Saving a Wisconsin Trout Stream

[Above: Shooting in Wisconsin’s “Kinni.” Photo: Erika Gilsdorf]

Kinnickinnic River, Wisconsin – Our original concept video (featuring the same young hosts as in Sierra Gorda) takes a look at a success story in rural and notes-rural Wisconsin. Shot off-season in November, young travelers have fun while learning about the rescue an endangered trout stream, Wisconsin’s Kinnickinnic River, known among locals and anglers as “the Kinni.” You can watch it as a short clip, 15 seconds to a minute, suitable for social media—

—or longer, up to 4 minutes, suitable for Youtube and websites:

Under the leadership of DSC video producer Erika Gilsdorf,


. . . for your stewardship success story to be featured as the next World’s Inspiring Place in the online series. We will assist with arranging the necessary tax-deductible funding and distribution options. There are lots of ways to do this. For a conversation and more details, contact us:

Just Out: the Autumn Destination Stewardship Report

Welcome to the GSTC/DSC
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.
  • 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

“Future of Tourism Coalition” Launches Today

Nonprofits join in a call for the world to rethink tourism.

As destinations look forward to recovering from COVID-19, six nongovernmental organizations, advised by a seventh, today are uniting for the first time in a call for the world to reconsider how tourism works.

The Destination Stewardship Center is proud to be one of them.

Our new Future of Tourism Coalition calls for all who care about tourism, places, and the people live in them to endorse a set of 13 Guiding Principles that will sidestep the excesses of the past and put tourism on a renewal course for a more rewarding, more sustainable future.

Six organizations have come together with the global mission to place destinations at the center of recovery strategies: the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), Destination Stewardship Center, Green Destinations, Sustainable Travel International, Tourism Cares, and the Travel Foundation, with the guidance of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). 

Decades of unfettered growth in travel have put the world’s treasured places at risk – environmentally, culturally, socially, and financially.  The travel and tourism industries face a precarious and uncertain future due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, with international tourist numbers projected to fall 60-80% in 2020. As tourism moves forward and recovers, re-centering around a strong set of principles is vital for long term sustainable and equitable growth.

To rally global change, the Coalition has put forth Guiding Principles that outline a bold vision for tourism’s path forward. We are calling on tourism agencies, travel companies, governments, investors, nongovernmental organizations, and destination communities to commit to them.

The Guiding Principles provide a clear moral and business imperative for building a healthier tourism industry while protecting the places and people on which it depends. The Principles call for signatories to:

  1. See the whole picture
  2. Use sustainability standards
  3. Collaborate in destination management
  4. Choose quality over quantity
  5. Demand fair income distribution
  6. Reduce tourism’s burden
  7. Redefine economic success
  8. Mitigate climate impacts
  9. Close the loop on resources
  10. Contain tourism’s land use
  11. Diversify source markets
  12. Protect sense of place
  13. Operate business responsibly

The foundation of these principles was built on a firm belief that taking a holistic approach to responsible and sustainable tourism is the only way to secure the future the Coalition stands for.

Join the Movement

Twenty-two founding signatories who represent a diverse cross-section of key industry stakeholders have committed thus far. They are influencers in the movement, demonstrating leadership and adherence to the Guiding Principles in their product and business practices. They will provide guidance to the Coalition as plans are put in place to support travel and tourism entities long-term in their strategy to place destinations and communities at the core of their work.

Those signatories include Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), Ecotourism Australia, G Adventures, Global Ecotourism Network, Government of the Azores, Government of Colombia, Hilton, Innovation Norway, Intrepid Travel, Jordan Tourism Board, Lindblad Expeditions, MT Sobek, Palau Bureau of Tourism, Riverwind Foundation (Jackson Hole, WY), Seychelles Ministry of Tourism, Slovenian Tourist Board, Swisscontact, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, The Travel Corporation, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Tourism Council Bhutan and the World Wildlife Fund.

Interested travel and tourism stakeholders are invited to show their support and become part of the movement by joining as signatories to the Principles. Join us by visiting

“The recent crisis in tourism has shown us just how much tourism relies and depends on local and global communities,” said Maja Pak, Director at the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB). “We have already strengthened ties with local communities and tourism authorities from across the country. We now find that sharing our experiences and gaining best practice examples from other countries will be the key to successfully navigate the post-corona tourism universe. This is where the role of the Future of Tourism Coalition will be vital. The STB is looking forward to cooperating with the Coalition and to progress further with the reset of tourism, especially in this new reality, where sustainability and destination needs, as well as trust, will have to be placed at the center of tourism’s future.”

