Geotourism: a perspective from southwest Germany
Geotourism is an expression of a growing trend to experience the natural and cultural landscape in contrast to the common urbanized lifestyle – a contemporary phenomenon that has become evident worldwide since the late 1980s. This appreciation of nature and heritage is fast becoming a new impulse generator for the tourism industry. In recent years geotourism has therefore developed into a very appealing concept, attracting a variety of people with diverse interests – particularly from the tourism industry, but also governments as well as environmental and conservation groups (see, for example, Megerle, 1999; Megerle and Pauls, 2003). The increasing demand for ‘geo’ has led to the development of geotourism attractions based on geological formations such as caves, volcanic craters, thermal springs, karstification and waterfalls. These resources, transformed into geotourism products, have made many regions unique geotourism destinations. They attract increasing numbers of tourists, with the consequence that in some areas geotourism has already been described as a mass phenomenon (TIA, 2003) – in particular where the term is only understood as yet another market segment, but there is also general agreement that geotourism poses an enormous potential for many regions.