Livingstone, Zambia Creates a ‘Forest of Faces’

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3 No. 2 – Fall 2022 ?

Another winner from the Top 100 – Every year, Green Destinations organizes the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. From the winners announced this year, we’ve selected two more stories, this time from Zambia and Greece, that showcase different reasons for engaging the local community. Synopses by Josie Burd.

Top 100 submission by Rosie Mercer, Business Development Manager at Destination Livingstone Initiative

Tapping Local Wood-Carving Talent Gives Livingstone a Competitive Step Up – and a Lesson in Stewardship 

Just 10km away from Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Livingstone relies on tourism for its main economic activity. However, the town of Victoria Falls across the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe was getting most of the tourism traffic. So how could Livingstone draw those people back in?

In 2019, their community created a Destination Management Plan (DMP) to brainstorm opportunities to improve the situation. They also formed a new multi-stakeholder destination management organization called Destination Livingstone. With the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic drastically increasing their problem, decisive action was needed.

A traditional carved wooden sculpture featured in the ‘Forest of Faces’ art installation. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Peter Anderson, international designer and creative director of the DMP, with the help of Acorn Tourism Consulting, came up with a plan that would celebrate the talent of local sculptors and create an attraction to draw tourists into Livingstone. Their idea was to commission the first public art installation titled ‘Forest of Faces’ that would feature wooden sculptures celebrating the cultural heritage of the city.

Here are some of the steps taken:

  • Consulting meetings with the Visual Arts Council, the Livingstone Museum, the Livingstone City Council, Chief Mukuni, and the arts and crafts markets, committees produced a working group that would focus on how to execute the project, prepare the competition rules, and communicate with the artisans.
  • An open competition commenced that required artisans to submit a drawing of their intended sculpture, the narrative behind the sculpture, what kind of wood they preferred to use, the expected height of the sculpture, the anticipated cost, and a small sample of their work.
  • The working group selected and commissioned 21 sculptures from the submissions.
  • The artisans found tree trunks suitable for their sculptures and spent the next 6-10 weeks using basic hand tools to complete their projects.
  • The final sculptures were erected over a two-week period and opened to the public on March 23, 2021, with information boards detailing the artist and story behind each sculpture.
  • In May 2021 the Livingstone community hosted a family event to allow the artists to show off their work to loved ones.
Artists and their families at the Livingstone family event. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Results

As it was free and open to the public, the sculpture park quickly became an attraction that drew both domestic and international travelers into Livingstone.

The project itself created a platform to discuss deforestation and the importance of harvesting trees sustainably. Artisans who usually worked with teak and ebony tree varieties, which were scarce in the nearby areas, were encouraged to use wood from dead trees in the local vicinity that had similar qualities. Replanting was also an emphasis that taught artists and community members the importance of maintaining biodiversity. In honor of the project and of World Forestry Day, celebrated on March 21, artists and dignitaries were given trees to plant in their home villages.

Revitalizing the Kypseli Neighborhood in Athens

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3 No. 2 – Fall 2022 ?

Another winner from the Top 100 – Every year, Green Destinations organizes the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. From the winners announced this year, we’ve selected two more stories, this time from Zambia and Greece, that showcase different reasons for engaging the local community. Synopsis by Josie Burd.

Top 100 submission by Alexia Panagiotopoulou, Head of Strategy, Athens Development and Destination Management Agency

Revitalizing the Kypseli Neighborhood Began with a Holistic Redo of Its Core Agora 

Amidst the densely packed historic neighborhood of Kypseli stands a building that has gone through lifetimes of change. The Kypseli Agora is one of the last permanent neighborhood markets in Athens, a traditional gathering place for the community. Fondly recalled memories of after-school ice cream visits and weekend shopping for fresh foods with their parents roll off the tongues of elderly residents as they reminisce about how the market felt more like a second home than a place of business.

A group passes through a local park during a walk around the neighborhood. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

This lively atmosphere began to disappear in the 1980s as younger people moved to the suburbs instead of into the homes they would have inherited in Kypseli. The majority of the residents who stayed were elderly. As the neighborhood declined, so too did traffic to the market. The Kypseli residents, the City of Athens, and the public recognized this loss for what it was and considered how they might bring the vibrancy and life back to this community.

These are some of the steps they took to achieve that goal:

  • 200 people engaged in public forums discussing ideas and proposals for the market. Citizens submitted an additional 470 proposals.
  • Private companies, associations, social enterprises, and civil society groups submitted 17 total proposals in an Open Call to select the manager of the market.
  • The City of Athens coordinated 3 months of cooperative activities to promote the Open Call and begin encouraging a collaborative culture for the market.
  • The Kypseli Agora worked with surrounding businesses to provide a place for them to show their work while building relationships together.
  • Lower-rent spaces in the market went to startups and popup shops with a focus in social business that encourage questions about consumption and stimulate the circular economy. The goal was to emphasize inclusivity and create opportunities for vulnerable groups to be recognized for their work.
  • The new market determined that it was important to build regularity and thus developed a schedule. Some events include an organic garden vegetable market on Wednesdays and a brunch showcasing food from neighborhood kitchens once a month on Sundays.

Results

Kypseli Agora achieved a new life in 2018. With social entrepreneurship and sustainable values at its heart, the market became a thriving hotspot for culture and community. Since its revival, quality of life in this neighborhood has increased, drawing an influx of residents, especially writers and artists. The revitalization of the market has also been credited with helping the City of Athens to become the European Capital of Innovation in 2018.

Pop up brunch, Kypseli Municipal Market, part of the Athens City Festival. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

After two years of shutdowns and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market hosted an all-day lounge and party in May 2022 to help relaunch the neighborhood. The appeal of the Kypseli neighborhood now extends beyond the immediate community and is known throughout Greece and beyond, often featured in international press as a cultural destination. Indeed, Green Destinations and the Future of Tourism Coalition chose Athens and the Kypseli Agora to host their annual conference, held September 26-29 of this year.

Disaster Recovery in Evia, Greece

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3, No. 1 – Summer 2022 ?

After disastrous wildfires in Northern Evia, Greece, the placemaking agency Toposophy assessed the damage to Evia’s tourism and researched lessons learned from various other disaster-struck destinations. Marta Mills of Toposophy explains what they have done to help Evia build a sustainable recovery and how other destinations can benefit. 

A home goes up in flames as a devastating wildfire tears through Northern Evia. Natural disasters such as these are becoming increasingly frequent. [Photo courtesy of Dimitris Georgiou]

Fire despoils a Greek island. Now what?

‘I will never forget the sound of the fire and the picture afterwards of the place where I grew up and live’, said Giorgos Maroudes, president of the Trade Association of Rovies, a seaside village on the island of Evia. In August 2021, Northern Evia – the northern part of Greece’s second largest island, Evia, and a place of unique biodiversity – suffered one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history. “As expected, tourism, one of the most important revenue sources of our area, was one of the sectors most heavily impacted,” he reported.

Toposophy, an international placemaking agency and GSTC Member, was hired by the National Reconstruction Committee of Greece on the Recovery and Regeneration of Northern Evia (the NRC) to provide a roadmap for a sustainable recovery adapted to the characteristics of the place and based on an analysis of the responses from other destinations who have experienced natural disasters.

‘The scale of the disaster was unprecedented in our history, so the NRC was a unique initiative in the country’s planning tradition’, says Dimitrios Georgiou from Toposophy, responsible for research and managing the Northern Evia project. ‘The response had to be bigger, more holistic and more people-centered than had been seen before.’

Pre-fire, a diver in Rovies explores north Evia’s rich biodiversity and marine life. [Photo courtesy of Argonauta Diving Resort]

Understanding what has worked and what hasn’t in the past was essential to develop a plan adjusted to Northern Evia’s unique characteristics and needs. During its heyday, Northern Evia was a popular holiday destination for global stars such as Maria Callas and Greta Garbo, mainly because of the thermal spa. Evia also has a rich history and heritage spanning from ancient to medieval times and present, as well as unique biodiversity and local production that remained under-utilized.

In addition to the wildfire’s impact (e.g. destruction of forests, historic olive groves, honey production, livestock, etc.), further challenges included lack of distinct brand/identity, population decline, and negative effects of the pandemic.

To respond in the most effective way, Toposophy’s team conducted a benchmarking study and spent a few weeks in Northern Evia to conduct formal and informal interviews and check what would work in this particular place. This engagement on the ground and stakeholder input helped with creating the final study. The subsequent benchmarking research would help Northern Evia to recover.

