National Geo Verde website gets kickoff

Jim Dion makes his presentation to the business owners at the Blazing M Ranch in Cottonwood. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Jim Dion makes his presentation to the business owners at the Blazing M Ranch in Cottonwood. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

COTTONWOOD -- Jim Dion, Sustainable Tourism Program Manager for the National Geographic Society Maps Division gave a 'crash course' Wednesday for loading local content into a new website to be co-sponsored by the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council, the Walton Foundation and other sponsors along with the National Geographic Maps.

The same instruction is being given for all Verde Valley communities this week.

The content entry process for the website is "intuitive," said Dion, and the program also has a number of roadblocks to make sure all information is entered before submitting. A number of businesses and sites have already entered material by themselves.

The Nation Geographic geotourism "promotes tourism that sustains or enhances the distinctive geographical character of a place, its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and well-being of residents."

All the content initially is "nominated" and will be checked by the sponsors beginning in August to make sure it satisfies all the criteria for the site, says the program manager.

"Is it geotouristic, is it provided by a local, is it what it says it is, is it what we want to promote within the region?"

Carrying the National Geographic brand will help lure like-minded visitors, says Dion.

"One of the first ways that we will distribute the site is through the content contributors locally to all the people that are already visiting here. All these businesses, points of interest, activities and attractions will be recognized on the site. We will encourage them and have activities to encourage them to share with the visitors in the region. And then we have 17 other existing geotourism websites in 14 countries and 20 U. S. States cross-linked with each other. And people visiting these sites are part of that community, so we have been able to grow in these places through people who have an affinity for this type of travel."

"The days of the shotgun marketing are gone. You want those targeted audiences that are looking for the product that you have. There are people that have an affinity for place-based tourism."

"We have a market of about 100,000 to 300,000 visitors to these sites each month, looking for this kind of activity.

"We are just starting on the first day. We have plenty of time to add to the site. We have between now and October and even after that."

The site is not yet live, but can be found at sedonaverdevalley.org/geotourism for nomination/geotourism for nomination

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