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An Emerging Paradigm for the UNESCO Global Geoparks: The Ecosystem’s Health Provision
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

UNESCO Global Geoparks, Geotourism and Communication of the Earth Sciences: A Case Study in the Chablais UNESCO Global Geopark, France

Chablais UNESCO Global Geopark, 74200 Thonon-les-Bains, France
Geosciences 2018, 8(5), 149;
Received: 30 March 2018 / Revised: 19 April 2018 / Accepted: 22 April 2018 / Published: 25 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Selected Papers from the “14th European Geoparks Conference”)
The last twenty years have seen considerable developments in geotourism, a form of sustainable tourism. This has been also a period of significant development for UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGps), on one hand with the creation of the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme, and the other, in the number and diversity of UGGps recognised across the world. Geoparks have particular characteristics, such as a spatial engagement across an area, as well as the long-term commitment associated with this type of label. UGGps take a broad approach to geotourism, and seek to engage with all demographics, including “unsuspecting” geotourists. This is particularly relevant when considering that the Geopark profile has evolved since the introduction of the UNESCO label, and that a number UGGps are pre-existing tourist destinations and have diverse economies and strong growth. UGGps draw on professional, multidisciplinary teams that combine scientific knowledge, science communication, and outreach events to achieve effective heritage transmission through actions that target schools, the local population, and the general public. These are not traditional structures and do not have behavioural constraints imposed on them as experienced by some educational structures or museums. The present case study is an example of the type of innovation seen in UGGps, whereby novel solutions are employed in order to touch as wide a public as possible. The action presented is a winter outreach event for the general public in the Chablais UNESCO Global Geopark (France), that was developed in partnership with the Portes du Soleil association of 12 ski resorts. This consisted of an orienteering/treasure hunt game across one of the world’s largest ski domains, that included panels with anecdotes presenting different aspects of the Chablais geoheritage. It demonstrates that it is possible to engage with a sporting public that is seeking experiences and is not expecting to sacrifice time or exert effort to deepen knowledge or gain cultural insight. Interestingly, the study shows that careful event design, including concise language choice and a strict avoidance of technical vocabulary, results in the effective transmission of heritage information. The game participants were not geotourists, and yet displayed a good appetite for Earth science and cultural heritage knowledge. The study concluded that the sporting general public retained information about the geoheritage of the area, was open to participating in future Chablais UGGp events, and that they were interested in returning both to explore other aspects of the territory, and to visit in other seasons. The Chablais UGGp assessed the success and quality of the event and confirmed the relevance of a well-considered and layered geotourism strategy for territories with an UGGp label. View Full-Text
Keywords: UNESCO Global Geoparks; UGGp; geotourism; communication; sustainable development UNESCO Global Geoparks; UGGp; geotourism; communication; sustainable development
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Justice, S.C. UNESCO Global Geoparks, Geotourism and Communication of the Earth Sciences: A Case Study in the Chablais UNESCO Global Geopark, France. Geosciences 2018, 8, 149.

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