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115 Places Rated 
Norway’s fjords, Tasmania, Vermont, and 
Tuscany look to be in relatively good 
shape. Not so for the Costa del Sol, 
Phuket, and Key West. In cases like 
Cape Cod, opinion is divided. 
That’s all according to an unusual new sur-vey, 
whose results yield what TRAVELER believes 
to be the world’s first Index of Destination 
Stewardship. Ever since travel began booming 
after World War II, development pressures, 
environmental problems, civil strife, cultural 
erosion, and, yes, mass tourism have increas-ingly 
challenged the integrity of destinations 
worldwide. “Unspoiled” is a description you 
hear less and less. Which great places have 
remained great by protecting themselves 
against these trends? Which have failed? 
To find out, TRAVELER worked with the 
National Geographic’s Sustainable Tourism 
Initiative and a graduate team from Leeds 
Metropolitan University in England to conduct a 
Authenticity 21st cen-tury 
style: An outboard 
outrigger ferries tour-ists 
across a Tahitian 
lagoon. Despite a name 
once synonymous with 
paradise, Tahiti made a 
poor score on the stew-ardship 
index due to 
overdevelopment. 
complex global survey of over 200 specialists in 
sustainable tourism and destination quality. We 
asked these experts to evaluate 115 of the 
world’s best known places based on six criteria 
that pertain to cultural, environmental, and aes-thetic 
integrity (“About the Survey,” page 67). 
The scores that follow, based on a 1-to-100 
scale, reflect their opinions. For each destina-tion, 
symbols show which factors most influ-enced 
their judgments. No destination rated 90 
or above (“unspoiled and likely to remain so”), 
but none fell into the “catastrophic” under-20 
range either. Destinations in the best shape face 
relatively few threats or, significantly, have 
learned how to handle them. Those at the low 
end have lost much, but could perhaps recover. 
We expect that this index will generate a lot 
of discussion, even a few arguments. That’s fine, 
if it gets everyone, especially policymakers, to 
think more about wise stewardship of the places 
we love. The future of travel depends on it. 
60 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER 61 
PETER GUTTMAN/CORBIS 
Destination Scorecard 
Development, pollution, globalization, mass 
tourism—are the world’s great places still...great? 
TRAVELER introduces a new way to see how well your destination is 
coping with the 21st century. By Jonathan B. Tourtellot
rank 
score 
key factors 
Stewardship Index 
WILD 
Norwegian fjords 82 1   
Cape Breton Island, Canada 78 2    
South Island, New Zealand 78 2    
Torres del Paine, Chile 78 2    
Tasmania, Australia 77 3    
Rocky Mountain parks, Canada 76 4    
Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom 75 5    
Kruger National Park, South Africa 74 6    
Kyoto historic district, Japan 74 6   
Quebec City historic center, Canada 74 6    
Vermont, USA 74 6    
Bay of Islands, New Zealand 73 7   
Heidelberg, Germany 73 7    
Laurentian Highlands, Quebec-Canada 73 7   
Salzburg historic center, Austria 72 8    
Alpine regions, Switzerland 71 9    
Charleston, SC, historic center, USA 71 9    
Colorado Rockies, USA 71 9    
Dubrovnik, Croatia 71 9    
Easter Island, Chile 71 9    
Fez historic center, Morocco 71 9   
Inside Passage, Alaska/Canada 71 9   
Maine coast, USA 71 9   
Northern California coast (Marin-Eureka) 71 9   
Ring of Kerry, Ireland 71 9    
Tuscany, Italy 71 9    
Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) area, Australia 71 9    
Yellowstone, USA 71 9    
Baden Baden, Germany 70 10    
Bavarian Alps, Germany 70 10    
Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles 70 10   
Krakow historic center, Poland 70 10    
TOP SCORES 
Destination Scorecard 
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THE GOOD Vermont 
MIDDLE SCORES It’s no surprise that Norway’s fjords, rated at 82, lead the 
Brittany, France 69 11    
Four Corners (Colorado Plateau), USA 69 11    
Loire Valley, France 69 11    
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 69 11   
Guanajuato, Gto., Mexico 68 12   
Cotswolds, United Kingdom 67 13   
top-scoring destinations, thanks to a combination of luck 
and wise stewardship. Geography dealt the Norwegian 
coastline a good hand when it comes to remaining un-spoiled. 
Rugged terrain, cool, wet climate, difficult access, and a 
short tourist season keep development pressures comparatively 
low. (Note how other “cool-fjord coasts” in Chile and New Zealand 
also scored well.) It helps, too, to be in a sparsely populated coun-try 
with one of the world’s best environmental track records 
(although even here some experts took points off for excessive 
cruise-ship traffic and threats to native salmon). 