Destination Communities First

The Coalition recognizes that a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is fundamental to achieving its Guiding Principles. The travel and tourism industry has much work to do, and the Coalition will act proactively in addressing the role that racial and environmental justice play in creating a more equitable tourism economy. The Coalition members have made a commitment to listen, learn, and seek change by engaging with signatories and other entities as a part of that journey. This work will be guided by GSTC indicators and criteria related to equity, inclusion, and non-discrimination.

In a joint statement, the CEOs of the organizations represented in the Coalition said, “It is imperative that every organization evaluates how they will actively place the needs of destinations and equity within their communities at the center of tourism development, management, and promotion decisions. There is no stable future for tourism if this is not done now – together, responsibly, and vigorously. This is not a short-term effort, this is the future. Long-term resilient social, economic, and environmental recovery and regeneration will require all sectors of industry to rethink how tourism works, who it works for, and how success is defined.”

The path to change is a journey and lasting solutions take time. The Coalition will support the industry by providing the tools, guidance and collaboration to ensure a stronger path forward and encourage a diverse and inclusive set of signatories to sign on and share their perspectives and experiences to collectively work toward a more just, equitable, and sustainable future for all.

Learn more at

Advice for a Basque Destination

[Above: Gaztelugatxeko Doniene hermitage sits on an islet on Urdaibai’s Bay of Biscay coast. All photos courtesy Urdaibai Magazine.]

How should undiscovered coastal destinations handle tourism?

Earlier this year, Urdaibai Magazine, based in the Basque country of Spain, interviewed Destination Stewardship Center director Jonathan Tourtellot about how to build  responsible tourism activity in this coastal region containing the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. With permission, we present an English-language version of that interview. The answers could apply to any seaside destination that is seeking a better approach to tourism. You can read the original, in either Basque or Spanish here.

Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1984, Urdaibai, northeast of Bilbao on the Bay of Biscay (Bizkaia in Basque) combines a maritime and rural environment with deep cultural traditions. The place is striving to be one where “humans and nature coexist in a framework of respect and sustainable development.” The interview follows.

  1. Urdaibai Magazine: What are the global challenges facing tourism today ?

Jonathan Tourtellot: Overtourism, climate change, and a decision-making mindset that assesses tourism value only in terms of industry transactions—money—with little if any regard to the quality and character of the destinations on which tourism depends.

Urdaibai’s marshes and estuary form core of the Biosphere Reserve.

  1. U.M.: What basic measures do you think should be taken by a small and still underdeveloped tourism territory, as is the case of Urdaibai’s Biosphere Reserve, to integrate tourism activity in a sustainable way?

J.T.: Measure tourism success in terms of value, not volume: Value in terms not only of revenue, but how well tourism benefits are shared by the community and how well they help preserve the natural and cultural heritage that visitors are coming to experience. Invite the kinds of tourism that bring other benefits to the community as well, from education and volunteer help to philanthropy and appropriate business development. Do not measure success just by number of tourist arrivals. That’s quantity, not quality.

  1. U.M.: In order for the tourism to be an activity with a positive impact on the population and the territory, what kind of actions should we avoid when planning our tourism promotion and promotion strategy? What could we regret?

J.T.: Well, let’s look at what not to do! Avoid developing look-alike tourism resorts, hotels, and attractions that could be seen anywhere. Generic facilities are a good way to attract generic tourists—people who seek only better weather than they have back home and who will happily go elsewhere if another destination offers the same thing cheaper.

Everything developed for tourism should reflect distinctive aspects of Urdaibai, or Euskadi, or Spain (in descending order of importance). That mix of authenticity can provide tourists with a rich experience that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. What’s more, revenues from visitors who are sincerely interested in the Urdaibai area will benefit local people and encourage them to protect of the natural and cultural heritage upon which their income depends.

  1. U.M.: You are the creator of a concept as attractive as “geotourism”: the geographical tourism, which could be interpreted today as a paradigm of sustainable tourism. How do you define geotourism? In this context, what should be the tourist’s attitude to make their impact positive and to help ensure that tourism does not become a global problem?

J.T.: The definition of geotourism as we put forth via the National Geographic Society is “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, geology, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.” Our research shows that people interested in those things—“geotravelers”—stay longer and spend more than the average tourist.

An aside: An alternate, much narrower definition of “geotourism” focusing explicitly on geology has gained traction in connection with the international geoparks movement. While clearly different, the two usages are compatible and complementary. In terms of tourism quality, each adds interest to the other, as set forth in the Arouca Declaration (downloadable in four languages) made in 2011 at the International Geotourism Congress in that Portuguese city.—J.T.