Responses by other destinations

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, it typically takes an average of 16.2 months for a destination to recover from a natural disaster; however, wildfires can take anything from just one month to 93 months. Toposophy’s benchmarking research found that successful responses vary from dedicated strategic plans and funding structures to location-specific initiatives undertaken by community groups and local influencers. For example,

  • In response to the wildfires of 2020 in Oregon, Global Family Travels, in partnership with First Nature Tours and Cascade Volunteers, launched experiences of regenerative tourism in areas of Oregon that suffered the most, while the destination created conditions of safety by providing an interactive dashboard with information about the air quality etc. after a customer survey.
  • Following the earthquake of 2015, Nepal developed an efficient social media strategy that targeted a more adventurous group of visitors and replaced the negative sentiment with a more optimistic one, as well as a “see for yourself” strategy by organizing press and celebrity trips.
  • In Italy, after the earthquake of 2012 in Emiglia Romana, the influential chef Massimo Bottura created a special risotto cacio e pepe recipe with parmigiano during a livestream session that helped to sell a stock of 360 thousand pieces of parmigiano cheese. The relaunch of All Saints’ Day Festival with the support of volunteers also helped drive tourists flows and demonstrate a destination which is ready for business.
  • The tsunami of 2004 was an opportunity for Sri Lanka to rethink its strategy, target markets, and offerings, and subsequently, separate the destination in tourism zones. The destination created packages for added-value niche groups, while launching the “Bounce Back Sri Lanka” campaign directing visitors to areas not affected by the tsunami.

Guidelines for a destination affected by natural disaster

Based on the benchmarking analysis and many formal and informal consultations on the ground with local stakeholders, Toposophy provided actionable guidelines adapted to the conditions of Northern Evia. Some of these recommendations included:

  • Develop new inventory of nature-based tourism products as well as tourism based on assets not affected by the disaster, such as sea and gastronomy experiences.
  • Launch a domestic tourism campaign with a well-rounded events calendar to highlight the readiness of the destination for business.
  • Develop a place brand through participatory processes – important for recovery and resilience building.
  • Provide an educational program with tailor-made consulting and peer-to-peer elements to upgrade quality and effectiveness of crisis response, and to increase social cohesion and resilience to future shocks.
  • Develop programs to tap into new trends or niche groups such as a pilot program for attracting digital nomads and reuse of abandoned industrial heritage, along with wider placemaking goals such as reversing demographic shrinkage.

Northern Evia’s lush, green landscape – before the fire. [Photo courtesy of Dimitris Georgiou]

Hope for the future

According to Giorgos Maroudes of the seaside village Rovies, “The wildfires highlighted precedent weaknesses. The reconstruction requires both short- and long-term measures and planning for a quick recovery and enhanced resilience. The Toposophy study shows that this is feasible, based on successful practices from all over the world.”

What can other destinations learn from this? 

The key takeaways that other destinations can apply include:

  • The involvement of the local community is crucial for the effectiveness of recovery efforts. Transparency and honesty are very important to nurture trust.
  • Tourism recovery efforts should be combined with other dimensions such as restoring biodiversity and cultural heritage.
  • The effectiveness of communication initiatives depends on a mix of factors such as the message carrier (e.g. influencers related to the area affected or a real visitor), the communication timing, and the tone/content of message (honesty, safety, positive news, progress).
  • Regarding recent disasters, perceived safety from the COVID-19 pandemic has been more important when selecting a destination than the impact of a natural disaster.
  • Data-driven approaches that may include customer perception surveys, social listening, and local professional consultation enhance effectiveness and well-informed decisions.
  • Educational initiatives such as seminars, toolkits, and/or consultation increase resilience and create competitive advantage.

Talking about disaster response

We can all learn more from other places willing to share their experiences. For example, the mayor of San Jose has some useful insights on a new community task force that is tackling the climate crisis in California, and we can learn from scientists in Australia how to use the data from past bushfires to better prepare for future hazards. Toposophy’s Common Ground podcast series (Episode 3 ‘Climate Fight: Meet the Frontliners’) tackles the topic of how these destinations cope with natural disasters.


Toposophy’s Marta Mills is a sustainable tourism and communications consultant with over 15 years of experience in projects across Europe and Asia.

To Market Stewardship, Use Local Voices

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3, No. 1 – Summer 2022 ?

We last visited Sedona, Arizona in our Spring 2021 (Vol. 1, No.4) issue, to report on their plan for getting a handle on overtourism. It’s still a struggle. Here, Holly Prievo of GLP Films describes how a strategic video campaign that enlists local support and participation can shift a DMO from destination promotion to marketing stewardship – a model for any destination.

[Above: GLP’s trailer, “The Soul of Sedona” ]

Video Stories Feature Local People in Bid to Help Overrun Sedona, AZ

How can we widely communicate the need to preserve a remarkable destination suffering from overtourism without drawing more people to it?

In our 2021 work with Sedona, Arizona, that was exactly the question. GLP Films works with destinations to strategize and work toward sustainability goals using storytelling. Sedona, its community rife with resentment and its fragile ecosystem threatened by the feet of millions, was hoping to raise awareness about the consequences of irresponsible tourism through a video campaign deployed in a manner that could educate current visitors without leading to more.

These conflicting concerns make solutions for any single issue difficult, and certainly satisfying all would be a challenge. But it was clear that destination stewardship was needed to improve environmental & social conditions while upholding the local economy that is so heavily dependent upon tourism.

Our Process – The Missing Piece

Pursuing responsible destination management starts with community input. In the case of Sedona, getting the local community on board for any communication plan was imperative, as friction from tourism had made the local community critical of anything resembling marketing. The campaign was contingent upon raising the understanding of the benefits of tourism throughout the local residents, and bringing the community into the conversation to garner a sense of involvement, ownership, and pride for Sedona, not only as a magical landscape but as a destination that upheld environmental standards to protect it.

Sunrise over a Sedona landscape. [Photo courtesy of Jake Belvin]

Sedona was already deploying environmental campaigns to educate visitors and residents alike on environmental stewardship. However, GLP recognized the need for an emotional lift to the messaging. Involving local champions and voices allowed us to tie in the community and provide another perspective to viewers, personalizing the messaging. These authentic voices of local champions would connect viewers with the human side of the destination and elevate the sense of reverence visitors might experience for the landscape, instead of just presenting them with facts and rules.

Pre-Production

In order to find and select champions for the campaign, as well as get buy-in from the community, it was essential that our team made ourselves accessible and open up the lines of communication with the local community. Throughout the pre-production process, we solicited community input. Our scouting trip, community “town hall” meetings, and in-depth interviews with champions and local stakeholders uncovered concerns and informed the direction for the campaign.

Incorporating listening tools helped reduce misconceptions about the project, allowed community members to voice their concerns and have them addressed where possible, and become part of the conversation for a campaign that had everyone’s best interests in mind.

GLP works closely with local organizations like the Sedona Mountain Biking Academy. [Photo courtesy of Rob Holmes]

Post-Production 

Understanding the concerns of the community regarding marketing Sedona further, a Town Hall was held to premier the trailer, The Soul of Sedona, and reiterate the purpose and use of this campaign. Conscious of the community’s trepidation towards the work, we collaborated closely with Visit Sedona to communicate the intentions behind the campaign as well as provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions and voice their concerns. We discussed how the videos were to be used, who the intended audience was, and how it would alleviate strain on the landscape, then opened up the floor for the community members to have an open discussion about their concerns and expectations.

Responsible Deployment

This particular campaign was geared toward marketing stewardship, not the destination. In order to do this, our approach was centered on:

  1. Pulling in voices of the local community, instead of featuring visitors and travelers.
  2. Highlighting the emotional messaging and storytelling to invoke a sense of reverence, respect, and responsibility toward preserving the landscape.
  3. Promoting the campaign on location, specifically on hotel channels, or to those already booked to visit Sedona, instead of on travel platforms where the videos might encourage more bookings and visits.

Throughout our work with Sedona, we discovered that Sedona’s main problem was one of balance: an economy dependent on tourism in contention with an ecosystem compromised by too much of it and a beleaguered local community inconvenienced by it.

By pulling in locals, relying on their voices for an emotional lift for the campaign, and careful placement of the messaging and campaign assets, we were able to balance the varied and somewhat conflicting needs of the destination.

One element that could have made the campaign more successful, we believe, would have been documenting and measuring the sentiment of the community members pre-project to post-project. Although town halls and open communication were prioritized throughout the process, further qualitative analysis through surveys would have been helpful to measure the community’s perception of the campaign before and after, and ultimately, its effect on the local ecosystems and perception of tourism in the region.

Our final product consisted of three videos, two-to-three minutes each, focused on the three key drivers for tourism identified by Visit Sedona – outdoor recreation, spiritual transformation, and the arts.

For any given destination the cost for a video campaign is driven by many variables, starting with the budget of the film partner and then the scope of work, location, deliverables, schedule, and so on. Video is a powerful tool for education and beyond. It’s a medium that allows complex messages to be distilled and delivered compellingly using both audio and visual cues, creating an experience around the message, and showing instead of telling

Ataúro Island Revives a Conservation Tradition

Another winner from the Top 100 – Green Destinations organizes the annual Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. From the winners announced last year, we’ve selected this one from Timor-Leste, which showcases how restoring and expanding an indigenous conservation tradition is helping one island restore its unique reefs, supported by responsible tourism. Submitted by Mario Gomes, President. Asosiasaun Turizmu Koleku Mahanak Ataúro (ATKOMA), the DMO for Ataúro Island. Synopsis by Jacqueline Elizabeth Harper.

Beneath the waves at Ataúro Island. Photos courtesy ATKOMA.

