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Arizona Office of Tourism Launches National Geographic
Arizona-Sonora Desert Region Geotourism MapGuide

March 21, 2007

March 21, 2007
Contact: Jacki Mieler
Office: (602) 364-3697

Arizona Office of Tourism Launches National Geographic
Arizona-Sonora Desert Region Geotourism MapGuide

The Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) is pleased to announce the release of the National Geographic Arizona-Sonora Desert Region Geotourism MapGuide. The MapGuide will be officially launched on Saturday, March 24, 2007 at 2 p.m. during the Tubac Art Walk at the Tubac Center for the Arts in Tubac, Ariz.

The Arizona-Sonora Region Geotourism MapGuide is the first bi-national geotourism initiative that National Geographic has undertaken, with the map focusing on the Sonoran Desert that encompasses southern Arizona and the northern Mexico state of Sonora. The MapGuide promotes distinctive visitor experiences following the principles of geotourism, which is 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.” The MapGuide is the result of an innovative partnership between National Geographic, the Arizona and Sonora offices of tourism, the Bureau of Land Management, the Sonoran Institute and the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

Community input was essential to the creation of the MapGuide, and residents of the Sonoran Desert region, which encompasses Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico, were asked to nominate their favorite geotourism places and events in the area for inclusion. Entries that best supported the Sonoran Desert’s character of place and reflected visitor interests from historic landmarks and natural attractions to music venues and restaurants, were included on the guide.

One side of the fold-out guide is a map of the Arizona-Sonora Desert region that showcases selected places — scenic roads, festivals, national monuments, missions and museums. The other side of the guide details subjects such as the arts, food and produce, and spiritual heritage of the region. The guide also includes geotourism tips such as what to do if you want to visit Tribal lands and how your visitor dollars can most help the desert retain its character.

“While the Arizona-Sonora Geotourism MapGuide is a wonderful tool for planning a great vacation or weekend getaway, it also serves as an opportunity to showcase 85 of Arizona’s unique geotourism locations and highlights the importance of sustaining the environment, culture and heritage of the area,” said Margie A. Emmermann, Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “We are thrilled that National Geographic saw the importance of highlighting the geotourism assets in the Sonoran Desert and we appreciate the tremendous support that Arizona’s residents and tourism industry have given this project.”

The MapGuide is the first step in AOT’s plans to continue promoting geotourism. AOT is launching an entire campaign around the “Arizona Origins” brand, with the center of the project being an interactive Web site that highlights many of the geotourism sites not incorporated on the hard copy of the MapGuide. The new Arizona Origins site is accessible from AOT’s consumer Web site at To ensure broad application of geotourism concepts throughout the state, AOT has also developed an educational component with workshops and a curriculum to help educate communities in Arizona on the principles and values of geotourism that will ultimately help them better market their assets.

A limited amount of National Geographic Arizona-Sonora Desert Region Geotourism MapGuides will be available at visitors centers throughout southern Arizona, and anyone can access an online copy of the map at

Protection of distinctive places around the globe through wisely managed tourism and enlightened stewardship is the driving mission of the National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations. A major 2002 study by National Geographic Traveler magazine and the Travel Industry of America found that at least 55 million American adults can be classified as “geotourists,” proving that geotourism is a strong incentive for regions to conserve and enhance these appreciated qualities for future visitors. Using geotourism Charters, Geotourism MapGuides, and stakeholder toolkits, the Center helps community leaders strategically create a tourist experience that appeals to visitors with diverse interests, supports integrity of place, and is richer than the sum of its parts. For more information, visit

Created as an executive agency in 1975, the Arizona Office of Tourism is charged with enhancing the state economy and the quality of life for all Arizonans by expanding travel activity and increasing related revenues through tourism promotion and development. AOT works to serve the Grand Canyon State’s travel industry and related businesses, the traveling public, and the taxpayers of Arizona.

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