If you’re a traveler with a geotouristic attitude, you want your presence to help enhance a place rather than degrade it. The simplest way to do this is to support the businesses that support the quality of the place—businesses that not only practice basic sustainability but also showcase the nature and culture of the place. Spend your money there, not with an international franchise hotel or eatery just like the ones back home. Each Euro you spend is like a vote. Support variety, not sameness. You’ll have a richer trip and take home more memories.

Santimamiñe cave drawings in Kortezubi, Urdaibai date from more than 12,000 years ago.

And of course, you need to be a responsible visitor and encourage the same behavior in others: Recycle your trash if possible, respect local culture, and treat historic sites with care. And do put away that selfie stick. Sure, take a couple of shots of yourselves, but then turn the camera instead toward the place and what it has to offer. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? If you’re visiting just to prove you have been to one more destination, you’re no geotraveler, just a selfie narcissist taking up space and adding to the overtourism problem. Instead, learn everything you can and tell the people back home about it. Put those things on Instagram and Youtube, rather than your own face.

  1. U.M.: Compatibility: Is tourism interested in the culture, historical heritage, the character of the territory, its natural environment, and the peculiarities of the societies it visits—is such tourism compatible with what is understood as “the tourism industry”?

J.T.: Yes and no. Yes, if “industry” is defined as any business that relies mainly on tourism, then it certainly is part of the industry.

This open-air Erregelak dance is one of numerous traditional Basque dances.

No, if it is mass tourism, high on volume and low on value per tourist footprint. What’s more, destinations catering to mass tourism tend to repel the tourists with the geotourism array of interests. Crammed beaches, amusement parks, and lots of T-shirt shops are not what they are looking for.

  1. U.M.: As certifications for quality, process, origin, etc. gain importance in all areas of society, do you consider it necessary for destinations obtain tourism certifications of sustainability and commitment to the environment?

J.T.: Certifications or ratings (my preference) help, partly to differentiate yourselves from those destinations that care nothing about sustainability, partly to encourage any less-motivated stakeholders within your own destination, and partly to monitor your own progress.

  1. U.M.: The National Geographic Society has been a pioneer and a world reference in the dissemination of natural wealth, culture, heritage and science and of the combination of these disciplines with travel and adventure, coming to create a style, a way of seeing the world. From your perspective as a representative for sustainable destinations, what do you think is the role of the specialized press in the development of respectful, integrated, and non-invasive tourism?

J.T.: Travel media have a variety of ways they can improve the conduct of tourism. It’s better to honestly inform than promote. If you do a good job as a travel journalist, the story you tell and show your public will do the promotion job for you. Increasingly, media need to encourage alternative destinations and sites—some media have already started doing this—to avoid overcrowding the famous places. Media need to encourage responsible travel and do the same with their advertisers. Even more than other specialties, travel media are notoriously close to their advertisers, a reality forced by the expensive economics of travel. Now, media may need to help educate their advertisers in how to promote destinations, tours, and accommodations more responsibly. Better to take focus off of generic resorts and golf courses and encourage advertisers instead to focus on the unique characteristics of the destination they are marketing.


Nominate Now: 2018 Sustainable Destinations Top 100

[Above: Tourists admire a vista in the Azores, a previous Sustainable Destinations Top 100 winner. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot]

Open for Applications

For the fourth time, the Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100 competition is organised by ten leading sustainable tourism organisations and networks, including the Destination Stewardship Center. Our general aim is to highlight success stories, and to exchange good practices to make all destinations more sustainable, and better for local communities and travellers. A second aim is to help destinations to improve: Destinations that register for the Top 100 will learn how to develop their tourism through local community involvement. It is in the destination’s interest to avoid “overtourism” and local resistance. This is why we have chosen the following theme for this year’s competition:

“Tourism to benefit local communities”

By publishing an annual list and by sharing destination management good practices and success stories, the initiators wish to acknowledge initiatives making tourism destinations more sustainable, responsible, and better from a visitor experience point of view. Selection of a destination in the Top 100 does not mean it is fully sustainable. It means that it has made good efforts, and is making progress.

Destination Eligibility

Cities, towns, islands, and protected areas are eligible if a person, a team or an organisation is in charge of tourism destination management and sustainability. In exceptional cases, countries and regions may be eligible when their size is less than 50,000 sq km. Accommodations, single buildings, attractions and theme parks are not eligible. Eco-lodges and privately owned protected areas are eligible if there is an effective stewardship for a considerable area that is otherwise not managed.

To nominate

  • To nominate a destination, e-mail:
  • If the destination is considered eligible, you will receive a login on the Green Destinations online platform.
  • If you have limited Internet access, you will receive a Nomination form (Excel).
  • Participation in the competition is free—no fee.