In Timor-Leste, Little Ataúro Island Makes Big Waves in Marine Conservation

At 25 square kilometres in area, what Ataúro Island lacks in size it makes up for in abundance of biodiversity. This micro island belonging to Timor-Leste lies in the Indonesian archipelago just north of the country’s capital, Dili, on the eastern portion of the island of Timor.

Ataúro is home to one of the most biodiverse reefs in the world and has the highest average of reef fish species on the planet. Controlling exploitation of these natural resources has been difficult. The majority of Ataúro inhabitants come from a long history of fishing livelihoods, but due to a limited number of police and forest guards, overfishing went largely unregulated. Cases of blast fishing have damaged several coral reefs around the island.

Ataúru Island, due north of Dili, capital of Timor-Leste. Credit: Google Maps.

Nevertheless, the abundant aquatic life has recently turned this island into a popular diving spot. Timor-Leste has had an 82 percent increase in international tourist arrivals since 2011. Yet tourism here is still in its relative infancy. The marine habitats have huge potential for responsible nature and adventure tourism, which can add economic value and offer economic diversification to the island. Ataúro Island is now focusing on nature protection and biodiversity conservation to foster growth in low-impact sustainable tourism.

A Traditional Code Revived

To protect natural assets and endangered areas, Ataúro has reemployed the traditional Timorese practice of tara bandu in recent years, pushing it into formal law. Tara bandu is being used as a code of behaviour and community ritual that uses local conservation knowledge and expands community cooperation. While the literal meaning of tara bandu is “prohibition by hanging,” today this traditional code for natural resources management is applied to any activity or behavior that may damage forests or marine resources and negatively impact the community. If a person is found guilty of violating tara bandu restrictions, they are not hanged, but fined money or by handing over assets to the community. Violators usually comply; to do otherwise would be essentially sacrilegious in local tradition.

Visit to an Ataúro reef.

Adoption of tara bandu has successfully established 13 Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) across the island. The community of Adara, located on the Western side of Ataúro, was the first to use tara bandu in 2016 with the purpose of creating a “no take” MMA to protect the reef habitat, to promote sustainable fisheries and food security, and to encourage marine ecotourism. Its success led to 12 more MMAs being established around the coastline between 2017 and 2018.

According to the Sustainable Management Plan for Ataúro Island, each of the MMA sites includes a core area that is ‘no take’ and it is surrounded by a buffer area. Activities permitted in these areas are governed by Suco regulation (pdf, p80), a written document explaining the rules pertaining to the area’s land and sea resources, ensuring future generations can access them (see poster below). In the no-take areas, all fishing and gleaning activities are forbidden, except in a few scenarios. In the buffer areas fishing is permitted only by using semi-traditional fishing techniques and during agreed-upon times. The regulations are the same for each site.

Tourism’s Contribution

To offset the loss of fishing income, there is now a $2 tourism fee paid to the local village council for every guest who swims, dives, or snorkels within the MMA. In 2018, the village of Beloi earned over $10,000 from this income stream. However, tourist visitation is not distributed equally across the island, so there are steps afoot to create a collective management system.

As Timor-Leste has only recently become independent, tara bandu is a way for locals to reclaim ownership of their natural resources and revive local traditions suppressed under the years of Indonesian occupation. Community support is important. Tara bandu will not work without complete support and buy-in from the local community. Through tara bandu and monitoring of the MMAs, biodiversity has improved in the no-take zones. Dr. Sylvia Earle, a famed ocean explorer, has recognized the people of Timor-Leste for their extraordinary commitment to ocean conservation.

Find the complete Good Practice Story from Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste here (pdf).

Contrasting Tourism Landscapes in Karnataka, India

The pandemic exposed the dangers of ‘tourism monocultures’ – dependence on one product only – versus a more holistic approach to tourism fare. Gayathri Hegde has been researching the differing tourism experiences of Dandeli and Joida, neighboring towns in Karnataka, southwestern India.

Amara homestay cottages decked in Warli paintings. Homestays such as this, combined with multicultural experiences, offer a resilient alternative to the risks inherent in over-exploiting a single adventure-tourism product. © Amrut Joshi

River Rafting Alone Does Not a Destination Make

The town of Dandeli, located in the serene, verdant green forests of Western Ghats in northern Karnataka, has become synonymous with ‘adventure tourism’ in the region, popularized as the river-rafting destination of southern India. Fueled by dam waters, the Kali River flows with robust furor, enthralling all visitors. The spike in tourists visiting this biodiversity hotspot brought considerable profits to tourism service providers, but it has also resulted in unchecked growth that has hampered the ecological and financial sustainability of this tourism model.

Cultivated terraces and wild forests of Joida testify to multiple layers of influence by man and nature.  © Gayathri Hegde.

What was once a novelty experience has now been reduced to a gimmick in recent years. Rafting through the rapids was initially envisioned for a 12km stretch, which would allow the adventurer to have a complete experience of rafting through multiple rapids in the flowing river. However, to offer the experience to a larger number of visitors traveling on a smaller budget, the local tourism operators started offering the rafting experience for lower fees and a shorter distance. As a result, while the tourism experience in Dandeli has become more accessible across all economic classes of the society, the overall quality of the product has taken a massive hit.

In an attempt to cater to many, even the few are deprived of the delights of nature that this place truly has to offer. With no checks in place to regulate the tourism impacts, tourists are littering the area, and most service providers take no responsibility for restoring the disturbed places they leave behind. As a result, the once verdant landscape is now dotted with plastic and tin. The sensitive ecology is home to a multitude of flora and fauna that are endemic to the region. The unchecked spurt in tourism stands to upend their lifecycle.

Then, when the government banned water-sport activities as a preventive measure during Covid-19, many tourism service providers who had anchored their business model solely on adventure tourism took a major financial hit. 

But what is unique about Dandeli? What can one take away from here? The actual potential of this place in the current tourism model does not benefit the tourist or the tourism vendor. It exploits the place without any regard to either maintaining the place or developing it more thoughtfully. 

The Joida Model 

Potential solutions to such challenges have been successfully and sensitively incorporated not too far away in the neighboring region of Joida. Both Dandeli and Joida are home to many native communities, some of them tribal, who have immense knowledge about the ecology of the place and have several unique skills in arts and crafts, which can be leveraged for the benefit of both locals and visitors. Even the cuisine that is consumed locally is unique, featuring an array of tubers, which have an annual festival. This cuisine ought to be to featured in restaurants menus and be celebrated accordingly.

Annual tuber exhibition in Joida by the tribal Kunabi people. © Amrut Joshi.

In all of this, I see hope in a cluster of homestays of the region, which are modeled on the public-private profit (PPP) sharing approach for the purpose of providing the best experience of a nature retreat and a cultural taste of regional specialties.

Even when river rafting was closed and the bigger hotels and resorts suffered losses from their adventure-tourism business model, some homestays of the region were not affected by this decision. Rafting was only an add-on to their tourism products. These homestays are run by members of the local community who offer rare view into their own cultural diversity. In the remote village of Gund, last in the region, Amara Homestays offers Yakshagana (a local theatre and dance form) workshop for its visitors and offers meals typical of the Havyaka people. These opportunities are cherished by the visitors. The owner claimed that his business is sustained by repeat visitors who look forward to this experience.

My Take

In hindsight, Dandeli-Joida offers the perfect canvas to showcase a panorama of evolving tourism trends in smaller cities in India and their impacts on multiple levels. In my experience of having travelled across different parts of India over the years and of viewing it through a cultural lens, it struck me that often the ideal tourism experience for an Indian tourist in India is hinged primarily on material comforts more than having an immersive cultural experience. The representation of local cultural identity in built and intangible forms is lacking too. 

When our tourist infrastructure does not reflect this in design or application, the disconnect is but a natural consequence. The gap here is due not only to the tourist who chooses familiar material comfort as his priority, but also to the way these experiences are curated. The idea of ‘ecotourism’ has found traction only in recent years, and we are still grappling with what it means. Textbook definitions and generic principles of ecotourism seem not very relevant for the region, while failing to recognize that the local traditional systems offer perfect solutions to this dilemma. [Editor: See instead the “geotourism approach” put forth via National Geographic.]

The contrasting tourism models I witnessed in Dandeli offer many lessons for building a sustainable tourism model in these eco-sensitive habitats, while creating a unique experience for the visitor and safeguarding the natural landscape and culture for the future.

Sangway homestay nestled in the greenery. © Amrut Joshi

Japan’s Journey Toward Sustainability

It’s a tall order for a large country to change its national policy and commit to improving stewardship for hundreds of its tourism destinations, but Japan is taking tentative steps in that direction, spurred on by one young official and a lot of collaborators. GSTC’s Emi Kaiwa reports on how this tentative change of heart came about, what’s happened to date, and how far it has to go.

Springtime for Destination Stewardship in Japan

Sakura tree spring blossoms. Photo ©Emi Kaiwa

In 2018, a book left in an office rack snagged the attention of a young Japanese official. Beginning with that moment, Japan, a country of 126.17 million in 20191, finally began action toward sustainability in tourism. In 2020 the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) decided to adopt the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination Criteria as policy and create a national set of guidelines called the Japan Sustainable Tourism Standard for Destinations (JSTS-D)2.

