MIRI: Geoparks – places with a geological heritage acknowledged by experts for its international significance are poised to become one of the public’s best loved park brands.
Geoparks leverage their geo-heritage to diversify local and regional economic opportunities, conserve natural resources, encourage respect for local traditions and culture, and promote community involvement with the site.
According to Dr Lisa Marie King, senior research fellow of the Curtin Sarawak Research Institute (CSRI) at Curtin University Sarawak, geoparks also promote sustainable tourism within beautiful and interesting geo-destinations.
King, also a member of the Langkawi Geopark Scientific Consultative Committee, said this in her keynote speech presented at the recent Sanin Kaigan Geopark International Conference held in Yumura, Japan.
According to her, there are over 1,300 protected area brands used around the world today. As the first suite of geoparks was established only in 2004, most people are not familiar with the new park concept.
“However, in the ten years since their establishment on-the-ground, the geopark concept has expanded across the globe. There are now approximately 100 geoparks worldwide. I believe that geoparks, over time, will become one of the public’s best loved park brands,” she said.
King remarked that Japan currently has seven geoparks. Citing Sanin Kaigan Geopark as an excellent example of a geopark, she commented that its wonderful scenery includes hot springs, waterfalls, scenic vistas, hiking tracks, an educational and fun visitor centre, and its friendly and hospitable staff members, which embody the values of the geopark brand.
Commenting on the conference, King said it was a great opportunity for her to learn and see more about what others in the geopark field are doing with the brand, especially in Japan.
“It was a meaningful experience for me to deliver one of the keynote addresses and share my thoughts and research with the conference participants to further help them innovate the brand,” she said.
In addition to writing several book chapters on geotourism in Hawaii and South Korea, King has also delivered presentations and keynote addresses on geotourism and marketing Unesco brands around the world. One of her core research areas at the CSRI is studying world heritage sites, biosphere reserves and geoparks here in Malaysia.