For more information on requirements, procedures, and evaluations, download 2018-Top100-Call-for-Nominations-Dec17(pdf)

Key Dates

The online platform is open for nominations now. Nominations will be evaluated in two stages.

15 Feb 2018    Final day for ‘early bird’ nominations
2 April 2018     First 50 ‘early bird’ destinations notified of selection
1 May 2018     Final day for nominations
30 June 2018  Second 50 destinations notified of selection
24 Sept 2018  The 2018 Top 100 Sustainable Destinations announced

Top 100 International Panel
The procedure and the evaluation is supervised and supported by: Albert Salman, the Netherlands. President, Green Destinations Anne-Kathrin Zschiegner, Switzerland. The Long Run Brian T. Mullis, Oregon, USA. Founder of STI; Destination Management Specialist Geoff Bolan, USA. CEO, Sustainable Travel International (STI) Glenn Jampol, Costa Rica. President, Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) Hugo de Jong, the Netherlands. QualityCoast and QualityTourism Awards Jonathan B. Tourtellot, USA. Destination Stewardship Center Marloes Van De Goor, President, International Institute for Animal Ethics (IIAE) Masaru Takayama, Japan. President, Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) Peter Prokosch, Norway. Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) Valere Tjolle, UK / Italy. TravelMole’s VISION on Sustainable Tourism.

This is a preliminary list of Panel members representing Top 100 Partner organisations. The evaluation of nominations will be supported by ca. 100 experts in the field of responsible and sustainable tourism.



Norway Adopts a “Roadmap” to Sustainable Tourism

[Above: Tourists congregate at Bryggen, a Norwegian
World Heritage site in Bergen. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot.]

Towards Sustainable Travel and Tourism In Norway: A Roadmap

Our associate Arild Molstad worked with his colleagues in Norway to have this strategy adopted on a national level. The government has accepted it, and it will now become the main vehicle for cooperation between the public and private sectors. Arild believes the platform could well become a model for other countries, especially in the developing world in coordination with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.—Portal Editor

Executive Summary:
Download complete pdf version: Tourism Roadmap for Norway

Why a Roadmap?

The Roadmap is part of the government’s Strategy for Green Competitiveness across all sectors. Main reasons: the travel and tourism industry has a great built-in potential for low-emission solutions; it is labour intensive; it encompasses  a number of economic sectors along its value chain; it can safeguard Norway’s natural and cultural capital through a greener, cross-sectoral and experience-based destination development The Roadmap serves 3 main purposes:

  1. It provides a vision for moving towards sustainable travel and tourism by 2050, and includes proposals for ways to achieve this for Norway’s travel and tourism industry.
  2. It serves as an input to the Governmental Green Competitiveness strategy.  It describes how the authorities should provide the framework for a green shift in the travel and tourism industry. In addition, it describes ways to strengthen and sustain the sector’s competitiveness while meeting the stronger needs for strict policy measures in the context of Norway’s climate and environment policy.
  3. It is also intended as a recommendation that provides Norwegian tourism enterprises with key choices that must be made in the short and long term to move towards to a sustainable society by 2050, and how  to maintain a globally competitive edge in the future.

Vision for a sustainable travel and tourism in Norway

Sustainable travel and tourism require that we take care of the nation’s nature and culture capital, strengthen the social values, bolster pride in local communities while developing new jobs with a  focus on value creation that makes travel and tourism economically viable. The perspective has to be long-term: The nature we enjoy today should also be future generations’ privilege. By 2030 Norway should have confirmed its position as one of the world`s preferred destinations for sustainable nature- and culture-based travel experiences. Towards 2050, growth of Norwegian tourism industry should primarily consist of unique tourism and travel experiences in unspoiled nature and culture settings. Transport to and from the destinations should be as climate and environmentally friendly as possible.

The travel and tourism industry will direct its marketing efforts towards carefully selected target groups, based on the”High yield – Low impact” principle.

 Unique and adventurous experiences

Active nature and cultural experiences should derive from the nation’s traditional outdoor activities, where development of green experiences can be found along the entire value chain; both at sea, along the coast, in fjords, in the mountains, forests and in urban settings.

The country should offer authentic nature and cultural travel experiences along the coast, offshore, and in the form of cultural landscapes, giving the travelers a ”sense of place” – a feeling of authenticity and proximity to unspoiled nature, complemented with culture content of high value.

To secure Norway`s reputation for enjoying opportunities for unique and adventurous experiences, Norway should not present itself as a destination where crowds and mass tourism dominate.

