ExplorersBio

Jonathan B. Tourtellot

Tourism Consultant

Fellow

Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot

Photograph courtesy National Geographic Studio

Jonathan Tourtellot is a consultant specializing in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship. He is also a journalist and editor with a focus on travel, geography, and science. Motivated by his desire to encourage protection of distinctive places, Tourtellot originated the concept of geotourism, defined as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” He helped the U.S. Travel Association develop the 2002 study Geotourism: The New Trend in Travel, a landmark survey of American traveler behavior and attitudes about issues of sustainability.

Tourtellot launched and ran the National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) for nine years. He is the primary author of the Geotourism Charter, a set of stewardship principles adopted by various world destinations from Norway and Guatemala to Portugal’s Douro Valley and the city of Montreal. He initiated and supervises the Destination Stewardship surveys reported annually as the cover story in National Geographic Traveler magazine’s November/December issue. In helping to expand Traveler’s coverage of tourism and destination management, he wrote the magazine’s first two feature stories on the topic, “The Two Faces of Tourism” and “The Tourism Wars,” both winners of the Lowell Thomas award. As geotourism editor for Traveler, he has written on such topics as resort sprawl, nature tourism, heritage travel, and climate change.

Tourtellot instituted National Geographic’s Geotourism MapGuide program, unique in that it invites full participation by destination residents and so raises awareness of distinctive local assets. Self-taught geographer, sometimes photographer, and public speaker, Tourtellot has addressed numerous national and international groups, including the U.N. World Tourism Organization, UNESCO, and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Prior to his work in the tourism field, he contributed to several National Geographic books and served as project editor for several others, including Britain and Ireland, Into the Unknown, the first National Geographic Photographer’s Field Guide, and Exploring Our Living Planet, with Dr. Robert Ballard. In books and magazines, he has covered places ranging from Icelandic volcanoes to Amazon rain forests and from the desert valleys of Nevada to the marshes of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. He lives on a mountainside in northern Virginia.

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