First Regional Geotourism Conference Planned With National Geographic

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism Council and the Southeast Watershed Forum announced the first southeastern conference on Geotourism planned in cooperation with National Geographic and sponsored by the Lyndhurst Foundation, with additional support from Benwood Foundation and Plan East Tennessee, will be held Aug. 15 at the Chattanooga Marriott Downtown. The program is designed for tourism operators, hospitality businesses, outfitters, local and regional planning associations, chambers of commerce, state and federal agencies, and park and recreation departments.  

Geotourism: A Promising Strategy for Sustainable Economic Development is a day-long conference with regional and national speakers and resource people to explore ways to enhance Geotourism and sustainable travel and business practices as key economic drivers for communities in the East Tennessee River Valley. Geotourism enhances preservation of the cultural, historical and natural resources that draw people to a region and promotes a business ethic that places a high value on protecting the world's distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and destination stewardship, officials said.

The conference speakers will include John Campbell, national brand manager for National Geographic Travel Group; Dan Austin, director of Austin-Lehman Adventures, a company specializing in world-wide adventure travel; Chris Seek, Marketing for Solimar International, and Commissioner Susan Whitaker from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. Regional successes in geotourism will be featured, as well, such as Gatlinburg Goes Green, Outdoor Chattanooga and Outdoor Knoxville.

“I spend a great deal of my travels abroad, said Mr. Austin," when asked to speak at the upcoming Geotoursim Conference in Chattanooga, it was an immediate yes. Getting a chance to explore a bit of the East Tennessee River Valley and spend some time with the local operators, has been on my bucket list for years.” Mr. Austin's company, Austin-Lehman Adventures (ALA) was named the “Best Tour Operator in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine readers in 2009. Mr. Austin and ALA have stayed at the very top of this list every year since that first year, hitting #1 in Family Travel again in 2012.

The East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism Council is a group of 25 regional organizations and associations working in partnership with National Geographic to designate the region a National Geographic Destination and to manage the online Geotourism MapGuide, ( The Council is coordinated by the nonprofit, Southeast Watershed Forum, based in Knoxville. 

The conference will explore how geotourism can be a driver for economic growth in the region. Go to: for conference information and online registration.

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