From the middle of the 1990s, geotourism was introduced through the first geotrails, their evolution, and the first geopark worldwide in Gerolstein/Vulkaneifel, Germany. The latter is one of the founding members of the European Geoparks Network, which was established in 2000 at the
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From the middle of the 1990s, geotourism was introduced through the first geotrails, their evolution, and the first geopark worldwide in Gerolstein/Vulkaneifel, Germany. The latter is one of the founding members of the European Geoparks Network, which was established in 2000 at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin. The main goal of the first geopark was to link geological heritage with tourism in a rural area that was trying to create new perspectives to inspire young people to stay in their home territory. Geotourism was initiated as part of sustainable tourist development and for future sustainable development at that time in the Gerolstein region. The first steps to implement the Gerolstein/Vulkaneifel Geopark, Germany, were taken in 1992. The core aspects included geological heritage, science transfer, and education as tools for developing geotourism in the broad sense and integrating local people and municipalities in the geopark activities of the rural region. Close collaboration with the local and regional tourism organizations highlighted the need to both define tools and demonstrate their success. Up to now, practice has shown that such success can be demonstrated by the infrastructure created, as well as adjacent measures and activities. A network of factors was determined to play a significant role in ensuring the successful sustainable development in a geopark across the field of geotourism. There are many activities and publications on geological heritage, geosite assessment, significance, and use, but there are fewer which reflect on the network of factors highlighted in this contribution which were first presented in 2002. In many publications and investigations, one factor in particular is emphasized, e.g., infrastructure development, such as panels or other items. Not all of the mentioned factors, however, are being addressed. As a result, a selection of good practice examples of UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGP) working on the network-oriented conceptual basis has been studied here, in line with the conceptual principle set forth about 25 years ago. The geopark examples in this study include Lesvos Island UGGp (Greece), Naturtejo UGGP (Portugal), Vulkaneifel UGGp (Germany), and Hong Kong UGGP (China), as well as the example of the Messel Pit World Heritage Site (WHS) (Germany). The latter was integrated to present an example which is not a geopark, showing that this concept can also be transferred to a WHS as a tool for sustainable development according the UN 2030 Agenda. The information on the development of the selected examples was obtained by visiting the geopark territory and from the geopark’s websites and published material as a combined methodology.