Our View: Geotourism, worth pursuing, promoting | SierraSun.com

Our View: Geotourism, worth pursuing, promoting

Geotourism. To many, it’s probably a nebulous concept, but one that should be examined for its potential positive effect on the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The term, detailed in a 2002 report by the Travel Industry Association of America and National Geographic Traveler magazine, defines a destination in terms that go well beyond nature and ecology.

According to a variety of sources, the concept incorporates additional characteristics that contribute to a “sense of place.” Lake Tahoe, for instance, is known mostly for its exceptional natural beauty and marvelous array of outdoor recreational activity.

And for the most part, that’s why tourists flock here.

Geotourism seeks to enhance that aspect by promoting an area’s heritage, culture, aesthetics and well-being of its local residents. A Nov. 15 meeting of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club convened to discuss establishing the basin as a geotourism destination.

In 2004, Lake Tahoe received an average rating in a National Geographic magazine survey titled “Places Rated.” The survey reviewed 115 top world destinations based on their geotourism. The panel rested its findings on six criteria: environment, heritage, aesthetics and the before-mentioned well-being of its local residents.

Lake Tahoe scored 60 out of 100, a solid “C,” based on the Geographic Index of Destination Stewardship.

After spending time in the area this summer, Jonathan Tourtellot, National Geographic Traveler magazine geotourism editor, wrote an article for the magazine titled “It’s the Lake, Stupid,” which described Tahoe’s history.

“My take is that there are plenty of issues, but everyone is on top of it,” Tourtellot said recently from his Washington, D.C., office. “What seems to be missing is more texture of what the place is all about.”

And this is where Jacquie Chandler enters the picture.

After meeting Tourtellot, the Incline Village resident became interested in forming a committee to help the area promote its geotourism. Chandler contends the area must bring its tourism to new heights.

“We are moving in the direction of geotourism activities being focused on a higher personal experience with the place,” she said last week. “We are interested in embracing tourism in the 21st century.”

Tourtellot praises Chandler’s initiative and focus.

“I think Jacquie has the right idea about getting people thinking about the special aspects of Tahoe beyond recreation,” he said recently. “The challenge for any place is what makes us different. The history is pretty well buried, and there are economic issues, too. The area is getting too rich for its own good. Diversity is being lost because the cost of living is too high.”

It’s difficult to argue with that sentiment, given the number of residents leaving the area for less-expensive destinations. Perhaps geotourism can help stem the tide.

In the Nov. 15 Sierra Club meeting Chandler facilitated, she garnered the support of two other people to form the area’s geotourism committee. We’ll be anxious to review the committee’s findings.

A geotourism grade of “C” is not acceptable.

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