Eastern Michigan University to host geotourism conference Nov. 18

by Ward Mullens, Published November 11, 2010

YPSILANTI - Ypsilanti, Michigan may not be considered a top state tourism destination, but if city officials want to learn how to make it more appealing, they may want to attend the Southeast Michigan Geotourism Conference Nov. 18.

The theme is "Maximizing Our Assets by Capitalizing on Our Attractions, History and Natural Resources." The conference, co-hosted by EMU's Department of Geography and Geology and the Southeast Michigan Heritage Tourism Alliance (SEMHTA), is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the EMU Student Center Grand Ballroom. For information, go to
www.semigeotourismconference.com or call 734-926-7577. Registration is $99.

The focus of the conference is to raise awareness of the vast tourism opportunities present in southeast Michigan that encompass historic sites, popular attractions and recreational activities, and to demonstrate the positive impact geotourism can have on the region's economic development.
"Geotourism, a concept introduced in 1997 by National Geographic's tourism editor, Jonathon Tourtellot, is considered 'best practice' tourism," said Professor Kelly Victor-Burke, an EMU geography instructor and conference committee co-chair.

"This involves tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage and the well-being of its residents. Tourism that focuses on the well-being of local residents is vitally important not only as a source of revenue generation - but also because it serves as an incentive for the community to protect what it is people are coming to see," Victor-Burke said.

The guest speaker at the conference is author, professor and television personality Harm de Blij, former geography editor for ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Geography Awareness and National Security" is the title of de Blij's presentation, Nov. 18, 7-9 p.m. at the Student Center Ballroom.

Speakers presenting at the geotourism conference include:

  • Phillip Cooley, co-owner of Slows Bar B Q in Detroit. Cooley, a popular urban activist and Detroit champion, goes beyond the harsh lens of mainstream media and popular perception in his presentation, "Destination Detroit" and reveals a distinctly Detroit travel experience.


  • Roger Curtis, president of Michigan International Speedway (MIS), home to the state's largest single-day admission sporting event, traces the evolution of this popular attraction with "MIS: Past and Present."


  • Ted Ligibel, director of EMU's Historic Preservation Program, will show how restoration and preservation benefits the future, both culturally and economically in "The Case for Historic Preservation."


  • Anita Twardesky, Riverside Kayak public relations director, reveals the numerous hiking, biking and kayaking trails that now exist along one of our greatest natural resources, the Detroit River in "One River: Many Voices."


  • Daniel Kinkead, an architect with Hamilton Anderson Associates, shares the value of our regional assets, such as Woodward Avenue, a nationally-designated byway, in "Understanding Our Regional Assets through Critical Evidence-based Analyses."


  • George Zimmermann and Dave Lorenz, executives with the Michigan Department of Economic Development and Travel Michigan, the official State of Michigan tourism promotion agency, will speak on travel trends and utilizing Travel Michigan services to promote local attractions.

"This conference is an exciting boost for our region," said Karin Risko, SEMHTA executive director and conference committee co-chair. "Bringing together all of these upbeat and talented people together under one roof to talk up the best Southeast Michigan offers can only bring about positive changes in attitude and perception."    

The Eastern Michigan University's Department of Geography and Geology is home to both Historic Preservation and Geotourism programs. These programs are actively engaged within the state and local communities.  The Historic Preservation Program, one of the oldest preservation programs in the nation, recently partnered with the State of Michigan's Historical Marker Program. The department also offers an accredited undergraduate Urban & Regional Planning Program, one of only 15 such programs in the entire U.S.  


Ward Mullens

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