PROVIDENCE, R.I.–At the 22nd annual Tourism Unity luncheon on May 16, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri signed a Geotourism Charter for Rhode Island, demonstrating the state’s continued commitment to preservation, conservation and destination stewardship. Geotourism Charters are a key program element of the National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD), which aims to increase the practice of sustainable tourism around the globe. Rhode Island is the sixth destination, and second U.S. state, to sign the charter, joining Honduras, Norway, Romania, Arizona and Guatemala.
“Rhode Island’s rich history and natural beauty have made our state a draw for visitors from around the world. With careful stewardship of these resources, we continue to grow our tourism industry throughout our state — from the Blackstone Valley to South County and from Aquidneck Island to downtown Providence. By adopting the National Geographic Geotourism Charter, we will build on our accomplishments to promote Rhode Island’s charms,” Carcieri said. “Signing this charter today is an important catalyst that will create a new level of collaboration among the organizations that contribute to and impact geotourism in Rhode Island.”
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.
“In signing this Geotourism Charter, Rhode Island demonstrates how principle-based collaborations can foster good destination stewardship,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, CSD director. “That means more appealing experiences for desirable tourists, more support for Rhode Island’s great heritage sites, more benefit for nature conservation, and a positive economic and social impact for local residents and communities throughout the state.”
The signing ceremony commenced the formation of an 18-member Rhode Island Geotourism Collaborative — a public-private partnership representing agencies and organizations engaged in historic preservation, conservation, tourism, planning and transportation — to oversee creation and implementation of the state’s geotourism programs (list of members attached). In September the Geotourism Collaborative will brainstorm to identify geotourism initiatives that can be applied statewide, regionally and locally. The Geotourism Collaborative also will present annual geotourism awards and create a dedicated geotourism Web site.
Jonathan Stevens, executive director of Preserve Rhode Island, represented the newly formed Rhode Island Geotourism Collaborative at the signing ceremony. “Preserve Rhode Island appreciates the opportunity to work with National Geographic and our colleagues around the state to help plan for the future of Rhode Island with a focus on integrating the interests of historic preservation, environmental conservation, protection of open space, making the state more visually appealing, and affecting sustainable tourism — to enhance our quality of place.”
David C. DePetrillo, director of tourism for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and emcee for the Tourism Unity luncheon, said, “It’s a huge win for us to have the highly respected Preserve Rhode Island step forward to help organize the Rhode Island Geotourism Collaborative. The input we get from this group will be invaluable to us in ensuring a sustainable future for Rhode Island’s tourism industry. Having the National Geographic Geotourism Charter principles as a guiding light give us a great head start.”
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. 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 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 an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com or visit the Web page for the Center for Sustainable Destinations at www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable/.
Rhode Island Geotourism Collaborative Members
– Preserve Rhode Island: Jonathan Stevens, executive director (lead agency for collaborative)
– Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management: Michael Sullivan, director
– Rhode Island Department of Transportation: Jerome Williams, director
– Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission: Ted Sanderson, executive director
– Rhode Island Historical Society: Barbara Barnes, director, tour services
– Rhode Island Tourism Division: David C. DePetrillo, director
– The Governor’s Office of Community Affairs: Susan Stenhouse, director
– GrowSmart Rhode Island: Scott Wolf, executive director
– Heritage Harbor Museum: Margaret Dooley, executive director
– Johnson & Wales University: Karen Silva, department chair, J&W Center for Sports, Entertainment and Event Management
– National Trust for Historic Preservation: Karen Jessup, advisor for the State of Rhode Island
– The Nature Conservancy: Janet Coit, director, Rhode Island chapter
– Rhode Island Hospitality Association: Dale Venturini, president/CEO
– Save the Bay: Curt Spaulding, executive director
– URI Coastal Institute: Peter August, director
– Cultural and ethnic heritage representative: Keith Stokes, executive director, Newport County Chamber of Commerce
– Travel trade representative: Cyndi Zesk, vice president of marketing, Collette Tours