Missouri State Offers First Geotourism Program in Nation

(Springfield, MO) -- Tourism is a major part of the Ozarks economy, but a new branch of that industry is something you may never have heard of; Geotourism.  It's also a new degree offered at Missouri State University.

MSU is the first school in the country to offer this type of degree. The idea is that any time people walk into a natural place, they're changing it. Tourism can make an impact on communities water, sewers, traffic and landscape. Geotourism was created to help people learn how to handle the good and bad aspects of being a vacation destination.

MSU student Kyle O'Rourke's dream is to help people see the world. "I think it will open people's eyes to keeping sustainability certain areas of the world that are just going down the drain, people are littering and polluting it," said O'Rourke.

And he hopes the university's new Geotourism degree will help them see a better version of it. "I think its great because I want to keep the Ozarks in the condition its in," said O'Rourke.

MSU's new Geotourism degree is a collaboration with the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations. "We had a tourism and geography program and we wanted to look at how can we make it more relevant," said Instructor Linnea Iantria.

Iantria said the goal to help communities, like the Ozarks, and around the world, learn how to balance tourism and protect the environment. "It's promoting, its protecting, it looks at the economics, it's really everything that makes a destination successful," said Iantria.

This type of Geotourism degree has never been offered before anywhere in the united states, that meant Iantria had to write her own textbook. "Since we are the only ones in the country, anyone who's interested in this is going to be coming to this university," said Iantria.

Iantria said so far interest has been good, but students still have a few weeks before the note-taking begins. The National Geographnic Center helped provide information materials and concepts for the new program. Iantria said students with a Geotourism degree can work as city planners or with development organizations.

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