More instructive perhaps is ever popular Tuscany, which man-aged 
a respectable 71 (“minor difficulties”) despite its attractive 
climate, fabulous cultural attractions, and easy access—often a 
formula for dismaying overdevelopment. What’s Tuscany’s secret? 
History helped: The Industrial Revolution chanced to skip over 
this Italian region, leaving intact its trademark landscape of hand-tended 
fields, vineyards, and olive groves, all draped over a softly 
Key for 
symbols 
Norwegian Fjords 
“This place is wonderful: living tradi-tional 
“One of the few places where a 
large percentage of the populace 
is committed to conservation/ 
preservation over injudicious 
development.” —Panelist Tom Clynes, 
travel author 
culture, wonderful landscape, not 
crowded. I am very happy with how this 
destination is managed. Excellent envi-ronmental 
quality, local people involved 
in a very smooth way.” —Panelist Eduardo 
Nycander, Rainforest Expeditions 
Remote geography helps some high-scoring destinations stay unspoiled. 
Other places have learned how to cope with popularity. 
 environmental conditions 
 social/cultural integrity 
 condition of historic structures 
 aesthetics 
 tourism management 
 outlook 
GREEN = good rating 
YELLOW = warning 
RED = bad rating 
Tight land-use codes 
protect Tuscan land-scapes 
that seem to 
come from an artist’s 
brush. “A genuine, 
cultured atmosphere,” 
adds one panelist, Prof. 
A.P. Grima, University 
of Toronto. 
62 
SANDRO SANTIOLI; DALLAS AND JOHN HEATON/CORBIS (OPPOSITE, UPPER), KATHLEEN BROWN/CORBIS (LOWER) 
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER 
muscled topography. Even so, subdivisions might have long ago 
ruined the painterly scenery had Tuscans not adopted some of the 
world’s toughest land-use and building codes: In scenic zones, local 
regulations limit buildings to two stories, inhibit subdivision, and 
govern aesthetics, including which colors you can paint your house. 
Locals chafe under the rules, but let them stand. Shouldn’t people 
be allowed to build what they want on their own property, even if 
it’s ugly? Answers Alessandro Marangoni, in the region’s economic 
development office, “Then it hurts the value of my house.” 
Sensitivity to preserving sense of place extends even to such 
unobtrusive forms of tourism as farm stays. The government 
encourages agriturismo to help small farms stay in business, but 
wants authenticity: The farmer’s tax breaks and low-interest loans 
disappear if the family lets its tourism business exceed its farm 
revenue. The current minister of tourism, Susanna Cenni, even frets 
about Chianti villages that have become too cutesy. She’s seeking 
ways to revive authentic rural businesses in the area. 
If only other destinations had such problems . . . . 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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rank 
score 
key factors 
Stewardship Index 
WILD 
Galápagos, Ecuador 67 13    
San Juan Islands, WA, USA 67 13   
Great Barrier Reef, Australia 66 14    
Machu Picchu, Peru 66 14   
Rhine Valley, Germany 66 14    
Yosemite Valley, USA. 66 14    
Amsterdam historic center, Netherlands 65 15    
British Virgin Islands 65 15    
Cuzco historic center, Peru 65 15    
Grand Canyon, USA 65 15    
Isle of Wight, United Kingdom 65 15    
Salvador (Bahia) historic center, Brazil 65 15   
Costa Rica 64 16    
Lake District, United Kingdom 64 16    
Petra, Jordan 64 16    
Prague historic center, Czech Republic 64 16    
Bahamian Out Islands 63 17   
California wine country, USA 63 17    
Cape Cod, U.S.A. 63 17    
Iguaçu Falls, Argentina/Brazil 63 17   
Mid-coast CA (Santa Barbara–Monterey) 63 17    
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 63 17    
Capri, Italy 62 18    
Fiji 62 18    
Hawaii 62 18    
Pompeii, Italy 62 18    
Amalfi Coast, Italy 61 19    
Borobudur, Indonesia 61 19    
Mont-St.-Michel, France 61 19    
Porto historic center, Portugal 61 19   
St. Lucia 61 19    
Sea of Cortez and its coast, Mexico 61 19    
Tikal/Flores, Guatemala 61 19    
Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan 60 20    
Lake Tahoe, USA 60 20   
Great Wall, China 59 21    
Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru 59 21    
Azure Coast, Turkey 58 22   
Bali, Indonesia 58 22    
MIDDLE SCORES (CONTINUED) 
Destination Scorecard 
NOT SO BAD 
Cuzco, Peru 
“Great Inca and colonial town, but in 
serious trouble . . . . Without real pro-tection 
and lack of local involvement. 
