A First: 440 Destinations Rated by Nat Geo Experts Compiled in One Place

[Above: Portion of the 2006 Traveler cover featuring the stewardship survey of 94 World Heritage destinations. Courtesy, National Geographic Traveler.]
Landmark Research There has been nothing like them, before or since. For seven years, from 2004 to 2010, I was privileged to oversee National Geographic’s  Destination Scorecard surveys of experts’ opinions on stewardship for hundreds of places around the world. We published the numerical scores annually as a cover story in National Geographic Traveler.
Now, for the first time, we at the have compiled in our Destination Watch section a master list of most of the destinations surveyed by Nat Geo since 2006. For ease of understanding, we’ve translated the numerical scores into letter grades for 440 places, listed on these five pages:

Those links show destinations by grade. Download this pdf to see all 440 destinations and grades listed by country.

The surveys polled a panel of hundreds of experts on destinations that they knew well. For each place, we asked these panelists to consider six stewardship criteria: environment, built heritage, social/cultural impacts, aesthetics, tourism management, and overall trend. After exchanging comments anonymously, they then rated each destination on a scale from 0 to 10. We calculated the averages and published the results.

You can read more About the Surveys and their methodology. Basically, it was a “wisdom of crowds” approach—in this case, a very knowledgeable crowd. It proved remarkably consistent. In our first survey, conducted in 2003-4 with fewer than 200 panelists, the Norwegian Fjords won the top place, and the Costa del Sol came in with the lowest score. After a five-year interval, we surveyed many of the same destinations again, this time with a very different panel of over 400 experts. Those 2009 results? Norwegian fjords best, Costa del Sol worst.

Please Join In

Some of these grades need updating, and we will be soliciting your opinions on whether they should go up, down, or stay the same.

As administrator of the surveys, I did not rate any destinations myself. In some cases I thought the consensus was way off, but more often than not it would turn out that the experts knew some things that I didn’t. In few cases, I still disagree! More important, new developments in some places suggest a new grade. I’ll be offering a few comments in those cases at the bottom of each list. You can, too.

We plan to start featuring individual destinations from month to month and asking your opinions about them. If there’s a particular destination whose condition interests or concerns you, please contact us.

 

 

Jonathan Tourtellot

About Jonathan Tourtellot

Portal Editor, DestinationCenter.org; Principal, Focus on Places LLC; former Geotourism Editor, National Geographic Traveler; Founding Director, NG Center for Sustainable Destinations.

2 thoughts on “A First: 440 Destinations Rated by Nat Geo Experts Compiled in One Place

  1. This list and spread sheet would be more useful if there were a column key for why each area got the grade it did – ie pollution, tourism management, etc.

    • You are right, of course. The problem is that each grade reflects a mix of reasons. Currently the best way to learn them is to track back to the original surveys via the links to Nat Geo on the “About the Surveys” page. In addition to a summary characterization for each place, we selected 3 or 4 panelist comments that best illustrate why it received the rating it did. You should be able to find them there on the Nat Geo Traveler site. We’ll seek more convenient alternatives, but we don’t currently have the resources to transfer all 1600 or so comments or set up reliable direct links. Help on that score would be welcome!

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