Travelers in Norway will experience clean air, pure water unadulterated by environmentally harmful emissions and waste disposal, which reduces the destinations’ attractiveness and ecological health. All waste should as a matter of principle be reclaimed, reused and recycled.

Transport to and from the destination should take place with the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions and other emissions affecting air and water purity.

Hotels and restaurants should strive to a have low energy consumption, based on renewable energy sources and by making use of modern technology.

Food and beverage products served must to the extent possible be sourced locally with high quality based on environmentally friendly production methods, traditions and healthy raw materials.

A cooperative travel and tourism sector

All tour and travel operators, large and small, should cooperate and offer a variety of experiences to foreign and Norwegian travelers. The travel and tourism industry should add social and economic value to society. Norway should be marketed as a destination rich in nature and cultural attractions, thereby attracting more travelers willing to pay for visiting attractions that have been well taken care of and carefully protected.

Norway offers opportunities for actively experiencing nature, combined with enjoyment of local food, cultural heritage, a vibrant cultural life and a wide variety of accommodation options. These scarcity values are increasing in demand globally. However, the same values can be degraded through interventions such as the construction of hydro power plants, transmission lines, wind power parks, large road construction projects and excess use of wetlands. This threatens the very qualities the travel and tourism industry depends on. In addition, Norway has recently seen a liberalization of the rules for motor traffic in open terrain, whose noise jeopardizes the enjoyment of pure, silent nature.

Norway`s reputation as a natural and environmentally friendly attractive destination is also affected by dumping of waste from mining. Moreover, the possible expansion of gas and petroleum extraction in fragile and vulnerable areas can also affect the reputation negatively. The costs linked to tourism’s wear and tear of nature and culture attractions are not yet quantified, and there is a scarcity of economic models for estimating value depreciation of unspoilt nature in current decision making processes. There is an urgent need to identify and develop methods and models documenting actual revenues and costs where a number of conflicting sectors and trade-offs are in opposition.

Marketing and a rapid increasing information flow through internet and social media make it more challenging to control tourism traffic. Some destinations have therefore experienced a strong growth in the number of visitors without being sufficiently prepared for managing visitor flows. This adds to crowding, especially is this the case near fragile tourism icons that are vulnerable to mass tourism.

Emissions from cruise ships into clean air and water cause local pollution problems, particularly in attractive destinations such as the fjords on the western coast. The number of cruise ships in the world is increasing fast, and ports of call are often vulnerable to mass tourism and poorly prepared to accommodate a large number of travelers arriving at the same time in peak season. Several of the troubled destinations are also the most popular, located in the western fjord landscape, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Norway’s tourism and travel need to be better coordinated among a wide range of stakeholders. The yardstick for measuring success for Norway’s tourism must no longer consist of counting and maximizing the number of visitors. This is not a suitable or viable strategy to promote a greener tourism for the country and its destinations.

Strategy and pathways towards 2030 and 2050                                                           

The goal of the Norwegian travel and tourism industry will be to offer products that produce low-emissions memorable travel experiences with built-in opportunities for creating prosperity for all stakeholders, without jeopardizing the health of the planet and the local environment. To implement this vision, a closer cooperation and sharing of responsibility between the industry and the authorities must be encouraged.

Principles for sustainable travelling and green competiveness

The travel and tourism industry will apply the principles of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Norwegian Expert Commission on Green Competiveness to secure a sustainable development short- and long-term. 3 of the 10 principles from the Expert Commission are emphasized here:

  • The Polluter Pays Principle
  • External environmental impacts (also known as externalities) should be given a price value
  • Green measures should be rewarded, while activities or interventions that produce high greenhouse gas emissions should be taxed or penalized

There is a need for a stronger and more holistic approach to tourism to convert the growing interest in travel to Norway into green values that at the same time safeguard the nation’s many precious but environmentally fragile destinations. The government and the municipalities have to take the same course, by offering green incentives and stimulating legislation measures that benefit not only the travel and tourism sector but other parts of Norwegian society.

The authorities have an important role to play in stimulating changes to Norway’s travel and tourism. Legislation and economic instruments can effectively encourage performances on the part of all stakeholders, including use of incentives to reward pro-green innovation and penalties for damage caused to unspoiled nature.

Norway’s Allemannsrett must be upheld, securing free access for all to nature, according to Friluftsloven. However, it will be necessary to find acceptable ways to regulate particularly valuable and vulnerable areas.

The travel industry must adapt to climate changes, focus on prolonging the holiday and shoulder seasons, anticipate more powerful precipitation, changed conditions for food production and increasing vulnerabllity.

In the main Roadmap document, the role of the private and public sector has been described in more detail.


