worked with more than 20 locations, testing and refining a community-driven approach that practitioners have continued to advance since the program ended in 2016. (See links to geotourism projects that started prior to 2016 and are still active today by scrolling to the bottom of this page.) Post-2016, geotourism has continued to influence how other destinations do their work, from New York’s Genesee Valley to California’s Borrego Springs, to Texas’ Lone Star Coastal, to the sprawling Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Since the formal program ended, it has become increasingly difficult to find support for implementing the community-led geotourism approach. This course aims to fill that gap, providing both a conceptual understanding of the geotourism approach and practical tools and insights to help your community become a destination that is more in charge of its own future. Geotourism provides a strategic and operational framework that can be used to:
• sustain community engagement over time;
• align everything from branding to visitor management to resource protection with the good of the community;
• create a concrete way for agencies to expand from destination marketing to destination management; and
• support or catalyze place-based education, conservation, historic preservation, and local entrepreneurial development and business vitality.

A brief note: As the geotourism approach that embraces all of a locale’s distinctive aspects developed, the word also gained popularity as a shorthand for “geological tourism.” These approaches are not in competition, but the parallel uses of the same name can be confusing. Geological tourism can be seen as a niche topic within the broader geotourism approach, which offers many ways to enliven geological tourism by bringing in culture, history and nature.


Understand the geotourism mindset, strategy, and associated practices for destination development, marketing and stewardship.

Use geotourism to integrate other responsible tourism strategies like ecotourism, heritage tourism, geological tourism, and agritourism.

Gain insights into geotourism from experts like Jonathan Tourtellot, CEO of the Destination Stewardship Center, former editor at National Geographic Traveler and one of the originators of the geotourism concept

Learn to engage your community in crafting and implementing a responsible tourism strategy it can live with, one that celebrates and builds on its distinctive assets and sense of place.

Strengthen the case for—and your community’s capacity to host—responsible, beneficial tourism by focusing on the distinctive natural and cultural assets of the destination as a whole.

Identify and coalesce a regional destination that works for participating communities.

Support entrepreneurs and local businesses as part of tourism efforts.

Access detailed tools for implementing geotourism initiatives, including planning timelines, workshop agendas, progress trackers, and sample agreements.

Learn the tools of Hands-On Branding, an engaging process that fosters community pride and yields branding rooted in community values and character.

Access tools, work flows and essential practices for collaborative content development and editorial processes that draw on local talent and contributors.

Build strategies for grassroots digital marketing and turning locals into ambassadors and word-of-mouth business generators.

Take control of how your community or region is marketed and tell your own stories.

Learn how to forge an alliance with enough clout to be a voice and coordinating body for destination stewardship, while building a unique marketing case for your place.

Identify strategies and resources for funding and sustaining geotourism initiatives over time.

Learn community-enhancing ways to monitor, assess, celebrate, and learn from progress and setbacks.

Identify resources and approaches to support collaborative—or at least coordinated— resource management.

Hear from geotourism practitioners about ongoing work and best practices in the field.

Your registration fee includes a post-course one-on-one or team consultation session to address your particular situation and needs.

Community & economic development organizations and agency staff • Chambers of Commerce & business alliances • Tourism promotion agencies and destination marketing and management organizations • Place-based & conservation organizations • Extension & community development professionals • Downtown & Main Street groups • Other community leaders • Arts & culture and heritage groups• Outdoor recreation organizations • Entrepreneurs and business owners • Managers of parks, trails natural areas and heritage sites

Michele Archie is a principal of The Harbinger Consultancy. She brings 30 years of experience with community engagement and community economic development in rural communities across the West and throughout the country to this course. In the early 2000s, Michele worked with National Geographic and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition on the second geotourism initiative. Since then, she has helped launch, support and sustain several other geotourism efforts in California, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Michele was an officer of the National Geotourism Council and is now involved in rebooting the Council as an international body. She is a volunteer contributor to the Destination Stewardship Center.

Three live 2-hour weekly video conference sessions
Wednesdays, Oct. 30, Nov. 13 & 20, 2024, 9-11am PT/12-2 pm ET

Every class will be presented live and available for replay in case you need to miss a session or want to review.

$525 regular course fee • $425 early registration discount through June 30, 2024

Discounts for two or more participants from the same organization or community: $375 early registration, $425 regular group rate

Organizational and other special discount codes offer a discount in addition to early registration and group rates.

Contact us for special rates for groups of five or more. We often work with cohorts in our courses, and can create a custom package including group meetings and coaching during and/or after the course.

Through a partnership with American Trails, Harbinger is offering free learning credits for this and selected other courses. Credits are available by request, at no charge beyond the course registration fee, contingent on completing the entire course and a brief post-course quiz. American Trails is a certified provider, and you may request credits for:

American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)

Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES PDH)

CEU/PDH equivalency petition for other accepting organizations

This course provides 6.00 CM | 6.00 LA CES NON-HSW | 0.60 CEU/6.00 PDH Equivalency Petition

Session 1: Geotourism Fundamentals
• The National Geographic Geotourism charter—using its principles to ground action
• Foundational research and program evaluation
• The value of place
• Who tells the story of your place?
• Catalytic projects as a driving force
• Four core aspects of a geotourism strategy
• How to assemble, formalize and sustain a Stewardship Council, and its role over time
• Foundational agreements for a geotourism initiative

Session 2: Core Geotourism Processes
• The core community process for launching geotourism initiatives—why, how and how to adapt
• Five foundational questions
• The Hand-On Branding process
• Strategies and tactics for taking charge of your community’s story
• Tools for managing collaborative editorial processes
• Cultivating local voices
• How to build a grassroots marketing strategy incrementally by assessing and leveraging digital opportunities

Session 3: Destination Stewardship and Sustaining Geotourism Initiatives Over Time
• Deepening the culture of your place
• Local economy building
• Turning locals into word-of-mouth ambassadors and local business generators
• Collaborative resource management and protection
• Managing visitors and the visitor experience
• Funding and other resources
• Managing the Stewardship Council over time
• Collect data over time — what matters most? indicators, progress, transparency and accountability
• Celebrating progress and maintaining momentum
• Common pitfalls and how to navigate or avoid them


This is a virtual training. See the event website for more details.

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Upcoming Event

Training Dates

Starts October 30, 2024
09:00 AM
Ends November 20
11:00 AM

This event takes place in Pacific Daylight Time.

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07:00 AM Hawaii-Aleutian Daylight Time
06:00 AM Hawaii Standard Time


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