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National Geographic Geotourism Charter

It was an historic moment January 15 2010, as Frontenac Arch Biosphere chairman Gary Clark signed the National Geographic Society's Geotourism Charter - only the ninth such charter worldwide.

Joining in the ceremony was Jonathan Tourtellot, director of the Centre for Sustainable Destinations National Geographic Society, who added his signature to the charter. Only two other charters have been awarded in Canada - to the City of Montreal and to the Waterton Lakes/Glacier National Parks on the Alberta-Montana border.  

"This is an opportunity for us to be a leader in Canada," Clark said. "This is just the beginning of the road. The geotourism charter certainly puts this region on the international map, but perhaps more importantly, it puts this amazing region on the world's tourism radar. "

Surveys by the Canadian Tourism Association, Deloitte and as well National Geographic clearly show that the majority of international travellers now choose sustainable experiences, at sustainable destinations.

"Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. The geotourism charter is available to destinations with a proven track record for geotourism's key principles and has specific programs to continue destination stewardship and wisely managed tourism." Tourtellot spoke of how well the local biosphere reserve meshes with the charter's mandate and the geotourism philosophy."We can use this kind of tourism to protect what people want to see," he said. "The wellbeing of the residents is central to this and the physical place is the unifying force that brings the people together. ... This area fits perfectly." 

Ontario Minister of the Environment John Gerretsen was also in attendance. "Sustainability is about one thing: preserving our heritage," he said. "There are so many fantastic places in this area -especially since you have two UNESCO sites right in this area. Anything that's good for the Gananoque area is good for the Kingston area and good for eastern Ontario." He said the significance of the National Geographic recognition is "going to make a huge difference" in efforts to promote the region.  "It's going to bring this area to the forefront. We have to build on this sustainability," said Gerretsen. 

"We are delighted the Frontenac Arch Biosphere is receiving this award," said Mark King, assistant to Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown who was unable to attend.
Also bringing greetings and congratulations was Michael Kurts on behalf of the Ontario Minister of Tourism, Monique Smith.  "This initiative is incredibly important in terms of tourism and it's a great way to show off what this part of the province has to offer ... Hopefully this is just the beginning of the work we all can do together."

Click here to read the National Geographic Geotourism Charter

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