Unwilling to be left behind, Japan is on the trail to becoming a sustainable country with a national program to support its hundreds of tourism destinations. In addition, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared that Japan will achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

How Did This Come To Pass?
Over the past decade, JTA focused on marketing, seeking an ever-increasing number of international visitor arrivals (IVAs),3 while still aiming for a measure of sustainability. The target was for 20 million IVAs by 2020, which was quickly met, and then revised to a goal of 40 million. The Covid pandemic kept this goal from being acheived, but Japan decided to aim for a target of 60 million IVAs by 2030.

Fuji-san draws both domestic and international tourists. ©Emi Kaiwa

This increase might seem contradictory to meeting sustainability goals, but Japan is larger in size than Italy, which received 131 million visitors in 2019 (albeit with some dire overtourism situations). Arguably, Japan has room.For an entire country, economic goals are still as important as sustainability.

It was challenging to impart the importance of destination management to industry stakeholders whose priority used to be marketing. In order to do both, Japan had to find a way to sustainably manage destinations so that they can receive 60 million visitors. The solution came in the form of the GSTC framework, which promoted the idea of destination management [in its Destination Criterion A1] while still supporting economic goals.

The Book and the Man
In 2018, GSTC was not well known to Mr. Hajime Ono, the young Chief Official from Visitors Experience Improvement, JTA. One day, a book4 that “someone” left on the rack in his office caught his eye. It summarized in Japanese a 2017 forum on sustainable tourism. The contents of the book were all about GSTC, which aroused his intense curiosity to learn more.

Cars jam the same spot to see Mt. Fuji. “I saw one car hit another due to the limited parking space,” says the author.  ©Emi Kaiwa

Understanding the value of GSTC’s comprehensive global standard for managing destinations made him consider the connection between management and overtourism issues. He concluded that the GSTC-Destination criteria could be the broad management tool needed for dealing with overtourism, a critical problem for Japan before COVID-19 arrived. Even if this pandemic stays for a while, the tourism business will bounce back sooner or later.

Japan may in fact have sufficient capacity to receive its goal of 60 million IVAs by 2030. One way is through promoting rural areas as tourist destinations. So is development of transportation infrastructure – airport facilities and mixed-mode commuting to rural areas, accommodation facilities, and tourism resources – that will make it possible for tourists to spread out and visit different regions in Japan. By using information and communication technology, popular destinations can control tourists’ visiting times and mitigate the impact of seasonality.

A plan for comprehensive management of destinations was therefore deemed essential, and adopting the GSTC approach as a tourism policy was the solution. Mr. Ono became the lead in creating the JSTS-D guidelines to comply with GSTC-D criteria. The guidelines employed user-friendly wording, with references and examples, as a way to provide self-guided management at the destination level.

How To Make It Work?
Even though the JSTS-D was based on the global GSTC standard, nationwide penetration at the destination level was going to be quite challenging. How then could the local municipal and Destination Management Organization (DMO) officers be motivated to read the JSTS-D and implement it along with other tourism stakeholders? Fortunately, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acted as a catalyst. SDGs have been included in many municipal comprehensive strategy plans and have gained traction in almost all industries year by year. Corporations seem eager to find ways in which they can achieve the SDGs. One is by collaborating with destinations to support them in becoming more sustainable by using the GSTC Industry Criteria (GSTC-I) for tourism businesses.

That “someone” who left the book on sustainable tourism for Mr. Ono was actually one person representing many people who worked hard to get attention from the government for many years. Their earnest effort has borne fruit. Mr. Ono left the Visitors Experience Improvement department in March 2021 and moved to the Office of Director for Travel Promotion. Now, a newly formed organization called “Japan Tourism for SDGs”, which is not government mandate, will take over the initiative from the national government to continue Japan’s journey. This independent organization is led by Mr. Hidetoshi Kobayashi, who has declared that he will spend the rest of his life working for sustainable tourism.

Commentary
JSTS-D is not perfect. There is room for improvement, and that is one of the important characteristics of sustainability. Obtaining a sustainability label does not mean everything is entirely sustainable. Other aspects of improvement will be found in the learning process of getting certified. For now, think what the best approach is to move toward sustainability for the destination. The answer will not be the same, single, perfect solution for every prefecture and municipality. Perfect sustainability cannot be achieved at once, but destinations should keep moving forward patiently, one step at a time.

As the proverb says, Rome was not built in a day, nor was it built by only one man. Accelerating the sustainability movement requires fostering talent, expanding partnerships, and creating a network of people with sustainability mindsets. It might take time and endurance, but it thrives unexpectedly once a destination is ready. Sustainability is a long journey, probably without end, and the government is not the only one to lead its path. Society also needs to keep catching up and adjusting to rapid changes in a globalizing world. On this Earth of limited resources, however, the pathway of sustainability is required to maintain all humankind.

[1]Statists Bureau of Japan. Statistical Handbook of Japan 2020. [Online]. Available from https://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook/c0117.html#:~:text=Japan’s%20total%20population%20in%202019%20was%20126.17%20million[Accessed 23rd November 2020].

[2]Japan Tourism Agency. Japan Sustainable Tourism Standard for Designations (JSTS-D). [Online]. Available from https://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/content/001350848.pdf [Accessed 10th January 2021]

[3]Japan Tourism Agency.観光立国推進閣僚会議 「観光ビジョン実現プログラム 2020 -世界が訪れたくなる日本を目指して-. [Online]. Available from https://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/content/001353662.pdf [Accessed 10th January 2021]

[4] Japan Eco Tourism Center. 100年先を見すえた観光地域づくりのために 島原半島フォーラム. [Online]. Available from https://ecocen.jp/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ea3cb83b4770677bfa7ecda0280d78ba.pdf [Accessed 23rd November 2020] *This book was produced by Japan Eco Tourism Center’s grants projects to promote GSTC in Japan since 2015.

~  ~  ~

Thanks to Mr. Ono for his commitment to sustainable tourism initiatives as a government official and his assistance with this report.

Doing It Better: Sedona, Arizona

[Above: Sedona red rocks, reflected. Photo credits throughout: Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau]

Prompted by a restive citizenry and a responsive city council, the DMO for the city of Sedona, Arizona, USA, now acts in effect as a destination stewardship council. That’s unusual. For part of our ongoing project to profile places with effective, holistic management, Sarah-Jane Johnson takes a deep dive into Sedona’s story. This is the sixth in the Destination Stewardship Center’s profiles of exemplary places with collaborative destination management in the spirit of GSTC’s Destination Criterion A1.

In Arizona’s Popular Red Rock Country,  One CVB Put Community First and So Became Its Own Destination Stewardship Council

For decades the Arizona desert town of Sedona (population 10,000) has welcomed an annual average of 3 million tourists captivated by the landscape of red rock buttes, canyons, and pine forests. They can take advantage of distinctly Sedona offerings – an abundance of outdoor recreation such as iconic mountain biking and hiking, well-coordinated arts and culture including festivals, plus the famous Sedona “vortexes,” a staple for spiritual tourists.

Eventually and perhaps inevitably, red-rock fever took grip: Sedona became a victim of successful marketing promotions, reaching a high point of being “loved to death” in 2016 when droves of Instagram-snapping tourists responded to marketing campaigns spotlighting the centennial of the National Park Service, closely followed by another for the Grand Canyon’s 100th anniversary. Visitors clogged Sedona streets with traffic and packed local trailheads, much to the dismay of local residents. Leaders at Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Board (SCC&TB), started to question how much tourism much was too much, and what kind of action was needed.

Red Rock State Park, from Schnebly Hill. Photo by bboserup/istockphoto.com

Context of Sustainability

The seeds for sustainability were actually planted 13 years before this watershed moment of overtourism, when Sedona teamed up with four regional DMO partners to form the Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council, a collaborative effort to coordinate and promote the products and experiences of the entire Verde Valley. An anchor project for this regional partnership was creation of a National Geographic Geotourism Map Guide promoting regional culture, heritage, and ecological diversity, supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which was keen to create value around the Verde River and its watershed through awareness and education. Geotourism has been defined via National Geographic as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, geology, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” As a tactical approach, the values informing Geotourism MapGuide became the first introduction to sustainability before any strategy was conceived.

The crunch of 2016 prompted SCC&TB to embark on a Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) assessment. Sedona scored 33 out of 41, placing itself as a leading destination in sustainable tourism management, and only one of two destinations in the United States to undergo assessment (the other being Jackson Hole, Wyoming). So began the Sedona DMO’s transition from Destination Marketing Organization to Destination Management Oorganization.

After the GSTC assessment results, SCC&TB began in 2017 an 18-month-long journey toward defining a concept for tourism sustainability. Working in partnership with the City of Sedona and external consulting teams from the Arizona State University and Nichols Tourism Group, the Sedona DMO engaged community, business, and visitors in a discovery phase and drafting of a final Sustainable Tourism Plan, presented to the City Council for approval in spring 2019.

