Join the Search for Great Stewardship Councils

Can you name a place with a holistic destination-management arrangement?

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. Specifically:

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

As of mid-2019, we have several 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.

Our first profile in this series is now live: the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia.

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 A2
  2. National Geographic Society’s description of a geotourism stewardship council

GSTC’s A2 Criterion is labeled “Destination Management Organization.” This term should be interpreted loosely, not literally, since many official DMOs are focused exclusively on marketing. 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.

Criterion A2 text describes a true DSC, which 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 and public sector. This group is suited to the size and scale of the destination, and has defined responsibilities, oversight, and implementation capability for the management of environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues. This group’s activities are appropriately funded.”

Criterion A2 indicators:

  • A2.a. An organization has responsibility for a coordinated approach to the management of sustainable tourism
  • A2.b. The private sector and public sector are involved in the organization and coordination of tourism
  • A2.c. The tourism organization is suited to the size and scale of the destination
  • A2.d. Individuals within the tourism organization have assigned responsibilities for sustainable tourism
  • A2.e. The tourism organization is appropriately funded.

It’s worth noting that Indicator A2.e 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: 

  • Meet the five GSTC A2 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

Jonathan Tourtellot

About Jonathan Tourtellot

CEO & Portal Editor,; Principal, Focus on Places LLC; former senior editor, National Geographic Traveler; founding Director, former NG Center for Sustainable Destinations