Qu'est-ce que le géotourisme?

Le géotourisme a été reconnu comme une discipline au sein de la communauté géoscientifique allemande à la fin des années 1990. Pour de nombreux auteurs dont l’objectif principal du géotourisme est le transfert et la communication des connaissances géoscientifiques au grand public, l’émergence des géoparcs au cours des 20 dernières années a donné aux scientifiques du monde entier une occasion sans précédent de communiquer avec le public. Cette approche qui s’apparente au « deficit model » préconisé par john miller (1983), mais qui est très controversée de nos jours, est fondée sur le fait que le public ne s’intéressera à la science et à ses enjeux que s’ils les comprennent. D’autres auteurs privilégient des définitions plus englobantes du géotourisme qui prennent en compte, non seulement le patrimoine géologique, mais aussi le patrimoine matériel et culturel des communautés qui y vivent dans le cadre d’une co-construction de connaissances. 

What are the reasons behind geologists’ sudden appetite for public instruction? According to Hose (2006), the question of how best to present geological sites and features to the general public has long preoccupied geologists. Considered to be con- cerned only with “static” and “unchanging” elements by the general public, Earth sciences are often perceived as poor cousins to more “dynamic” sciences dealing with biotic processes (Berrebi & Reynard, 2006; Larwood, Badman & McKeever, 2013). Authors such as Berrebi and Reynard (2008) and Zouros (2008) believe that the pro- tection of geoheritage is dependent on the public’s perception that it needs preserving, and therefore “connecting” the public to their geoheritage is the best way to conserve it. This aim is clearly identified in the definition of geotourism proposed by Hose (2000) as “the provision of interpretative facilities and services to promote the value and societal benefit of geologic and geomorphologic sites and their materials, and ensure their conservation, for the use of students, tourists and other recreationalists” (Hose, 2000, p.136).

For other authors, it is important to focus on the “geo” in geotourism, which “per- tains to geology and geomorphology and the natural resources of landscape, land- forms, fossil beds, rocks and minerals, with an emphasis on appreciating the proc- esses that are creating and created such features” (Dowling & Newsome, 2006, p.3). The same authors revisited this definition several years later, adding that “Geotourism promotes tourism to geosites and the conservation of geo-diversity and an under- standing of earth sciences through appreciation and learning.” (Dowling & Newsome, 2010, p.3).

In summary, we can see that these various definitions of geotourism, not uniquely linked to Geoparks, created a rather restrictive association between geological tourism and a sort of non-formal in-situ education: “It is our view that the bulk of geotourism takes place in the natural environment. Geotourism may thus be considered to be a part of natural area tourism and ecotour- ism, but is a specialized form of tourism in that the focus of attention is the geosite.” (Dowling & Newsome, 2006, p.6).

This representation, still prevalent amongst certain Geopark professionals, centres on the role of education as a means of engaging the public in the protection of geo- heritage and revealing its economic potential (geotourism development, including redevelopment of mines and quarries, etc.). Nevertheless, it doesn’t entirely corre- spond with the objectives of Global Geoparks as defined in the introduction of the operational guidelines for UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGG), which are to “promote the links between geological heritage and all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage” (UNESCO Global Geoparks, 2015, p.7). In fact, these objectives bear a far closer resemblance to the definition proposed by Stueve, Cook & Drew sponsored by National Geographic Society, for whom geotourism: “is concerned with preserving a destination’s geographic character —the entire combination of natural and human attributes that make one place distinct from an- other. Geotourism encompasses both cultural and environmental concerns regarding travel, as well as the local impact tourism has upon communities and their individual economies and lifestyles.” (Stueve, Cook, & Drew, 2002, p.1). Their approach favours the promotion of all forms of heritage within a territory, where geotourism “is a com- pilation of all aspects of a territory (natural and cultural) and the people in it. “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its en- vironment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and the well-being of its residents.” (Stueve, Cook & Drew, 2003, p.1).

The first European Geoparks seemed to use “geo-tourism”, “geological tourism” and “geotourism” interchangeably. In fact, the terms lacked a shared common basis, although the desire for a participatory approach had been discussed since the creation of the “European Geopark trademark” (Zouros, 2004, p.165) and was included within its charter15: “A European Geopark has an active role in the economic de- velopment of its territory through enhancement of a general image linked to the geological heritage and the development of Geotourism (...) The objective is to enable the inhabitants to re-appropriate the values of the territory’s heritage and actively participate in the territory’s cultural revitalization as a whole” (Article 3 “the EGN charter”, 2000). Opening geotourism in Geoparks to more than just geological heri- tage was also part of the discussions, according to Martini: “we also have to learn to stop isolating this heritage (geological) so dear to our hearts from the other types of heritage within any given territory. All types of heritage must unite to prepare a real and coherent policy. (...) we also have to learn that our geological sites do not – and must not - belong to us geologists” (Martini, 2000, p.155156).

The views of these authors (Hose, 1995; Hose, 2000; Stueve, Cook & Drew, 2002; Dowling & Newsome, 2006), as well as the results of discussions held during the International Congress of Geotourism in Arouca, Portugal in 2011 which aimed to “clarify the geotourism concept through a plenary session with international key speakers” (Arouca Geopark Association, 2011, p.3), were incorporated into Article 1 of the Arouca Declaration16, which stated that: “geotourism should be defined as tourism which sustains and enhances the identity of a territory, taking into consideration its geology, environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents. Geological tourism is one of the multiple components of geotourism”

As well as expanding the concept of geotourism beyond the National Geographic definition by better incorporating the notion of geological tourism, the Arouca Dec- laration also introduced a new aspect. This was an emphasis on a collective process of collaboration and adherence to a set of shared values, manifested through people’s identification with specific features within a territory. In this way, these values could then be considered to constitute the territory’s identity.

As Girault and Barthes (2016) have previously noted when asking questions about the epistemological foundations of such concepts as the “relation to territories” and the “social construction of territories”, the linking of the identity of a territory to its role in the lives of its inhabitants favours the application of various currents of in- terpretation within an overarching eco-centric approach. In contrast, references to the resources of a territory, such as those that refer to the geology of a territory, tend to more specifically echo the emergence of a more sociocentric approach to sustainable development education (Girault & Barthes, 2016).

With the creation of the European Geoparks Network and the (recently re-labelled) UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, these definitions have evolved and have effec- tively combined geographic and geologic definitions of geotourism (Farsani et al., 2014). This latest definition is anchored by a bottom-up, holistic and multidisciplinary approach that considers not only geological heritage, but also the material and cultural heritage of the communities living there. But it seems that the adoption of a common basis for defining tourism in Geoparks is still lacking. For example, on the UNESCO’s own website for UGG they refer to “geotourism”17 but in the latest Operational Guidelines they refer to only to “responsible tourism”18.

In the illustration, we offer a summary of different representations of geotourism and how each relates to the themes of Heritage, Territory and Interpretation, in order to construct a typology incorporating those relationships that could be then used as a basis for analysing different Geoparks cases.




MNHN, Paris, France

Extract from: Catalina Gonzalez-Tejada, Yi Du, Mark Read, Yves Girault, 2017. From nature conservation to geotourism development: examining ambivalent attitudes towards UNESCO directives with the global geopark network. International Journal of Geoheritage. 2017, 5(2): 1-20

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To cite this version : Catalina Gonzalez-Tejada, Yi Du, Mark Read, Yves Girault, 2017. From nature conservation to geotourism development: examining ambivalent attitudes towards UNESCO directives with the global geopark network. International Journal of Geoheritage. 2017, 5(2): 1-20

Le géotourisme