National Geographic Traveler has released the results of its 6th annual survey of authenticity and “destination stewardship”. The survey, ranks 133 places on earth according to how well (or how poorly) the local governments, businesses and residents are protecting the area from degradation, along with other factors like risk of natural disasters.
437 panelists scored each destination according to: environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of tourism management, and outlook for the future.
The highest-rated place: the Fjords region of Norway, followed by locations like the South Island of New Zealand, Slovenia, Ancient Kyoto in Japan, the Bavarian Alps and Vermont. Other places listed as “doing well” include Tuscany, Cappadocia, Easter Island, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and Kentucky’s Bluegrass Country.
There are some places “in the balance” that need work in multiple areas. Destinations such as Costa Rica, the Great Barrier Reef, Prague’s Old Town, Petra and St. Lucia are included here. From there, it gets worse. Places with “troubles” include Ha Long Bay, Giza, Venice and Siem Reap.
The bottom of the barrel: Cabo San Lucas, the West Bank, and Spain’s Costa del Sol.
More interesting than the rankings are the reasons behind them. For example, Costa del Sol rates so low because it’s a “textbook example of mass tourism run amok”, overdeveloped, unattractive and straining local water resources. And what makes the Fjords so great? Few visitors, environmental quality, and a tourism industry that benefits the local people yet allows them to preserve traditional ways of life.