The Geotourism Initiative was launched as a partnership between UVa and the nonprofit Machik to explore ways of developing community-based tourism as a strategy for strengthening local Tibetan economies. This multi-year initiative has provided a means by which to scale up our impact, integrating ideas and approaches developed through our grassroots sustainable tourism work into a larger vision of Tibetan economic prosperity that places local communities at the center of all efforts.
As a key sector for the development of local economies on the Tibetan plateau, tourism lies at the intersection of several major priorities: revenue generation, resource management, and cultural agency. In developing this initiative, the rubric of tourism has served as a basis through which to engage the dynamics between these priorities as well as to advance solutions-oriented approaches to the challenges they pose to the development of sustainable Tibetan communities. To date, our efforts to promote community-based sustainable tourism have included a Sherpa Training Program in Kham, a Kham Community Leaders Tourism Workshop in the US, and the development of the Geotourism Web Portal, an online resource soon to be published through the Tibetan and Himalayan Library (THL).
In these efforts, we have drawn lessons from direct field experience, and then learned to shape these ideas into constructive action. In 2009, we are focusing our efforts on creating new spaces for the discussion and deliberation of issues concerning community-based tourism in a global context. We jointly hosted a workshop targeting senior Tibetan cultural entrepreneurs through which we promoted a better understanding of the strategic development of the tourism sector in a comparative context. By providing a forum for the discussion of shifting global trends, international standards, emerging tourism markets, and investment priorities, these workshops will not only create a portal that connects regional planners and Tibetan entrepreneurs to new ideas and opportunities, they will also draw attention to the urgent need for a tourism strategy on the Tibetan plateau that places local Tibetan communities at the forefront.