Within 18 months, the Mississippi River and the Quad-Cities could be part of a worldwide tourism program using the international marketing brand of the National Geographic Society.

The goal is to bring more dollars into the region through added tourism.

"This is all laying the foundation, requesting funding, the creating of the Mississippi River portal," Joe Taylor, president and CEO of the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau and a board member of the Mississippi River Trail, said Wednesday.

In 2003, the society inaugurated a product "combining the expertise and design of the National Geographic maps division and the involvement of local people in tourism destinations to facilitate stewardship of cultural, historic and national resources," according to a news release from Taylor and Terry Eastin, executive director of the Mississippi River Trail.

The product is called a geotourism map guide. 

Geotourism 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."

Eastin said the project  involves linking existing agencies and websites, such as the Quad-City tourism bureau's database. Eventually, the hope is to link sites along the length of the river and surrounding tourism spots from Minnesota to New Orleans.

She said it may take 18 months or longer before things are in place for the websites to be aligned.

Once the project is completed, if someone from another country decides to visit the United States and wants to include the river as a destination stop, by logging onto the National Geographic site, they could find links to websites such as the Quad-City bureau. Then, those travelers would be able to learn about  attractions such as museums, restaurants, hotels, historic sites and bike trails.

"Most people around the world have never heard of the Quad-Cities, but they know of the Mississippi River," Taylor said.

"The whole program is not to promote chains of restaurants or hotels, but for mom and pop places, businesses that reflect the geographical flavor of a destination," Eastin said.