Numbers of tourists seem more highly 
valued than delivery of quality experi-ences.” 
—Panelist Lieve Coppin, consultant 
Yosemite Valley, California 
“Fantastic natural area, plagued by 
overuse and crowding during summer 
season.”—Panelist Kelly Bricker, University 
of West Virginia and former tour operator 
Mont-St.-Michel, France, 
rates well for historic 
preservation, poorly for 
overcrowding and envi-ronmental 
neglect that 
filled its bay with silt, 
and moderately well for 
outlook, as plans move 
ahead to restore the bay. 
Mid-scoring destinations remain attractive, but with worrisome degradation. 
Some places are doing something about it. Some aren’t. 
The many destinations receiving mid-range scores, 55 to 
69, fall into two camps: those with strong positives can-celed 
out by equally strong negatives, and those with lots 
of notable, but not yet disastrous, negatives. 
Some of those in the first group are destinations with two 
faces. At Yosemite, for instance, experts noted the park’s divided 
personality: Its gorgeous scenery and backcountry versus traffic 
and crowding in Yosemite Valley. The park’s new methods for cop-ing 
with high visitation there, such as expanded shuttle service 
and fewer parking lots, did receive cautious praise. 
On Cape Cod, similarly, a national seashore protects the outer 
beaches and much of the peninsula’s forearm, but development, 
including hundreds of vacation homes, has ballooned to occupy 
virtually every unprotected stretch of shoreline and much of an 
interior that was semiwilderness just 50 years ago. 
For France’s Mont-St.-Michel, raves for historic preservation con-trasted 
with numerous complaints about high-season hordes, tacky 
souvenir shops, and the like. Many experts noted that environmental 
64 
PHILIP GOULD/CORBIS, SERGIO PESSOLANO (OPPOSITE UPPER), GERALD FRENCH/CORBIS (LOWER) 
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER 
problems in the surrounding bay are finally being addressed. If that 
effort succeeds, this score should go up in years to come. 
The Maya ruin of Tikal and its associated tourist town of Flores 
in Guatemala also present two faces, but the area as a whole 
received many comments in the not-yet-disastrous vein. While 
acknowledging the beauty of Tikal, experts zeroed in on numerous 
problems: underappreciated ecological wonders, poor information 
for visitors, growing danger from deliberate forest burn-off, lack of 
tourism benefit for locals, pollution in Flores, inadequate destina-tion 
management, and hotels without environmental controls. “It’s 
not too late to save,” summed up one travel writer. 
Some destinations were judged against their reputations. Costa 
Rica’s surprisingly mediocre score, for instance, reflected a widely 
held feeling that poor tourism management and widespread defor-estation 
does not match the image of an ecotourism leader that 
the country likes to project. 
“Not too late to save.” It’s a good summary for all these middle-zone 
destinations. 
Key for 
symbols 
 environmental conditions 
 social/cultural integrity 
 condition of historic structures 
 aesthetics 
 tourism management 
 outlook 
 
 
GREEN = good rating 
YELLOW = warning 
RED = bad rating 
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Destination Scorecard 
GETTING UGLY 
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. 
“Massive overvisitation by massive 
cruise ships.” —Andrew Drumm, The 
Nature Conservancy 
“Hard to differentiate St. Thomas 
from an overcrowded Florida shopping 
mall.” —Cary Wolinsky, photographer 
About the Survey 
Evaluating an entire destina-tion 
requires weighing such 
subtle issues as aesthetic 
appeal and cultural integrity, as 
well as balancing good points 
against bad. No simplistic 
numerical measures could do jus-tice 
to the task. The best solu-tion 
was to turn to informed 
human judgment. We convened a 
global panel of over 200 experts 
in a variety of fields—ecology, 
sustainable tourism, geography, 
urban and regional planning, 
travel writing and photography, 
historic preservation, cultural 
anthropology, archaeology—all 
well traveled enough to have a 
good basis for comparing desti-nations 
against each other. 
We asked experts to evaluate 
only those places with which 
they were familiar, using six cri-teria 
weighed as appropriate to 
each destination: environmental 
and ecological quality; social and 
cultural integrity; condition of 
any historic buildings and archae-ological 
sites; aesthetic appeal; 
quality of tourism management; 
and the outlook for the future. 