By pursuing a mission to become a leader in sustainability, SCC&TB has become the closest thing to a real stewardship council for the destination, although not for the entire valley. The process of developing a solid sustainability plan has made community the focus of the organization’s updated mission statement: “to serve Sedona by making it the best place to live, work, play, and visit.” This statement reflects the strong relationships created within the community and the corresponding realization that the tourism mission is broader than economic benefits.

Organizational Structure and Governance

Unlike some other stewardship councils being reviewed thus far by the Destination Stewardship Center, Sedona manages sustainability differently. As the Sedona DMO reoriented to focus on management instead of marketing, it has been working alongside the local government, relying on sustainability support teams, and engaging with a community that has become increasingly skeptical of tourism.


“A lot of DMO’s don’t want to get into visitor management. . . .
But in fragile destinations it’s the only way to be successful.”

 


“There are really just a handful of communities that are trying to do management rather than marketing. [Sedona] is not a typical visitor and convention bureau. This is really unusual for a CVB,” said Jennifer Wesselhoff, CEO of SCC&TB in 2020. “A lot of DMO’s don’t want to get into visitor management. It’s a debate. Some think it’s a slippery slope. But in fragile destinations it’s the only way to be successful.”

SCC&TB is a membership organization. It is guided and overseen by a volunteer board of directors composed of local Chamber members elected by the Chamber membership. They include local businesses, nonprofit organizations, government, and community organizations. The Board employs a President/CEO who implements the policies established by the Board, administers Chamber programs, and supervises the Chamber’s budget.

To oversee the Sustainable Tourism Plan’s implementation and strategy, a Sustainable Tourism Advisory Committee (STAC) helps direct the City Council and the SCC&TB Board, while evaluating the Plan’s progress on an ongoing basis.

Success-tracking metrics for every tactic in the Plan have been refined through the direction of the Sustainable Tourism Action Team (STAT), a body of 22 members representing tourism businesses, the city of Sedona, US Forest Service, and numerous nonprofit organizations including Red Rock Trail Fund, the Sedona Verde Sustainability Alliance, and Keep Sedona Beautiful. SCC&TB’s President/CEO and marketing director spearhead the organization of the STAT and the STAC meetings and report on the status of the work to City Council every quarter.

Setting the agenda is a joint process between the City Council and the Chamber. The January city council work session sets priorities, and SCC&TB then drafts its plan of priorities to be approved by its own board and presented back to the City Council, which approves funding for tourism management and promotion. While there is no dedicated sustainability manager, many different Chamber and City staff members will have sustainability tactics attached to their job descriptions. The marketing director has oversight and coordination of scheduling meetings and tracking metrics.

To make sure SCC&TB is not the only one taking the lead, each tactic has a lead person or organization. Every lead is on the STAC and provides a quarterly update. The City has a part time sustainability coordinator, who also leads the City’s climate action plan, currently under development.

Hiking the red rock country is a popular Sedona area activity.

Community Engagement

Integrating the Sedona community into the process for developing and implementing  the Sustainable Tourism Plan was – and continues to be – an unprecedented collaboration. Sedona Chamber describes how thousands of community members were involved over 18 months in planning, and several organizations continue to lead or support current tactics.

In the Plan’s development stage, the team conducted the following action steps for research surveying and feedback:

  • Interviewed hundreds of residents.
  • Analyzed hundreds of business-survey responses.
  • Conducted focus groups with area non-profit organizations.
  • Brought land management agencies together.
  • Talked with tourism industry companies operating tours, lodging facilities, and restaurants.
  • Included local arts and spirituality communities.
  • Collaborated with governments and industry ranging from Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Forest Service to Arizona State Parks (APS.)
  • Provided status updates through regular communication tactics including blog posts, social media, radio spots, guest columns, and presentations. Public meetings were held to review findings and get more input.

Beyond the Plan’s development, the SCC&TB ensures continuing engagement with the community about sustainability and the Plan itself. The STAC advisory council is made up of residents and local business owners, who determine the overarching metrics of success for the entire plan.

The DMO’s communication with residents is frequent, including updates to the community on the Sustainable Tourism Plan via e-blasts and local media op-eds. “We talk about the STP all the time. We constantly remind the community of how the things we are doing align with the Plan,” said Wesselhoff.

Managing Sustainable Tourism

Sedona’s community-based sustainability plan has been divided into four strategic pillars that list objectives designed to implement sustainability:

  1. Environmental Objectives: Lead the tourism industry in implementing sustainability principles, positioning Sedona as a national and international leader in destination stewardship.
    1. Implement new waste prevention, reduction, and diversion strategies focused on visitors and their impacts in the Sedona region.
    2. Expand programs that encourage minimal water usage and protect water quality.
    3. Create new programs to help businesses and visitors moderate energy use and use alternative forms of energy.
    4. Launch initiatives that lessen impacts on lands (including noise, air, and light pollution), and stimulate efforts for long-term sustainability.
    5. Educate and engage businesses and visitors on sustainability initiatives, encouraging visitors to be sensitive guests during their stays.
  2. Resident Quality of Life Objectives: Protect and enhance the quality of life by mitigating negative impacts of tourism.
    1. Implement new infrastructure and multi-modal solutions to facilitate visitor traffic flows and enhance access to key destinations.
    2. Expand use of technology to help solve transportation challenges.
    3. Deepen engagement with Sedona residents, expanding their knowledge of tourism and efforts to manage it so as to achieve an effective balance.
    4. Develop new sustainability-focused experiences that resonate with both Sedona residents and visitors.
    5. Manage current and future accommodations in ways that increase long-term sustainability.
    6. Launch initiatives to maintain local quality of life by lessening undesirable tourism impacts on residents including noise, air, and light pollution.
  3. Quality of the Economy Objectives: Shape the Sedona economy in ways that balance its long-term sustainability and vibrancy.
    1. Monitor and adjust levels of economic activity for needy periods and moderate congestion by dispersing visitors.
    2. Expand interagency collaboration among diverse Sedona organizations.
    3. Monitor and adjust tourism marketing to achieve a balance between quality of life and a healthy economy.
    4. Pursue innovative approaches to employee housing and training.
  4. Visitor Experience Objectives: Continue to provide an excellent visitor experience that highlights Sedona’s sustainability values and keeps visitors coming back.
    1. Deepen understanding of existing experiences, how best to access them, and how to apply sustainable practices while visiting.
    2. Work to disperse visitors across the broader Verde Valley region to help moderate congestion at key Sedona experiences.

Activities

Some specific destination programs which have been developed prior to or grown since the implementation of the Sustainable Tourism Plan include:

  • Walk Sedona which encourages people to get out of their cars in an effort to decrease road congestion.
  • Sedona Secret 7 which encourages visitor dispersion to less populated areas.
  • The Sedona Cares visitor pledge is an educational tool to encourage better visitor behavior.
  • An initiative led by Sedona Lodging Council to providephotos and b-roll footage oflesser known areas and encourage them to stop using photos of “over loved” areas.
  • Front-line worker and concierge training to discourage promotion of overly used areas.
  • Sedona Recycling Quiz designed for visitors and locals to understand how to manage trash.

Voluntourists can help with trail work.

Additionally:

  • Visit Sedona promotes voluntourism opportunities to visitors while also offering coordination and promotion for local businesses and organizations.
  • Sedona has created a Love Our Locals campaign to drive local businesses. This campaign provides an opportunity to connect residents and visitors to locally owned and operated businesses, promote “made in Sedona” products, offer promotions and discounts to local residents.
  • Green meetings are a direct alignment of the Sedona brand, and care for the environment.

Areas of Sustainability and Stewardship

The implementation part of the tourism sustainability plan contains more than 30 tactics. Each is tracked and managed according to these parameters:

  • Description: An explanation of the tactic providing insight and key elements.
  • Timeline – How long it will take to achieve: Short (12-18 months), Mid (2-3 years), Long (4-5 years).
  • Pillars affected: If more than one objective is involved.
  • Lead partner: The entity (or entities) primarily responsible for moving the tactic forward.
  • Supporting partners: Other partners who will help implement the tactic.
  • Prospective metrics: Examples of the types of metrics and targets (if appropriate) that will help evaluate the effectiveness of the tactic.

Below are four examples of tactics from the Sustainable Tourism Plan, highlighting the level of collaboration, planning, and measurement.

 Funding

Implementation of SCC&TB Sustainable Tourism Plan is supported with appropriate funding for each of the four pillars of the Plan. The City of Sedona provides primary funding for SCC&TB from the collection of sales and lodging tax. Visitor spending makes up 77% of all sales tax collected. Sales and bed tax rates are each currently at 3.5%. In 2014, Sedona’s lodging industry agreed to increase bed tax by .5% on the condition the SCC&TB would receive 55% of the total collections. A statewide change in law to allow short term rentals in Arizona significantly contributed still more to the budget, as the 1,000 short term rentals such as Airbnb in the area also pay bed tax. This pushed the tourism budget from $500,000 in FY14 to $2.4 million in 2019.