Trade-offs to implement the sustainable vision towards 2050

  • How to incorporate the needs of sustainable tourism in decision processes involving expansion/construction of hydroenergy and transport networks?
  • How to prevent decay and damage to nature’s treasures without compromising the principles underlying Allemannsretten (every man’s access to public land)?
  • How to access funds for responsible destination development and conservation protecting Allemannsretten?
  • What does it take to make tourism in Norway carbon neutral or eliminate climate gas emissions?
  • Is it possible to design short tourism circuits and itineraries and at the same time offer «off the beaten track» experiences for the visitor?
  • How to put a price on the wear and tear of Norway’s tourism attractions so that such valuations can facilitate funding and prevent expansion of infrastructure that reduces the country’s nature and culture capital?
  • How can Norway enact policies and legislation that make it possible to earmark funding that helps finance maintenance and protection of the country’s natural and cultural treasures?


Examples of trade-off challenges:

  • The competion for access to marine resources between the oil and gas industry, the fisheries and the tourism industry
  • The future of wild salmon vs fish-farming interests: The former is threatened, while the profitable fish-farming industry is still coping with environmental issues
  • While many farmers want more culling of wildife such as wolves and eagles, conservation organizations are opposed. Resolution of this issue will affect Norway’s international reputation
  • Some of Norway’s iconic World Heritage tourism attractions are suffering from crowding in peak season, in part due to the dramatic increase in international cruise traffic: a classic revenue vs. protection issue that is looking for an urgent solution

Don’t Trump Slovenia

[Glasses await a wine-tasting event in Slovenia’s vineyard region.
All photos by Jonathan Tourtellot]

Try this: Google the words “Melania tourism.” Now watch your computer screen fill up with reports on how some Slovenians hope to cash in on their new renown as the birthplace of the U.S. First Lady, especially around her small hometown of Sevnica.

Be afraid, Slovenia, be very afraid.

For me, this is a stomach-clencher. Over my career I have become sadly used to revisiting destinations I remembered fondly from some previous decade, only to find them spoiled to varying degrees by irresponsible tourism development.

What a joy it was then to revisit Slovenia last year after a 10-year interval. It was even better than before—and before had been pretty good. The capital, Ljubljana, had expanded its already charming traffic-free core, the food and wine selections had grown, the citizenry was affable, tourism was not yet out of control, and environmentally friendly policies were in place seemingly everywhere. Conveniently for monolingual me, English was spoken widely.

Recycling bins and bicycles typify Ljubljana's green policies.

Recycling bins and bicycles typify Ljubljana’s green policies.

Outside the capital, the area around impossibly beautiful Lake Bled was imposing its own tourism traffic controls, and assorted sustainability practices were underway in the gorgeous Julian Alps. Recycling and bicycling were strongly encouraged even in the modern city of Nova Gorica, Slovenia’s nod to mass casino tourism for numerically challenged Italians from across the border. More than a dozen municipalities around the small country have signed into the Slovenia Green plan.

And now, Trump looms.

No not Melania. She seems an amiable sort, perhaps with questionable taste in choosing a husband and by extension his taste in resort development and his need for gold-plated seat-belt buckles on his plane. (True. Google it.) No, it’s the shadow of Donald himself.

He may choose to pay a state visit at some point! That’s what worries me. Be afraid. Not so much the impact on Slovenia of Trump the president, but of Trump the developer.

Long before Trump was a force in politics, I would counsel destination tourism planners: “Look at whatever Donald Trump is doing, and do the opposite.” Trump-style development has typically ignored local culture, environment, history, ecology, and destination economic benefit (while loudly proclaiming otherwise), and instead celebrated a fixation not on destination character, but on self-indulgent luxury and, of course, the Trump brand. His zero-sum, you-lose-I-win approach to deal-making flies in the face of the symbiotic relationship that sustainable tourism should have with its surrounding communities.

In short, Trump is the antithesis of everything that has made Slovenia such a success as a genuine, well-cared-for destination. Not long after my first visit, National Geographic’s former chairman of the board, Gil Grosvenor, cornered me and said he wanted an idea for a European vacation—“Europe the way it used to be.” Charming. Was there any place left like that? “Have you ever been to Slovenia?” I asked. No, he hadn’t. He went. He liked it.

Tourists disembark at a Slovenia railway station.

Tourists disembark at a Slovenia railway station.

Well, I like it, too. And the idea of Trump appearing and spewing his notions of tourism success across this pleasant land? I can only hope Slovenia’s wiser heads prevail.

Rather than Trump swaying Slovenia, could Slovenia sway Trump? Of course not; Trump is apparently unswayable. But Slovenia would lose few points in the eyes of the world by launching a tourism information campaign on the theme, “We’re better than that.”