For places where experts dis-agreed 
widely, a second round of 
scoring used a version of a 
research tool called the Delphi 
technique, whereby panelists 
anonymously exchange further 
comments about the place and 
then re-score accordingly. 
The index, then, is a compila-tion 
of informed judgments and 
perceptions about places that 
may themselves have many 
faces. It should be taken as such. 
In low-scoring Key West, for 
example, you can still find an 
eco-friendly conch farm and 
plenty of back-street charm; 
high-scoring Tuscany still must 
cope with a badly polluted Arno 
River and summer overcrowding 
in Florence and Siena. 
Like the cards that Olympic 
judges hold up, our experts’ 
scores take into account both 
measurable accomplishment and 
the intangibles of style, aesthet-ics, 
and culture. And like 
Olympic athletes, each destina-tion 
has a chance to improve its 
performance. 
Daniel Chang, Elizabeth Parisian, 
Leeds Metropolitan University, 
and many others helped with this 
study. For a list of panelists and 
more of their observations, see 
nationalgeographic.com/traveler. 
rank 
score 
key factors 
Stewardship Index 
WILD 
Reef and islands of Belize 58 22    
Corfu (Kerkira), Greece 57 23    
Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt 57 23    
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal 56 24    
Masai Mara, Kenya 56 24    
Rajasthan, India 56 24    
St. Petersburg historic center, Russia 56 24    
Barbados 55 25   
Crete, Greece 55 25    
Havana historic center, Cuba 55 25    
Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania 55 25   
MIDDLE SCORES (CONTINUED) 
LOWER SCORES 
 
 
 
 
Amboseli, Kenya 54 26    
Aruba 54 26   
Everglades, USA 54 26   
Hue, Vietnam 53 27   
Tahiti 53 27    
Angkor, Cambodia 52 28    
Canary Islands 52 28    
Outer Banks, NC, USA 52 28    
Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe 52 28    
Acropolis, Greece 51 29    
Chang Mai, Thailand 51 29    
Pyramids, Giza, Egypt 51 29    
Balearic Islands, Spain 50 30    
Great Smoky Mountains, USA 49 31    
Venice, Italy 49 31    
Bethlehem, Israel/Palestine 48 32    
French Riviera 48 32    
Algarve, Portugal 46 33    
Caribbean Coast, Q.R., Mexico 46 33    
Costa Brava, Spain 46 33   
Negril, Jamaica 46 33   
North coast, Dominican Republic 46 33   
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 45 34    
Key West, FL, USA 43 35    
Phuket area, Thailand 43 35    
North coast, Jamaica 42 36    
Costa del Sol, Spain 41 37    
Benidorm exemplifies 
the heavy footprint of 
package tourism on 
Spanish islands and 
coasts. Cheap hotel 
sprawl prompted low 
scores for the Canaries, 
Balearics, Costa Brava, 
and Costa del Sol. 
Loved to death? Or exploited to death? Both could apply to low-scoring 
victims of crowding, poor planning, and greed. Still, there’s hope. 
Look at the bottom 11 entries on the index: Every one of 
these low-scorers are sun-and-sand shorelines and islands. 
Behind that lurks an arithmetic reality: The population of 
beach-lovers is ever growing, and there’s only so much 
seacoast to go around. A rising demand for a finite resource calls 
for wise stewardship. Unfortunately, bulldozers often come before 
brains when quick profits beckon. 
One textbook example is Spain’s Costa del Sol—the overbuilt 
“Costa del Concrete,” which caters to package tours from north-ern 
Europe, and where you can hear more English or German than 
Spanish. As with many uncontrolled seashores, a nonstop line of 
characterless hotels blocks off the coastline. Proving such a tide 
can be turned, one Majorcan town has now razed a few hotels. 
On any attractive shore, if no policies exist to cluster mass-tourism 
hotels, or preserve traditional towns and open space, 
resort sprawl tends to take over. Community leaders in a few such 
destinations have begun to recognize the problem, asking how best 
to handle hordes of tourists who are more interested in sun, rum, 
and each other than in the country they happen to be visiting. 
Different threats place other low-scoring destinations at risk: 
excess popularity (the Acropolis and the Great Smokies), political 
or civil strife (Bethlehem), poorly planned mass sightseeing 
(Angkor), encroaching urban development (the Pyramids), inappro-priate 
tourism development (Great Smokies again—i.e., 
Gatlinburg), even sea-level rise from global warming (Venice). 