As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the SCC&TB’s FY21 budget is expected to focus on rebuilding the economy. The budget in FY21, as allocated by sustainability objectives, shows a lop-sided tilt toward post-Covid economic recovery:

  1. Economy $1,800,000
  2. Environmental $171,000
  3. Quality of Life $271,000
  4. Visitor Experience $27,000

Measures of Success/ Results

Transparent tracking of the impact of the sustainability process is key. Using each objective, SCC&TB has developed baseline data points and measures the following, presented publicly and also reported into the City:

  • Environment—through perception of sustainability. Metrics include volume of trash collected, number of miles maintained by trail keeper resources, number of visitors signed on with educational programming.
  • Resident Quality of Life—a citizen survey is conducted by the City to measure perception from locals of quality of life.
  • Quality of the Economy—sales and bed-tax collections, measured throughout the year and not just in key tourism seasons.
  • Visitor Experience—visitor satisfaction, via survey, and whether it’s going up or down.

Some other key sustainability achievements in Sedona include:

  • Fly Friendly: In 2020, helicopter tours operators ceased overflights within Sedona’s city limits and over neighborhoods, sensitive prehistoric sites and resorts outside the city limits as part of a new Fly Friendly policy.
  • Transportation Improvements: In 2020, the City of Sedona completed Uptown traffic improvements, making vehicle and pedestrian flow more efficient, easing congestion, and contributing to the area’s aesthetic appeal; roundabouts that eliminate U turns and give access to new off-street parking; and a median with locally designed artwork that prevents mid-block pedestrian crossing and left-hand turns. Like Fly Friendly, the Uptown Improvements address all four pillars of sustainability.
  • Sustainability Certification: Low water use, energy conservation, recycling and using local products are hallmarks of sustainable business operations. Dozens of Sedona-based businesses and government offices have achieved sustainability certification, as determined by the Sustainability Alliance, a Sedona Verde non-profit organization that leads sustainability projects.
  • Governor’s Award: In 2019, the SCC&TB was honored with the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Arizona Cultural and Historic Preservation for its efforts in creation of the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan. The Award recognizes the year’s “most significant contribution to the cultural and historic preservation of the natural, cultural or aesthetic legacy of Arizona that inspires visitation to the state.”

Sedona’s “Fly Friendly” policy keeps helicopter tours away from the city and other sensitive areas.

Final Commentary

Sedona’s effort to research and create a truly comprehensive plan stands out against other Destination Management Organization efforts for several reasons. There are resources; there is a solid partnership with the City and elected officials; plus there has been intense dialogue and listening within the community to create a truly community-based sustainability plan. There was an 18-month planning process, with investment, resources, and then structure to see out the objectives. Wesselhoff believed the plan is solid for five years, with a possible few adjustments to tactics around climate change to be added in the future. She would expect a further GSTC assessment toward the end of the 5-year plan, as a means to benchmark overall progress.

Also striking is the way this plan has been designed to build tourism around the needs of the community, placing residents first and foremost. The planning process has helped the DMO shift its focus from the visitor to the resident as the number one client, including local business owners.

From listening came soul-searching for Wesselhoff. “Previously I was the biggest advocate and cheerleader for tourism. I believed it was really good for our community – the benefits drastically outweighed the inconveniences of tourism. But I don’t think I honestly and genuinely listened to complaints, because they were [merely] inconveniences, and [because] 10,000 people depended on tourism for their jobs – every single resident could have a job in tourism if they wanted to. This process allowed me to embrace the tradeoffs in a more thoughtful way and consider how we can positively impact those negative tradeoffs.”

Wesselhoff also believes the Sustainable Tourism Plan has already led to significant tactical wins for the local community. She cited the Fly Friendly program’s no-fly zone for air tours over residential areas – one of the legacies she will leave from her personal efforts as leader. For 18 months, the City and County (which operates the airport), tour operators, and other stewardship entities in the community came together as partners to create solutions to control helicopter noise. “Helicopter noise has been a pinch-point for locals,” she said. “Without the Sustainable Tourism Plan we never would have gotten there; it provided the framework to say ‘this is what the community wants.’”

While Wesselhoff was readying at the time of this 2020 interview to move into a new role as CEO at Visit Park City in Utah, she felt confident that Sedona’s stewardship efforts will continue, in large part because the Plan is positioned as something the entire community has bought into, bigger than just one person or one organization.

Having steered the process to create what she feels is a truly community-oriented tourism plan and meaningful engagement with residents, Wesselhoff offered words of wisdom for other DMOs: Engage with residents and recognize your potential role as community builders: “We need to listen to our residents as much or more than we listen to our visitors or our businesses. I learned so much through this process. The value of listening to that perspective was really meaningful.”

Appendix
The following community partners participated in the Plan development process:
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
Arizona Department of Transportation
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Arizona Public Service
Arizona State Parks and Trails
City of Sedona City Council
Coconino National Forest
Friends of the Forest Sedona
Friends of the Verde River
Keep Sedona Beautiful
Local First Arizona
National Park Service – River and Trails
Northern Arizona University Climate Program
Northern Arizona Climate Alliance
Northern Arizona Council of Governments
Oak Creek Watershed Council
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock Trail Fund
Sedona Airport Authority
Sedona Compost
Sedona Events Alliance
Sedona Heritage Museum
Sedona Lodging Council
Sedona Mountain Bike Coalition
Sedona Recycles
Sedona Sustainability Alliance
Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council
Sedona Verde Valley Sustainability Alliance
US Fish and Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
Verde Front Collaborative

 

Just Out: the Autumn Destination Stewardship Report

Welcome to the GSTC/DSC
e-quarterly
Destination Stewardship Report Autumn 2020
Summer 2020 – Inaugural Issue

How can destinations plan better for a post-Covid recovery? What have we learned about tourism during the ongoing crisis? The Autumn edition of the Destination Stewardship Report addresses both those questions with examples and practical guidance, providing links to these feature stories:

  • From sustainability leaders and destination mangers worldwide, a white paper laying out ten practical ways to plan a more lasting, regenerative, and community-compatible tourism recovery.
  • From Korea, the example of how a hard-working industrial city saved a natural bamboo habitat for migrating egrets, creating a new ecotourism attraction that revitalized the impoverished neighborhood next door.
  • From Serbia, its borders closed during the crisis, a look at what happens when a sudden influx of resort-pampered Serbs discover their own hinterland: lots of profits for rural residents – at a cost. [One anecdote reports a similar pattern in the US state of New Hampshire over the summer.  —Ed.]
  • From Mallorca, Spain, plans that attempt to anticipate and prevent overtourism as travel restrictions loosen, with mixed opinions on the likelihood of success.
  • From the Columbia Gorge, USA, the fourth in our series of “Doing It Better” profiles about destinations working toward holistic management – in this case, a tourism alliance that unites the two states bordering the Columbia River.
  • From another thought leader, a better way to calculate return on investment as destinations emerge from the crisis, demonstrating that by using data science you can measure the hidden benefits of good stewardship. “Not everything that counts is counted,” goes the saying, but now it can be – affecting policy accordingly.
  • Plus, selected news stories and the latest on the Future of Tourism Coalition, which now has over 300 companies, agencies, and NGOs as signatories to its Guiding Principles.

Please read the latest Destination Stewardship Report here, comment, and propose your own contributions by contacting us.


This jointly sponsored e-quarterly is a collaboration between the Destination Stewardship Center and Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)  – and in time, maybe others. Our goal is to provide information and insights useful to anyone whose work or interests involve destination stewardship. It’s an all-volunteer experiment, so its success will depend on your interest, feedback, and content contributions. Join us, and help each other. You can subscribe for free here.You can read the e-mail version here and the feature articles on our webpages.                                    —Jonathan Tourtellot, Editor

For more information and participation please contact us.

  • About  the Global Sustainable Tourism Council  GSTC establishes and manages global sustainable standards, known as the GSTC Criteria. There are two sets: Destination Criteria for public policy-makers and destination managers, and Industry Criteria for hotels and tour operators. The GSTC Criteria form the foundation for accreditation of certification bodies that certify hotels/accommodations, tour operators, and destinations as having sustainable policies and practices in place. GSTC does not directly certify any products or services; but it accredits those that do. The GSTC is an independent and neutral USA-registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that represents a diverse and global membership, including national and provincial governments, NGO’s, leading travel companies, hotels, tour operators, individuals and communities – all striving to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism. www.gstc.org
  • About the Destination Stewardship Center  The DSC is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the world’s distinctive places by supporting wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship. We gather and provide information on how tourism can help and not harm the natural, cultural, and social quality of destinations around the world. We seek to build a global community and knowledge network for advancing this goal. Join us and learn more at www.destinationcenter.org.

Doing It Better: Crown of the Continent

[Above: Rocky Mountain skyline at Glacier National Park, Montana. All photos by Jonathan Tourtellot.]

Editor’s note: As destinations plan for eventual recovery from the pandemic, they have an unprecedented opportunity to manage tourism more effectively. With this post about North America’s “Crown of the Continent,” we offer the third in our profiles of destination organizations that approach the standard set forth in the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s critical destination-management Criterion A1, which reads in part:

“The destination has an effective organization, department, group, or committee responsible for a coordinated approach to sustainable tourism, . . . for the management of environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues.”

