Join the Search for Great Stewardship Councils

What real-life destination-based entities have taken a holistic approach to tourism management and stewardship of their destinations?

Nine profiles in this “Doing It Better” series are now live:

Help us identify and profile more examples

In cooperation with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and various university graduate studies, we continue to seek your recommendations for exemplary cases of collaborative destination management.

We have several more profiles of such places in the pipeline. We will publish each one on this site as it is completed and fact-checked. The results of our research will be publicized case by case and then collected in a comprehensive report for free distribution so as
• to provide destination leaders and practitioners with successful models to adopt and adapt, and
• to publicize the subsequent appeal of those destinations to appropriate segments of the traveling public.

To see our evaluation criteria, please read the information below. For simplicity, we’ll refer to these organizational entities or arrangements as destination stewardship councils (DSCs):


The criteria for a model DSC are taken from two sources:

  1. GSTC’s Sustainable Destination Criterion A1
  2. National Geographic Society’s description of a geotourism stewardship council

GSTC’s A1 Criterion (formerly A2) is labeled “Destination Management Responsibility.” A model destination council should comprise an area with permanent inhabitants and multiple stakeholders—i.e., broader than a single park, preserve, or private property. The Criterion A1 text describes it. It may or may not be the official DMO but should incorporate DMO participation:

“The destination has an effective organization, department, group, or committee responsible for a coordinated approach to sustainable tourism, with involvement by the private sector, public sector and civil society.
This group has defined responsibilities, oversight, and implementation capability for the management of socio- economic, cultural and environmental issues.
The group is adequately funded, works with a range of bodies in delivering destination management, has access to sufficient staffing (including personnel with experience in sustainability) and follows principles of sustainability and transparency in its operations and transactions.”

Criterion A1 indicators (phrased for certification):

    • A1.a. Documentary evidence showing relevant make-up and responsibilities of the group.
    • A1.b. A financial plan and budget showing current and future funding sources.
    • A1.c. Evidence of links and engagement with other bodies.
    • A1.d. Records of permanent staff and contracted personnel, indicating relevant experience.
    • A1.e. Management guidelines and processes, which demonstrate awareness and adherence to sustainability principles and transparency in operations and letting of contracts.

It’s worth noting that Indicator A1.b is a good acid test, as it’s difficult for a DSC with no budget to be effective. Sometimes one or more council members provide in-kind support.

National Geographic’s stewardship-council description, as put forth by our predecessor Center for Sustainable Destinations, is slightly broader in scope:

The council’s task is to oversee and advise on identifying, sustaining, developing, and marketing the geotourism assets of a place:
• Environment
• Culture
• Built Heritage
• Aesthetics
• Community well-being

Where appropriate, council membership should reflect each of these distinctive destination qualities. Council activities should encourage engagement of local people.

Thus the ideal council would: 

  • Be able to meet the five GSTC A1 indicators.
  • Incorporate representation for all endemic destination assets.
  • Apportion membership by mixing public, private, and civil society (NGO/CBO) members, without any one sector having total control.
  • Adopt mission and goals that balance sustainability, authenticity, economic development, and responsible promotion.
  • Conduct activities that help local communities to discover and value their own unique cultural and natural characteristics.

We doubt that many entities meet all these criteria, but some meet quite a few. Any organization that meets at least a third of the criteria is of interest.

Please send your suggestion with the council’s name, its URL, and—if you have it—a key person’s email contact to Feel free as well to pass this query on to others who may have their own suggestions.

Thank you.
The Destination Stewardship Center team

About Jonathan Tourtellot

CEO, Destination Stewardship Center; Editor, Destination Stewardship Report; Principal, Focus on Places LLC; founding Director, former Nat Geo Center for Sustainable Destinations