This Stewardship Index is intended to be a wake-up call. Low 
scoring places can learn from high-scorers, and many of the desti-nations 
on the facing page have begun to take countermeasures. 
Often, though, it’s very, very late in the game. Jamaica’s resort 
town of Negril, for instance, has a vigorous reef-restoration pro-gram— 
now that as much as 90 percent of its reef has died, due 
to both local and global factors. 
Negril may be working on reform, but in many travel paradises 
greed and shortsightedness still rule. Unless that attitude changes, 
countless destinations remain golden-egg-laying geese, filing down 
the path to the chopping block. 
GLENN CAMPBELL/GETTY IMAGES, JOEL W. ROGERS/CORBIS (OPPOSITE) 
Key for 
symbols 
 environmental conditions 
 social/cultural integrity 
 condition of historic structures 
 aesthetics 
 tourism management 
 outlook 
 
 
 
 
 
GREEN = good rating 
YELLOW = warning 
RED = bad rating 
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Geotourism Scores 115 Top World Destinations

  • 1. 115 Places Rated Norway’s fjords, Tasmania, Vermont, and Tuscany look to be in relatively good shape. Not so for the Costa del Sol, Phuket, and Key West. In cases like Cape Cod, opinion is divided. That’s all according to an unusual new sur-vey, whose results yield what TRAVELER believes to be the world’s first Index of Destination Stewardship. Ever since travel began booming after World War II, development pressures, environmental problems, civil strife, cultural erosion, and, yes, mass tourism have increas-ingly challenged the integrity of destinations worldwide. “Unspoiled” is a description you hear less and less. Which great places have remained great by protecting themselves against these trends? Which have failed? To find out, TRAVELER worked with the National Geographic’s Sustainable Tourism Initiative and a graduate team from Leeds Metropolitan University in England to conduct a Authenticity 21st cen-tury style: An outboard outrigger ferries tour-ists across a Tahitian lagoon. Despite a name once synonymous with paradise, Tahiti made a poor score on the stew-ardship index due to overdevelopment. complex global survey of over 200 specialists in sustainable tourism and destination quality. We asked these experts to evaluate 115 of the world’s best known places based on six criteria that pertain to cultural, environmental, and aes-thetic integrity (“About the Survey,” page 67). The scores that follow, based on a 1-to-100 scale, reflect their opinions. For each destina-tion, symbols show which factors most influ-enced their judgments. No destination rated 90 or above (“unspoiled and likely to remain so”), but none fell into the “catastrophic” under-20 range either. Destinations in the best shape face relatively few threats or, significantly, have learned how to handle them. Those at the low end have lost much, but could perhaps recover. We expect that this index will generate a lot of discussion, even a few arguments. That’s fine, if it gets everyone, especially policymakers, to think more about wise stewardship of the places we love. The future of travel depends on it. 60 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER 61 PETER GUTTMAN/CORBIS Destination Scorecard Development, pollution, globalization, mass tourism—are the world’s great places still...great? TRAVELER introduces a new way to see how well your destination is coping with the 21st century. By Jonathan B. Tourtellot
  • 2. rank score key factors Stewardship Index WILD Norwegian fjords 82 1 Cape Breton Island, Canada 78 2 South Island, New Zealand 78 2 Torres del Paine, Chile 78 2 Tasmania, Australia 77 3 Rocky Mountain parks, Canada 76 4 Scottish Highlands, United Kingdom 75 5 Kruger National Park, South Africa 74 6 Kyoto historic district, Japan 74 6 Quebec City historic center, Canada 74 6 Vermont, USA 74 6 Bay of Islands, New Zealand 73 7 Heidelberg, Germany 73 7 Laurentian Highlands, Quebec-Canada 73 7 Salzburg historic center, Austria 72 8 Alpine regions, Switzerland 71 9 Charleston, SC, historic center, USA 71 9 Colorado Rockies, USA 71 9 Dubrovnik, Croatia 71 9 Easter Island, Chile 71 9 Fez historic center, Morocco 71 9 Inside Passage, Alaska/Canada 71 9 Maine coast, USA 71 9 Northern California coast (Marin-Eureka) 71 9 Ring of Kerry, Ireland 71 9 Tuscany, Italy 71 9 Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) area, Australia 71 9 Yellowstone, USA 71 9 Baden Baden, Germany 70 10 Bavarian Alps, Germany 70 10 Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles 70 10 Krakow historic center, Poland 70 10 TOP SCORES Destination Scorecard ;; ;; ? ? THE GOOD Vermont MIDDLE SCORES It’s no surprise that Norway’s fjords, rated at 82, lead the Brittany, France 69 11 Four Corners (Colorado Plateau), USA 69 11 Loire Valley, France 69 11 St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 