by Michael J. Shapiro | March 03, 2016

National Geographic has extended its Geotourism MapGuide platform to Mexico with the launch of an interactive online guide for the town of Tequila, Jalisco. The US$120,000 project required eight months of development and was supported by the Tequila Development Council, the Jose Cuervo Foundation and city, state and national government tourism programs. The end result,, officially launched Tuesday with a presentation by all major stakeholders, including National Geographic representatives, Jose Cuervo CEO Roberto Delgado and Mexico secretary of tourism Enrique de la Madrid Cordero.

The Tequila MapGuide is only the 18th to be launched worldwide, and the first in Mexico. The guides spotlight lesser-known destinations with unique cultural offerings, explained Jim Dion, sustainable tourism program manager for National Geographic's Maps Division. The Geotourism program, Dion added, was launched to inspire people around the world to preserve their cultures and natural surroundings. "And the most important part for me," said Dion, "is the welfare of the local residents. We work to get the opinions of the local residents and to involve the small business owners."

The guides include interactive maps, local insight and responsive websites; business owners featured in the guides can tout their participation -- and, by extension, the NatGeo seal of approval -- via certificates and window stickers in their places of business. The Tequila guide includes 137 points of interest in the form of lodging, food, activities and various small businesses.

For individual travelers or planners seeking authentic experiences, the guides provide a wealth of local insight and recommendations. "The number-one desire of 'Geotravelers' is to share face-to-face experiences with the people who live there," said Dion. All of the MapGuide sites allow planners to save activity and venue ideas and to share them with others in their groups via email or social-media channels.

For the destinations, the MapGuides and the National Geographic brand name could help them reach a previously untapped source of international travelers. "We're looking for an exponential increase in tourists," said Jalisco state secretary of tourism Enrique Ramos Flores. "In three years, we could see a 20 percent increase." 

Cuervo Group chairman Juan Beckman Vidal said the project was a first step in expanding the tourism appeal of Tequila, likely putting the town on a multi-stop itinerary that would include the better-known destinations of Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende. Tourism officials at the presentation touted the ease with which the MapGuide model could be reproduced and applied to other small Mexican destinations with unique offerings. "It's not just about promotion of our product," said National Geographic's Dion. "It's about giving local destinations the tools they need to showcase what they have."

More information about the Geotourism program and Map Guides can be found here.