Rather than boasting about increased U.S. arrivals coming for a trivial reason, I would hope Slovenians would work to send those Americans home with a deeper appreciation for Slovenian values. Melania’s town of Sevnica should join the Slovenia Green program. (They say they will!). Boast about that, instead. Let the Trump notoriety become a tourism teaching opportunity. Let people see how to put charm, health, and authenticity into the travel experience. Let every visitor leave with a deeper appreciation for the sophistication of this small country.

Is it sophisticated enough to survive some future Trump visit? I’m betting so. Melania herself, they say, speaks five languages. Now that’s very Slovenian.


Multilingual brochures welcome visitors to Slovenia's Soca Valley.

Multilingual brochures welcome visitors to Slovenia’s Soca Valley.

How to CARE for a Place: Lessons from Cape Cod

[Above: Corporation Beach, Dennis, Cape Cod. Photo: CARE for the Cape and Islands]

My inspiration for launching a destination travelers’ philanthropy program for Cape Cod, Massachusetts originated in distant Monteverde, Costa Rica. After participating in the Third International Travelers’ Philanthropy Conference conducted there by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) in 2011, I had the opportunity to see the Monteverde travelers’ philanthropy program firsthand. I noticed many similarities to my own home on Cape Cod. Both depended on tourism. Both shared the need to help educate and engage visitors and residents in the preservation of our own special place.

Wampanoag Wetu

A representative of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe explains construction and use of the wetu, a domed hut. Photo: CARE

Founded in 2012 as a nonprofit, CARE (Creating A Responsible Environment) for the Cape and Islands has an advisory board comprised of prominent Cape Cod residents, while its fiscal sponsor and mentor is the CREST. CARE‘s objectives are two-fold:
1) To raise funds from vacationers, residents, and tourism-related businesses to assist specific environmental and cultural-heritage conservation projects in the region, and
2) to assist visitors, residents, and businesses in developing a greater appreciation for and a deeper connection to the region’s unique and fragile natural beauty, native plant, marine and wildlife habitats, culture, and history through education and hands-on experiences.

Herring Cove Whale Exhibit

Education signage on whale habitat, Herring Cove, Provincetown—CARE’s first funded project. Photo: CARE

To date we have funded 15 projects throughout Cape Cod. Cultural-heritage projects have included the development of the Hyannis Sea Captains’ Row Trail and map. Another was the Waquoit Bay Reserve Wampanoag wetu construction and education project, based on local Native American life-ways and estuaries that highlight the connection between people and the environment. Environmental projects have included marine plastics reduction, whale habitat education, a water-quality shellfish aquaculture demonstration project, development of a green-practices video, and installation of water bottle filling stations at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

As I reflect upon the past four years I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from development and management of CARE for the Cape and Islands. Unlike the programs in Monteverde and the state of Oregon, CARE does not have a supportive organization with an existing funding source. We have learned that it takes time – five years or more – to grow this type of community fund into a vehicle for raising significant financial contributions. Time is required to educate businesses before they are willing to be supportive and get involved in fundraising and volunteering programs. Many businesses have been reluctant to ask their guests or visitors for donations. CARE has found that packaging a donation into the visitor’s hotel room or inviting them to donate online prior to their arrival has been more successful.

CARE Cape Day_2014 217

Volunteer painters at our first annual CARE for the Cape Day. Photo: Judith Selleck

Additionally, I encourage other destinations to find key local partners to work with, to be flexible, and to be extremely persistent. Given the range of business types and sizes, a one-size-fits-all approach will not succeed. Finding a strong and enthusiastic board and supportive network will aid in the speed and success of the program. And finally, I advise to Educate, Educate, and Educate. While many believe this kind of community fund is a worthwhile concept, it takes a while for businesses to fully understand it and decide how they wish to participate.

To learn more, visit CARE for the Cape and Islands. We are accepting grant applications for 2016 projects through Dec. 31, 2015.

Two Billion Footprints: Good News Or Not?

[Above—A two-hour wait: Tourists queue in drizzle for the cable car up Mt. Huangshan, China, a World Heritage site. Annual visitation c.4 million.  Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot]

Celebrated on Sept. 27, World Tourism Day is an observance championed by the U.N. World Tourism Organization and intended to point out the value of tourism. Initiated 35 years ago, much of the impetus for World Tourism Day sprang from the desire to convince governments and industry that tourism was bigger and more important than they realized. This is understandable, because tourism is bigger and more important than almost anyone realizes. When tourism works well, it’s fun and beneficial. It boosts the economy, helps preserve cultural and natural sites, and educates the public. When it doesn’t…well, that’s the dark cloud inside the silver lining.