69 11 Guanajuato, Gto., Mexico 68 12 Cotswolds, United Kingdom 67 13 top-scoring destinations, thanks to a combination of luck and wise stewardship. Geography dealt the Norwegian coastline a good hand when it comes to remaining un-spoiled. Rugged terrain, cool, wet climate, difficult access, and a short tourist season keep development pressures comparatively low. (Note how other “cool-fjord coasts” in Chile and New Zealand also scored well.) It helps, too, to be in a sparsely populated coun-try with one of the world’s best environmental track records (although even here some experts took points off for excessive cruise-ship traffic and threats to native salmon). More instructive perhaps is ever popular Tuscany, which man-aged a respectable 71 (“minor difficulties”) despite its attractive climate, fabulous cultural attractions, and easy access—often a formula for dismaying overdevelopment. What’s Tuscany’s secret? History helped: The Industrial Revolution chanced to skip over this Italian region, leaving intact its trademark landscape of hand-tended fields, vineyards, and olive groves, all draped over a softly Key for symbols Norwegian Fjords “This place is wonderful: living tradi-tional “One of the few places where a large percentage of the populace is committed to conservation/ preservation over injudicious development.” —Panelist Tom Clynes, travel author culture, wonderful landscape, not crowded. I am very happy with how this destination is managed. Excellent envi-ronmental quality, local people involved in a very smooth way.” —Panelist Eduardo Nycander, Rainforest Expeditions Remote geography helps some high-scoring destinations stay unspoiled. Other places have learned how to cope with popularity. environmental conditions social/cultural integrity condition of historic structures aesthetics tourism management outlook GREEN = good rating YELLOW = warning RED = bad rating Tight land-use codes protect Tuscan land-scapes that seem to come from an artist’s brush. “A genuine, cultured atmosphere,” adds one panelist, Prof. A.P. Grima, University of Toronto. 62 SANDRO SANTIOLI; DALLAS AND JOHN HEATON/CORBIS (OPPOSITE, UPPER), KATHLEEN BROWN/CORBIS (LOWER) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER muscled topography. Even so, subdivisions might have long ago ruined the painterly scenery had Tuscans not adopted some of the world’s toughest land-use and building codes: In scenic zones, local regulations limit buildings to two stories, inhibit subdivision, and govern aesthetics, including which colors you can paint your house. Locals chafe under the rules, but let them stand. Shouldn’t people be allowed to build what they want on their own property, even if it’s ugly? Answers Alessandro Marangoni, in the region’s economic development office, “Then it hurts the value of my house.” Sensitivity to preserving sense of place extends even to such unobtrusive forms of tourism as farm stays. The government encourages agriturismo to help small farms stay in business, but wants authenticity: The farmer’s tax breaks and low-interest loans disappear if the family lets its tourism business exceed its farm revenue. The current minister of tourism, Susanna Cenni, even frets about Chianti villages that have become too cutesy. She’s seeking ways to revive authentic rural businesses in the area. If only other destinations had such problems . . . . ;; ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;;
  • 3. rank score key factors Stewardship Index WILD Galápagos, Ecuador 67 13 San Juan Islands, WA, USA 67 13 Great Barrier Reef, Australia 66 14 Machu Picchu, Peru 66 14 Rhine Valley, Germany 66 14 Yosemite Valley, USA. 66 14 Amsterdam historic center, Netherlands 65 15 British Virgin Islands 65 15 Cuzco historic center, Peru 65 15 Grand Canyon, USA 65 15 Isle of Wight, United Kingdom 65 15 Salvador (Bahia) historic center, Brazil 65 15 Costa Rica 64 16 Lake District, United Kingdom 64 16 Petra, Jordan 64 16 Prague historic center, Czech Republic 64 16 Bahamian Out Islands 63 17 California wine country, USA 63 17 Cape Cod, U.S.A. 63 17 Iguaçu Falls, Argentina/Brazil 63 17 Mid-coast CA (Santa Barbara–Monterey) 63 17 Serengeti National Park, Tanzania 63 17 Capri, Italy 62 18 Fiji 62 18 Hawaii 62 18 Pompeii, Italy 62 18 Amalfi Coast, Italy 61 19 Borobudur, Indonesia 61 19 Mont-St.-Michel, France 61 19 Porto historic center, Portugal 61 19 St. Lucia 61 19 Sea of Cortez and its coast, Mexico 61 19 Tikal/Flores, Guatemala 61 19 Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan 60 20 Lake Tahoe, USA 60 20 Great Wall, China 59 21 Lake Titicaca, Bolivia/Peru 59 21 Azure Coast, Turkey 58 22 Bali, Indonesia 58 22 MIDDLE SCORES (CONTINUED) Destination Scorecard NOT SO BAD Cuzco, Peru “Great Inca and colonial town, but in serious trouble . . . . Without real pro-tection and lack of local involvement. Numbers of tourists seem more highly valued than delivery of quality experi-ences.” —Panelist Lieve Coppin, consultant Yosemite Valley, California “Fantastic natural area, plagued by overuse and crowding during summer season.”