About the Geotourism Project

Geotourism is tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of a place, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. Geotourism encompasses a range of travel including culture and heritage, history, food, nature, adventure, the outdoors, water, music, and arts.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (NHT) Geotourism Program covers the length of the Trail from Pittsburgh the Pacific Ocean. It is a collaboration between the National Park Service (NPS) and Solimar International (a sustainable tourism consulting firm) in partnership with a number of other organizations and individuals at the local, state, and national levels along the Trail.

The goals of the Geotourism Project are:

  • Provide the public with resources to better experience Lewis and Clark NHT.
  • Bring diverse partners along Lewis and Clark NHT together to re-establish partnerships and renew collaborative efforts.
  • Engage Native American tribes along the Trail, developing new opportunities for them to share their stories with travelers in a way compatible with their goals and sentiments.
  • Support local small businesses and raise awareness of the wealth of amenities and experiences offered by communities along Lewis and Clark NHT.

In support of a tourism policy that sustains and enhances the nation’s geographical character—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents—we endorse and recommend the following principles.

Integrity of place

Enhance geographical character by developing and improving it in ways distinctive to the locale, reflective of its natural and cultural heritage, so as to encourage market differentiation and cultural pride.

International codes

Adhere to the principles embodied in the World Tourism Organization’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Principles of the Cultural Tourism Charter established by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Market selectivity

Encourage growth in tourism market segments most likely to appreciate, respect, and disseminate information about the distinctive assets of the locale.

Market diversity

Encourage a full range of appropriate food and lodging facilities, so as to appeal to the entire demographic spectrum of the geotourism market and so maximize economic resiliency over both the short and long term.

Tourist satisfaction

Ensure that satisfied, excited geotourists bring new vacation stories home and send friends off to experience the same thing, thus providing continuing demand for the destination.

Community involvement

Base tourism on community resources to the extent possible, encouraging local small businesses and civic groups to build partnerships to promote and provide a distinctive, honest visitor experience and market their locales effectively. Help businesses develop approaches to tourism that build on the area’s nature, history and culture, including food and drink, artisanry, performance arts, etc.

Community benefit

Encourage micro- to medium-size enterprises and tourism business strategies that emphasize economic and social benefits to involved communities, especially poverty alleviation, with clear communication of the destination stewardship policies required to maintain those benefits.

Protection and enhancement of destination appeal

Encourage businesses to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, aesthetic appeal, and local culture. Prevent degradation by keeping volumes of tourists within maximum acceptable limits. Seek business models that can operate profitably within those limits. Use persuasion, incentives, and legal enforcement as needed.

Land use

Anticipate development pressures and apply techniques to prevent undesired overdevelopment and degradation. Contain resort and vacation-home sprawl, especially on coasts and islands, so as to retain a diversity of natural and scenic environments and ensure continued resident access to waterfronts. Encourage major self-contained tourism attractions, such as large- scale theme parks and convention centers unrelated to character of place, to be sited in needier locations with no significant ecological, scenic, or cultural assets.

Conservation of resources

Encourage businesses to minimize water pollution, solid waste, energy consumption, water usage, landscaping chemicals, and overly bright nighttime lighting. Advertise these measures in a way that attracts the large, environmentally sympathetic tourist market.


Recognize and respect immediate economic needs without sacrificing long-term character and the geotourism potential of the destination. Where tourism attracts in-migration of workers, develop new communities that themselves constitute a destination enhancement. Strive to diversify the economy and limit population influx to sustainable levels. Adopt public strategies for mitigating practices that are incompatible with geotourism and damaging to the image of the destination.

Interactive interpretation

Engage both visitors and hosts in learning about the place. Encourage residents to show off the natural and cultural heritage of their communities, so that tourists gain a richer experience and residents develop pride in their locales.


Establish an evaluation process to be conducted on a regular basis by an independent panel representing all stakeholder interests, and publicize evaluation results.