This holistic requirement seems obvious, yet very few places around the world come close to meeting it. Below is Ellen Rugh’s profile of another one that does: the “Crown of the Continent.” We hope this information will provide other places with ideas on how better to manage tourism’s hazards and benefits. To join in our search for more examples of holistic destination management, or submit a candidate for profiling, read more here.

Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council –
Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia

N.B. – This report was compiled before the onset of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. It is based on Destination Stewardship Center questionnaire responses and follow-up interviews.

Introduction

Since 2006, the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council has become a strong and active transboundary partnership, characterized by a high level of commitment, cooperation, and collaboration between local stakeholders in Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana. Although not a legally mandated organization, the Council has found their success, their respondents told us, by carefully selecting a group of individuals “who are all willing to work beyond borders, and while they can have varying opinions about how to resolve certain issues, they all strive for the same end goals.” Covering a 7.3-million-hectare region (18 million acres), the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council prides itself on the vast number of stakeholders within their network, including crucial tribal relationships. The Council focuses on creating local experiences for  visitors, allowing any local residents, from tourism practitioners to the mom down the street, to propose sites and attractions for the Council to include in its MapGuide, so long as they meet the principles of geotourism as originally put forth via National Geographic: “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, geology, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”

Geographic Description

The Crown of the Continent encompasses Crown of the Continent mapapproximately 73,000 sq kilometers (about 28,000 sq miles). Its transboundary jurisdiction includes the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and the surrounding lands and communities in Alberta, British Columbia, and Montana, including five First People nations. The region includes within its jurisdiction over 680 sites, attractions, and accommodations.

Context

The Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council’s transboundary partnership was created through their first catalyst project, a National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide, in an effort to implement cooperative projects that expand or enhance visitor and resident opportunities and encourage sustainable businesses through geotourism activities, including stewardship, education, and regional promotion. Such a task becomes crucial in an area dotted by small towns, whose voice in protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the area may not typically be heard, and the National Geographic requirement for citizen participation provided an opportunity for them.

To maintain their success as a transboundary organization, the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council thrives on effective partnerships and attributes success to “the relationships, a shared pride in the region, and the potential to develop the economies of the communities while stewarding, enhancing, and celebrating our special character of place.” The Council’s network is enormous, with 33,099 e-newsletter subscribers as of 2016. With their flexibility and reputation for collaboration, the Crown says that “stakeholders often approach us for assistance, because we know so many people in the region and have a vast database. Especially in an 18 million acre region, connecting with the locals and connecting the locals with each other, is one of our most valuable assets.”

The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel presides over Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta.

To leverage such a vast network, 195 volunteer field experts within the Council provide recommendations for what the Council features on their platforms and MapGuides. These authentic “hyperlocal” tourist offerings comprise the community-based businesses, organizations, and points of interest that would be typically overlooked by an outsider. Field experts may be an officially nominated tourism practitioner or just a resident citizen with a passion for sharing her locale with others. The Council acknowledges that these locals hold the most knowledge and connection to the place. Their recommendations on the best places to visit, places to stay, and things to do are then vetted by the project coordinator under National Geographic oversight. Crown of the Continent takes pride that each nomination shared with visitors is a place most respected and regarded by locals.

Activities

The Council labels themselves a content development and curation program. All content within their website, MapGuides, and social media pages must meet geotourism principles as originally set forth by National Geographic.

Crown of the Continent MapGuide (center) amid brochures on display at a local business.

The Council promotes buying local; employing locals; green purchasing; staying in eco-friendly and locally-owned unique lodging; participating in human-powered activities; volunteering; visiting First Nation and Tribal Lands, designated dirt roads, and scenic routes; and stepping away from your car. Starting in 2016, the Council has sent their listed organizations and businesses a window decal and digital link badge that identify them as a National Geographic Crown of the Continent Destination, all at no charge.

While the Council does not have the capacity to plan events and activities on their own, they do promote unique and authentic festivals and events on their website and MapGuide, including powwows, Earth Day Celebrations, sustainable-forestry tours and programming, bioblitzes, wildlife and wildflower festivals, heritage and culture celebrations, rodeos, volunteer opportunities, and “Green” contests. Both local residents and visitors may participate in these activities.

Given their broad network and insight on all of the unique offerings throughout the region, the Council develops trip plans that focus on hyperlocal experiences and moving the visitor (and residents) around the region. As the Council explaines, visitors typically come to the region with a preplanned “Plan A” (typically, Glacier National Park or Waterton Lakes National Park), and once they arrive, usually decide on their “Plan B” (places to go, places to stay, and things to do outside of the National Parks).

Farm-owned market and coffee shop in Fernie, B.C. typifies the Crown’s “hyperlocal” recommendations for tourists.

With so many different experiences available, the Council coaches local businesses on how to steer visitors towards unique, authentic, and hyperlocal experiences by advising on digital marketing strategies, customer service techniques, and suggested messaging when recommending experiences. The Council says that most businesses have a desktop copy of the physical National Geographic Crown of the Continent Mapguide to use as a quick reference, and their website has a “Trip Plan” feature that allows businesses to create custom Trip Plans for their respective customers. These Trip Plans can be shared via their social media platforms, sent as an email, or embedded as a widget on their website.

Give its vast land coverage, the Council has found it difficult to take a direct lead on product development. Their strength is in giving others the tools to develop distinctive experiences through capacity building, networking, and promotion. However, they will jump in when a special project arises, such as in 2016, when they assisted in the creation of “Crown of the Continent: The Wildest Rockies,” a large-format photo exhibition and book. The exhibition was displayed in the C.M Russell Museum, the Montana State Capital, the US Senate Building’s Russell Rotunda, and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Hard copies of the book are still sold in Glacier National Park Conservancy’s online bookstore.

Organizational Structure and Governance

Given the bureaucratic complications that arise from being transboundary organization, the Council is not filed as a 501(c)3 or (c)4. Instead, it operates under a fiscal agent, the Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau, in Montana.

The Council is composed of 8-10 Executive Committee members and one project coordinator, representing over 730 businesses and organizations. The Executive Committee, who holds final decision-making authority, comprises representatives from the three major funding organizations, plus a combination of representatives from different agencies focusing on tourism, culture, or heritage. The Council tries to maintain at least one tribal representative on their Executive Committee at all times. Each member at-large provides beneficial input and fulfills a wide range of duties for the Council. The Executive Committee, along with anyone else affiliated with the Council, strives to adhere to geotourism principles.

There are no term limits for Executive Committee members, and because the organization does not require any formal mandates, there is no official election process. Instead, the organization has found their success by carefully selecting a group of individuals “who are all willing to work beyond borders, and while they can have varying opinions about how to resolve certain issues, they all strive for the same end goals.” Executive Committee members are involved depending on their available time commitment and employment status with their respective organizations. If an Executive Committee member wishes or needs to be phased out of the Executive Committee, the Committee selects a replacement at the Annual Executive Committee Retreat. When family health forced a key popular leader to step down during the Council’s formative years, the organization was thus able to carry on with relative ease. The Council’s goal is to always have someone representing the three core funders and the fiscal agent, plus like-minded conservation organizations, government entities, business owners, tribes, and DMOs.

This Executive Committee sets the long-term and annual strategic work plan. Special projects may require forming sub-committees. Most often, these groups include one or two Executive Committee members and several other individuals such as representatives from nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, DMOs, or people with a skill set that will elevate that project.

Informally, the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council also organizes an arrangement of partners and members, with “partners” being those who disperse any information and announcements throughout the Crown’s network, and “members” being those who have passed the vetting process and are represented within the Council’s website and MapGuide. Last, the Council has an arrangement with volunteer field experts, who provide the hyperlocal recommendations that would be typically overlooked by an outside visitor.

Sustainability and Stewardship

The Council focuses all of their work in supporting the principles of geotourism and good destination stewardship, thus creating a model in which sustainability ties into every project. The “Events and Things to Do” listings on their website include information about “Leave No Trace” practices, wildlife encounter tips, volunteer opportunities, appropriate conduct when visiting cultural and heritage sites, who and how businesses support local conservation, and preservation and community beautification efforts.

• Indigenous peoples. The Council also takes care to include  indigenous/tribal partners in all quadrants of the Crown of the Continent, actively seeking feedback from the First Peoples’ representatives who serve on the Executive Committee as partners. Indigenous/tribal content has been vetted and approved by respective First Nations before it is published. Each First Nation provides a strict list of places, experiences, and stories that are allowed to be shared. Even for content that may not seem directly related to First Peoples, the Council tries to share the cultural story behind a place. The goal is to be a platform for First Peoples to tell their stories in their voices.

• Restorative activities. In one case, the Council partnered in the planning, creation, and promotion of the Castle Parks in Alberta, an ecologically strategic piece of land of within Yellowstone-Yukon corridor previously viewed as a government-owned no-man’s land. Lack of enforcement, extractive industry, boondocking, and motorized vehicles had caused significant deterioration and degradation to sensitive ecosystems.

Save-the-Castle demonstrators, Alberta.

