Destination Watch

About the NatGeo Destination Surveys

440 places graded for stewardship and authenticity.

There has been nothing quite like these surveys before or since. For seven years, 2004-2010, National Geographic Traveler published landmark Destination Scorecard surveys, providing stewardship scores for hundreds of places around the world. Only now is the Europe-based Green Destinations Partnership moving toward completion of a global destination-stewardship database that can be seen a possible successor.

Below, we list in one place all seven of National Geographic Traveler’s landmark destination stewardship surveys, which included survey panelist comments on hundreds of world destinations from top-rated to bottom. Most of these hyperlinks are now off-line, but we retain the original records. (See Methodology and sample expert comments below.)

Nat Geo Stewardship survey on 99 Coastal Destinations (2010; shows top-rated only)
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

From best to worst: Here for the first time anywhere, we are providing letter grades for 440 of the destinations rated by National Geographic’s expert panel. These destination ratings derived from hundreds of experts’ opinions on six stewardship criteria: environment, built heritage, social/cultural impacts, aesthetics, tourism management, and overall trend. They constitute a unique report card on how well destinations were taking care of themselves at the time.  The new letter grades reflect the experts’ consensus. Keep in mind, these ratings occurred before the overtourism explosion in many locales before and after the pandemic, and in some rural cases, during it.

Click on these links to see the destinations listed by rating:

Download this pdf to see all 440 destinations and grades listed by country.

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.

Note—These letter grades interpret some 80% of the numerical survey scores reported by National Geographic (weighted to favor the more recent scores). The Destination Stewardship Center has applied these grades independently, and we take sole responsibility for them. For the original numerical scores, consult the appropriate links to National Geographic.

You Can Help These grades now need updating. Stewardship in many destinations remained steady over the course of the surveys and probably still does, but other destinations have experienced significant change since 2010. If you are seriously interested in the welfare of any destination on the list, please contact us. We’ll provide a survey form. Once we have enough responses, we’ll report the updated grade. You can also offer a comment at any time.


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