Your guide to hundreds of places, rated for stewardship and authenticity.
Norwegian fjords: Rated among the very best destinations in the world. Consistently. Spain’s Costa del Sol: Among the very worst. Consistently. With hundreds of other places arrayed in between.
This section is devoted to global surveys of destination stewardship, of which there have been very few. The most comprehensive were the seven landmark Destination Scorecard surveys, published by National Geographic Traveler, 2004-2010. The surveys rated places based on criteria ranging from cultural integrity and aesthetics to environment and heritage. (See Methodology.) There has been nothing like these surveys before or since, although a more narrowly focused variant (see Top Green 100, below) with a different methodology did appear in 2014.
- Below, we gather in one place hyperlinks to the results of all seven of the National Geographic destination stewardship surveys, including survey panelist comments on hundreds of world destinations from top-rated to bottom. They constitute a unique report card on how well destinations take care of themselves, at least at the time of the survey.
- We are providing summary letter grades for several hundred of the destinations surveyed and will invite your responses for an update. You can review the top group, those graded B+ to A, here. Three more groups will follow, down to the D’s and F’s. You will also be able to download a pdf of all 500 or so destinations and grades. Please contact us if you would like a copy.
- We invite you to help monitor stewardship of destinations worldwide. See the Destination Monitor, our news aggregation page on this topic, for examples.You can read and contribute reports and news links about successes, failures, and threats in the places you care about.
National Geographic Traveler’s landmark Destination Scorecard surveys:
Nat Geo Stewardship survey on 99 Coastal Destinations (2010)
Nat Geo Stewardship survey on 133 Iconic Global Destinations (2009)
Nat Geo Stewardship survey on 109 Historic Destinations (2008)
Nat Geo Stewardship survey on 111 Island Destinations (2007)
Nat Geo Stewardship survey on 94 World Heritage Destinations (2006)
Browse National Geographic Destination Stewardship surveys 2004 through 2009
For a taste of survey content, read sample panelist comments at Nat Geo:
BRAZIL: Parati—Score 72 (high) in 2008. Sample comment:”Lovely and well-preserved colonial town; nearby coastline spectacular; despite proximity to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, this feels authentic and non-touristy.”
RUSSIA: St. Petersburg—Score 67 (in the balance) in 2006. Sample comment:
“Leaders in St. Pete are doing a very good job of maintaining the site’s integrity in the face of crass Russian commercialism. Many restoration projects have been completed, and slowly the central city is receiving a facelift.”
USA: Great Smoky Mountains—Score 49 (low) in 2009. Sample comment:
“Heavily visited region of natural beauty that has been degraded by visual pollution. But the worst excesses of mass tourist development are apparent just outside the national park…”
To see hundreds more destination-by-destination comments that explain the ratings, go to one of the survey links above.
Should the Stewardship Surveys resume?
Funding for these surveys stopped in 2011. Some people have asked for them to resume, possibly under sponsorship. Do you agree? Why? Please comment with any examples of how a survey score did, or could, make a difference at the destination level. Contact us concerning potential survey sponsorship.
TOP 100 GREEN DESTINATIONS The Europe-based Green Destinations group issued this list in 2014, based on a reasonably solid methodology. While more recent than the National Geographic surveys, the ratings are more narrowly focused—mainly on environmental sustainability—and are restricted best performers. These places are most deserving of recognition, but perhaps least in need of help.
NOTE: You can send people directly to this section with the URL destinationwatch.com .