The Council helped push for proper planning, monitoring, and infrastructure for upgrading the area into park status, and promoting it via social media and the MapGuide.

• Climate mitigation. The Council has partnered with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Authority to coordinate routes for installing electric charging vehicles across British Columbia. The British Columbia section is complete all the way to Crowsnest Pass, where Alberta is picking up the route. Most of the charging infrastructure has been installed in the Alberta section of Crown of the Continent and south to the U.S. border. Montana has begun the EV station installation process. Several other routes throughout the Crown are in development as an asset to both locals and tourists.

Managing Tourism Sustainably

While the Council does not have a formalized plan for addressing overtourism or mass tourism, they claim that given the nature of the region, most tourism products offered do not lend themselves to mass tourism, and it has not posed a threat thus far other than at overburdened Glacier National Park.

Saint Mary Lake, a popular photo stop in oft-overtouristed Glacier National Park, Montana.

As the Council strictly adheres to the principles of geotourism, they focus all activities on authentic, local experiences that benefit local communities, dispersing visitors around the region and away from the national park. The Council helps promote recreational opportunities, especially trail systems beyond park boundaries. The policy is to follow strict criteria on what gets promoted, checking whether the area is ecologically or culturally sensitive, the trail is in good condition, and existing trailhead infrastructure (parking, outhouse, signage, etc) can support increased visitation.

The Council is helping to create a State of the Crown of the Continent Report to better understand and communicate a multitude of indicators for the region. This will direct future work, provide a measurement of the region’s health – of what’s going well and what isn’t – and provide a nonpolitical document that can be used to argue the importance of supporting, enhancing, and sustaining the region.

Additionally, the Council compiles a running list of areas and points of interest that they will not promote on their platforms, as the areas are either too fragile to handle increased visitation or are sacred sites. The Council works closely with government agencies, conservation organizations, and tribal representatives to ensure this list, for internal use only, is always up to date.

Community Engagement

The Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council encompasses stakeholders representing 53 organizations, tribal nations, agencies, and businesses,[1] who have contributed time, expertise, and/or financial support. The Council also has had an arranged partnership with National Geographic, which has cobranded their website and assists in the development and printing of the Crown of the Continent MapGuide. During the creation of this project, an even broader set of stakeholders were included to provided nominations, comments and ideas. The Council operates as an open‐invitation advisory committee of interested individuals, and has a networking relationship with local nonprofit organizations and universities, allowing all parties to leverage key resources. Says the Council Coordinator, Sheena Pate, “Our networking ability remains our greatest strength. Our government partners leverage to their advantage our nimble ability to move freely throughout the Crown of the Continent and our desire to always be connecting the region, since they are restricted on travel abilities and their already mandated work.”

Her tips for other destinations: “Bring together the willing. Be sure to have diversity of opinions.” The network is what gives their Council heft. “We find great joy in connecting those who work in their silos and have yet to realize their connection to other silos. We’re always putting the ‘puzzle pieces’ together and connecting what might be seen as differing voices.” The common ground? “Ultimately most of those living and working in the region are here because of the sense of place and outdoor heritage.”

The Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council does not serve as the locality’s official DMO. Each partner DMO contributes annually to the direction, planning, and funding of the transboundary partnership, while pursuing initiatives in their local jurisdictions that align with goals of the Geotourism Council. The Council claims that their success as a whole is an aggregation of all stakeholders, both DMOs and others, creating individual successes within their jurisdictions.

Furthermore, the Council not only works across the international border, but also across tribal nations. The Council reports that building these relationships has been pivotal, not only for responsible tourism development, but for external affairs as well: “Receiving the trust of local tribal groups is one of the most important things a destination stewardship council can do. While state and provincial governments within the Crown of the Continent jurisdiction have been working to accomplish this for years, they have moved in such a structured way. The Crown has been able to build trust much more quickly, through an informal, personal approach.” Tribal groups work with the Council directly on updating and adding points of interest on MapGuide and website.

Local business, Crowsnest, Alberta.

The Council also serves on the planning committee for the annual Roundtable on the Crown of the Continent. The conference focuses on overarching issues, and the Council pulls in business and organization participation, recruits regional and national presenters and keynotes, solicits sponsors, and assists with marketing the conference. Tribal members, residents, students, government agencies, non-profit organizations, industries, and businesses all attend. The Council has lately shifted to an advisory role in order to give more attention to repeating the success of its 2018 Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit.

Funding

As of 2019, the Council’s budget falls at approximately $75,000 annually, predominantly funded by the Montana Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism & Business Development, the Kootenay Rockies Tourism, and the Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance.  This funding covers the project coordinator salary, website hosting and maintenance, branding, and any additional special projects, travel, and conferences. The Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau acts as the Council’s fiscal agent for free. Additional funding may be called upon for special projects, such as a MapGuide reprint.

Business and organizational membership is free including representation on the Crown of the Continent platforms (website, MapGuide, and social media). The Council says “no one pays to play” since these members already provide indirect financial support by paying membership fees to the Regional Tourism Alliances or Convention and Visitors Bureaus who, in turn, support the Council.

Measures of success

The Crown does not collect data as an organization. Instead, each region gathers its own visitor statistics, which the Council will evaluate to determine the quality of the visitors and tourism experience. Looking beyond visitation quantity, they seek to measure visitor demographics, such as income and age, as well as identifying each visitor’s length of stay, locations, and spending. They have found an increase in length of stay, with visitors more often frequenting local businesses. Lastly, they try to determine whether the most frequented businesses and accommodations are those that give back to the community or share messages of conservation.

Commentary

The Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council may prove that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and stay true to conscious, ethically minded stances. While sharing a similar set of geographic borders and tourism assets compared to B.C.’s Thompson Okanagan, this Council has taken a vastly different organizational approach. By bringing together the willing and a diverse set of stakeholders, the Council makes decisions that stretch far – opting for quality over quantity. With limited funding, Council members appear to be doing an excellent job of pushing their resources based on what is most important for that year, although I would love to see them expand their funding, add on another full-time staff, and get capacity to implement greater long-term strategy. With the funding that they do receive, the Council feels confident in their budget every year, even with a small selection of donors, due to their invaluable transboundary relationships across the US-Canadian border and across tribal nations, plus the thousands of stakeholders participating within their network. The National Geographic Geotourism MapGuide being critical to its genesis, the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council demonstrates the value of a catalytic project that can blossom into much more robust initiatives.

On the other hand, the Council lacks an official mandate. While this allows for flexibility, it does create vulnerability. In fact, many other geotourism councils that started under the same National Geographic program have since fallen out of existence or lack true authority, which shows us both the fragility of unofficial organizations, but also the strength of the Crown in overcoming adversity and taking the correct course of action. Furthermore, while the National Geographic name provides major brand recognition, the arrangement is vulnerable. Funding may be needed to maintain this label, or National Geographic may drop the program. Last, given the changing landscape in technology and smartphone reliance, I wonder if evolving their successful MapGuide project from a mobile-friendly website into a true smartphone app will be critical in coming years.

We would like to collect more concrete examples of project implementation, both successes and failures. Our interviews were able to highlight a few examples, but limited timing still left us wanting more.  —Ellen Rugh

[1] Organizations that have participated in the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council include:
1) Alberta Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Recreation
2) Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance
3) Alpine Artisans Inc
4) Blackfeet Nation
5) Blood Tribe/Kainai Nation
6) Bureau of Land Management, United State Department of Interior
7) Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition
8) Chinook Country Tourist Association
9) Chinook Institute for Community Stewardship
10) College of the Rockies, Tourism Knowledge Cluster
11) Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
12) Continental Divide Trail Alliance
13) Cowboy Trail Tourism Association
14) Dames on the Range
15) Fernie Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Fernie
16) Flathead Beacon
17) Flathead Convention and Visitor Bureau
18) Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
19) Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission
20) Glacier National Park
21) Glacier Natural History Association
22) Southwest Montana Regional Tourism Commission
23) Henry P. Kendall Foundation
24) Kalispell Chamber / Convention & Visitor Bureau
25) Kootenay Rockies Tourism, British Columbia
26) Ktunaxa Nation
27) Miistakis Institute
28) Montana Department of Tourism and Business Development
29) Montana Scenic Loop
30) National Geographic Society, Center for Sustainable Destination
31) National Parks Conservation Association
32) National Park Service, United States Department of Interior
33) Pekisko Group
34) Rocky Mountain Grizzly Centre
35) Central Montana Regional Tourism Commission
36) Seeley Lake Chamber of Commerce
37) Sonoran Institute
38) Sustainable, Obtainable Solutions
39) Swan Valley Connections
40) The Sustainability Fund of Kalispell, Montana
41) Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies
42) Trail of the Great Bear
43) Travel Alberta
44) U.S. Forest Service, United State Department of Agriculture
45) University of Calgary, Program of Environmental Design
46) University of Montana, Center of Natural Resource and Environmental Policy
47) University of Montana, Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research
48) Waterton Lakes National Park
49) Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce
50) Whitefish Convention and Visitor Bureau
51) Wilburforce Foundation
52) Wildsight
53) Yellowstone-to-Yukon Conservation Initiative