—Panelist Kelly Bricker, University of West Virginia and former tour operator Mont-St.-Michel, France, rates well for historic preservation, poorly for overcrowding and envi-ronmental neglect that filled its bay with silt, and moderately well for outlook, as plans move ahead to restore the bay. Mid-scoring destinations remain attractive, but with worrisome degradation. Some places are doing something about it. Some aren’t. The many destinations receiving mid-range scores, 55 to 69, fall into two camps: those with strong positives can-celed out by equally strong negatives, and those with lots of notable, but not yet disastrous, negatives. Some of those in the first group are destinations with two faces. At Yosemite, for instance, experts noted the park’s divided personality: Its gorgeous scenery and backcountry versus traffic and crowding in Yosemite Valley. The park’s new methods for cop-ing with high visitation there, such as expanded shuttle service and fewer parking lots, did receive cautious praise. On Cape Cod, similarly, a national seashore protects the outer beaches and much of the peninsula’s forearm, but development, including hundreds of vacation homes, has ballooned to occupy virtually every unprotected stretch of shoreline and much of an interior that was semiwilderness just 50 years ago. For France’s Mont-St.-Michel, raves for historic preservation con-trasted with numerous complaints about high-season hordes, tacky souvenir shops, and the like. Many experts noted that environmental 64 PHILIP GOULD/CORBIS, SERGIO PESSOLANO (OPPOSITE UPPER), GERALD FRENCH/CORBIS (LOWER) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER problems in the surrounding bay are finally being addressed. If that effort succeeds, this score should go up in years to come. The Maya ruin of Tikal and its associated tourist town of Flores in Guatemala also present two faces, but the area as a whole received many comments in the not-yet-disastrous vein. While acknowledging the beauty of Tikal, experts zeroed in on numerous problems: underappreciated ecological wonders, poor information for visitors, growing danger from deliberate forest burn-off, lack of tourism benefit for locals, pollution in Flores, inadequate destina-tion management, and hotels without environmental controls. “It’s not too late to save,” summed up one travel writer. Some destinations were judged against their reputations. Costa Rica’s surprisingly mediocre score, for instance, reflected a widely held feeling that poor tourism management and widespread defor-estation does not match the image of an ecotourism leader that the country likes to project. “Not too late to save.” It’s a good summary for all these middle-zone destinations. Key for symbols environmental conditions social/cultural integrity condition of historic structures aesthetics tourism management outlook GREEN = good rating YELLOW = warning RED = bad rating ;; ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;;
  • 4. Destination Scorecard GETTING UGLY St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. “Massive overvisitation by massive cruise ships.” —Andrew Drumm, The Nature Conservancy “Hard to differentiate St. Thomas from an overcrowded Florida shopping mall.” —Cary Wolinsky, photographer About the Survey Evaluating an entire destina-tion requires weighing such subtle issues as aesthetic appeal and cultural integrity, as well as balancing good points against bad. No simplistic numerical measures could do jus-tice to the task. The best solu-tion was to turn to informed human judgment. We convened a global panel of over 200 experts in a variety of fields—ecology, sustainable tourism, geography, urban and regional planning, travel writing and photography, historic preservation, cultural anthropology, archaeology—all well traveled enough to have a good basis for comparing desti-nations against each other. We asked experts to evaluate only those places with which they were familiar, using six cri-teria weighed as appropriate to each destination: environmental and ecological quality; social and cultural integrity; condition of any historic buildings and archae-ological sites; aesthetic appeal; quality of tourism management; and the outlook for the future. For places where experts dis-agreed widely, a second round of scoring used a version of a research tool called the Delphi technique, whereby panelists anonymously exchange further comments about the place and then re-score accordingly. The index, then, is a compila-tion of informed judgments and perceptions about places that may themselves have many faces. It