Guatemala de la Asunción, April 24, 2007. Guatemala today joined the growing number of countries to adopt the National Geographic Geotourism Charter. The charter, signed in the National Palace of Culture by representatives of the National Geographic Society, the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism (INGUAT), Counterpart International and the National Coffee Association (ANACAFÉ), opens the doors to the promotion and management of Guatemalan tourism destinations under the framework of geotourism.
The charter establishes a geotourism strategy to promote Guatemalan tourism at the international level on the basis of the active involvement of communities and the local population, and on cultivating pride for the rich natural and cultural heritage of the country. It also provides for the establishment of practices and policies designed to protect natural and cultural resources, while seeking to sustain and enhance the geographic nature of the destinations.
One of the projects resulting from the signing will be the publication of a Geotourism MapGuide, which will be distributed throughout Guatemala and published on the Internet in an interactive format.
The President of the Republic, Oscar Berger, called the signing of the agreement “a historic opportunity for Guatemala to progress towards the type of sustainable tourism development that will enable it to expose the world cultural and natural assets that distinguish Guatemala as the best destination of the region.”
“In signing this Geotourism Charter, Guatemala demonstrates how government will work with the private sector and local residents to foster good destination stewardship,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, Director of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations. “That means more appealing experiences for desirable tourists, more benefit from nature conservation, more support for Guatemala’s great cultural sites, and an economic boost for indigenous and rural communities throughout the country.”
Daniel Money, Director of IINGUAT, commented, “The signing of the Geotourism Charter goes beyond the agreement itself. It contemplates the geographical sustainability and enhancement of destinations where active participation of local residents will allow a positive exchange in which all actors will provide knowledge, values, abilities, traditions, beliefs and different resources for local development through sustainable tourism. The Charter will also serve as a catalyst to generate wellbeing and employment among the population while preserving the natural and cultural heritage for future generations in a modern and dynamic scheme of impulse for the economy and for tourism.”
“Counterpart International has worked as a strategic partner of National Geographic on various issues and in various countries around the world, and on this occasion, the signing is especially relevant given that we are developing the Alliance for Community Tourism project in Guatemala together with USAID and with various local partners,” commented Lelei Lelaulu, President of Counterpart International.
“The Coffee Atlas is the result of several specialized technical teams working together to register altitude, latitude, longitude and exact limits for individual coffee farms and coffee growing areas of small producers in different parts of the country. Thanks to these efforts we now have a compilation of maps that serve as an information source showing the relationship between coffee and microclimate conditions. The Coffee Atlas has served to promote Guatemala among the most important productive sectors around the world. However, through this new alliance the promotion of our country and its geographical conditions will have no limits,” said Christian Rasch, engineer and President of Anacafé.
U.S. Ambassador James Derham, who witnessed the signing of the agreement, noted that the U.S. government had a long history of supporting tourism development and conservation of natural and cultural heritage activities in Guatemala. He pointed out that the agreement, in the framework of the technical cooperation offered by USAID, represents a new opportunity for Guatemala to attract important sectors of the United States tourism market.
Guatemala is the fifth country to sign the National Geographic Geotourism Charter, joining Honduras, Norway, Cook Islands and Romania.
What is geotourism?
Geotourism is 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.” The geotourism strategy highlights the relationship between tourism and the identity of the place, emphasizing sustainability and community participation. A geotourism strategy incorporates prominent sites and landscapes, but places particular emphasis on elements of the locale’s cultural heritage, such as music, dance, gastronomy, local legends and important personalities.
The economic potential of this type of tourism is very high. According to a study commissioned by National Geographic and carried out by the Travel Industry Association, 55 million American tourists are interested in geotouristic travel options, and in the near future, this segment could grow to 100 million tourists. More important still is the fact that this segment of tourists represents more than 75 percent of the economic power of the United States market as a generator of tourists to Guatemala.
The National Geographic Society is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 350 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and its four other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; DVDs; maps; and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports and education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, log on to www.nationalgeographic.com or visit the Web page for the Center for Sustainable Destinations, www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable/.