should be taken as such. In low-scoring Key West, for example, you can still find an eco-friendly conch farm and plenty of back-street charm; high-scoring Tuscany still must cope with a badly polluted Arno River and summer overcrowding in Florence and Siena. Like the cards that Olympic judges hold up, our experts’ scores take into account both measurable accomplishment and the intangibles of style, aesthet-ics, and culture. And like Olympic athletes, each destina-tion has a chance to improve its performance. Daniel Chang, Elizabeth Parisian, Leeds Metropolitan University, and many others helped with this study. For a list of panelists and more of their observations, see nationalgeographic.com/traveler. rank score key factors Stewardship Index WILD Reef and islands of Belize 58 22 Corfu (Kerkira), Greece 57 23 Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt 57 23 Annapurna Circuit, Nepal 56 24 Masai Mara, Kenya 56 24 Rajasthan, India 56 24 St. Petersburg historic center, Russia 56 24 Barbados 55 25 Crete, Greece 55 25 Havana historic center, Cuba 55 25 Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania 55 25 MIDDLE SCORES (CONTINUED) LOWER SCORES Amboseli, Kenya 54 26 Aruba 54 26 Everglades, USA 54 26 Hue, Vietnam 53 27 Tahiti 53 27 Angkor, Cambodia 52 28 Canary Islands 52 28 Outer Banks, NC, USA 52 28 Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe 52 28 Acropolis, Greece 51 29 Chang Mai, Thailand 51 29 Pyramids, Giza, Egypt 51 29 Balearic Islands, Spain 50 30 Great Smoky Mountains, USA 49 31 Venice, Italy 49 31 Bethlehem, Israel/Palestine 48 32 French Riviera 48 32 Algarve, Portugal 46 33 Caribbean Coast, Q.R., Mexico 46 33 Costa Brava, Spain 46 33 Negril, Jamaica 46 33 North coast, Dominican Republic 46 33 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 45 34 Key West, FL, USA 43 35 Phuket area, Thailand 43 35 North coast, Jamaica 42 36 Costa del Sol, Spain 41 37 Benidorm exemplifies the heavy footprint of package tourism on Spanish islands and coasts. Cheap hotel sprawl prompted low scores for the Canaries, Balearics, Costa Brava, and Costa del Sol. Loved to death? Or exploited to death? Both could apply to low-scoring victims of crowding, poor planning, and greed. Still, there’s hope. Look at the bottom 11 entries on the index: Every one of these low-scorers are sun-and-sand shorelines and islands. Behind that lurks an arithmetic reality: The population of beach-lovers is ever growing, and there’s only so much seacoast to go around. A rising demand for a finite resource calls for wise stewardship. Unfortunately, bulldozers often come before brains when quick profits beckon. One textbook example is Spain’s Costa del Sol—the overbuilt “Costa del Concrete,” which caters to package tours from north-ern Europe, and where you can hear more English or German than Spanish. As with many uncontrolled seashores, a nonstop line of characterless hotels blocks off the coastline. Proving such a tide can be turned, one Majorcan town has now razed a few hotels. On any attractive shore, if no policies exist to cluster mass-tourism hotels, or preserve traditional towns and open space, resort sprawl tends to take over. Community leaders in a few such destinations have begun to recognize the problem, asking how best to handle hordes of tourists who are more interested in sun, rum, and each other than in the country they happen to be visiting. Different threats place other low-scoring destinations at risk: excess popularity (the Acropolis and the Great Smokies), political or civil strife (Bethlehem), poorly planned mass sightseeing (Angkor), encroaching urban development (the Pyramids), inappro-priate tourism development (Great Smokies again—i.e., Gatlinburg), even sea-level rise from global warming (Venice). This Stewardship Index is intended to be a wake-up call. Low scoring places can learn from high-scorers, and many of the desti-nations on the facing page have begun to take countermeasures. Often, though, it’s very, very late in the game. Jamaica’s resort town of Negril, for instance, has a vigorous reef-restoration pro-gram— now that as much as 90 percent of its reef has died, due to both local and global factors. Negril may be working on reform, but in many travel paradises greed and shortsightedness still rule. Unless that attitude changes, countless destinations remain golden-egg-laying geese, filing down the path to the chopping block. GLENN CAMPBELL/GETTY IMAGES, JOEL W. ROGERS/CORBIS (OPPOSITE) Key for symbols environmental conditions social/cultural integrity condition of historic structures aesthetics tourism management outlook GREEN = good rating YELLOW = warning RED = bad rating ;; 66 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER 67 ? ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ;; ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?