This year’s theme was “One billion tourists—one billion opportunities!” Nice and upbeat, but it smacks of the more-is-better boosterism led for years by an officialdom that calls for ever-increasing numbers of arrivals.

This attitude is naïvely out of date. Better to think more realistically of “One billion tourists—two billion footprints.” Tourism, counted among the very largest industries on Earth, is changing the face of the planet and posing challenges with its relentless growth.

Of all the famous malaprops attributed to the late, beloved Yogi Berra, none rings truer in the tourist world than: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Over the past half century, international travel has increased almost 20-fold in terms of arrivals. Domestic tourism worldwide has kept pace, at four or five times the volume. Growth continues unabated, but the places all these people visit are still the same size. Resorts and vacation homes gobble up coastlines. You can see the press of numbers most clearly in the world’s great cultural sites, from Venice to Angkor to Chichén Itzá.

Early this year, I was privileged to visit Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier, famed for steadily calving into an Andean lake. It’s in Los Glaciares National Park, a World Heritage site. It lies far, far south in Patagonia, down toward the end of the inhabited world, 1700 miles (2700 km) south of Buenos Aires. In short, not a place you’re likely to visit on the way to some other region. Yet annual visitation ranks in the hundreds of thousands, with over 600,000 people moving through the airport at the booming gateway town of El Calafate.

If we now see that much tourist traffic about as far as you can get from the human population’s center of gravity, it’s no wonder more accessible, better-known destinations are drowning in it. Florence, for example, must cope with 16 million tourists a year, many of them day-trippers who clog the streets while contributing little to the quality of the city.

World Tourism Day should now carry an additional mission. Not just: “It’s big! It’s great!” But also: “We will learn how to manage it better!” We need deeper, more meaningful and memorable travel experiences and fewer busloads armed with selfie sticks.

Another one of Yogi’s sayings was “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” That impossible ambiguity fits tourism leaders who maintain: Quantity, quality, can’t we have both?

In most cases—no, you can’t.

Sustainability? The Unbalanced Pursuit of Balance

I have participated in more sustainable-tourism conferences than is probably healthy for any human being.  I have learned that sustainable-tourism discussions seem to demand a high tolerance for acronyms and eco-gibberish and an unflinching faith in tourism’s ability to distinguish between using nature or culture and abusing natural and cultural assets for economic benefit.  The trick is, of course, the line between use and abuse is very much in the eye of the beholder. There are members of the tourism community who are convinced that creating one dead-end service job is worth more than one acre of mangrove.   I have been impressed by how many speakers pitch the audience on the need for balance as if there were widespread agreement within the industry as to what balance means.

At first, calls for balance confused me. If tourism is on a collision course with nature and culture, is balance really the best response? Advocating for moderate course corrections is easier to sell to skeptical audiences, but what exactly are we balancing? Authenticity vs. Disney sensibilities? Turtle nesting beaches vs. tourist basking beaches? Locally owned and operated fish fry huts vs. fast food corporations? Shameless profiteering vs. self-righteous turtle hugging?

A "balanced" beach with just the right amount of tourist trash in Eleuthera, Bahamas. Photo: Andy Dumaine.

A beach “balanced” with just the right amount of tourist trash in Eleuthera, Bahamas. Photo: Andy Dumaine.

The first sustainable-tourism conference I attended was wrapped around the virtues of balance. The word was built into the title: “Keeping the Right Balance.” If I have learned anything from my decades of conference participation it is this: Those in the sustainability camp seem believe that the pursuit of  balance will restore our most beautiful and fragile places.

Once I became aware of the cold facts of tourism’s destructive force, calls for balance smacked of self-delusion and naïveté. If you found yourself in a crowded minibus heading straight into a brick wall at 100 miles an hour, would you calmly urge the driver to balance his instinct to avoid the deadly obstacle in the road? Conference presenters have a fundamental weakness—their need to be perceived as moderate and rational, but sustainable tourism seeks to address challenges that are anything but moderate and rational.  Razing an irreplaceable historic structure to make room for a generic all-inclusive resort is an irrational, immoderate act perpetrated by an industry that cloaks its irrationality in the name of job creation and balance.

The need to embrace sustainable practices is all too real and all too urgent.  Once a destination loses its authentic sense of place, it is gone for good.  No amount of pleading and planning or balancing with Disney’s most-talented experience designers will bring it back. Authenticity cannot be reproduced.

Calls from the podium for “a balanced approach” certainly play well with audiences with their hands deep in the tourism cookie jar, but advocates of balance are dangerously underestimating the costs of inaction. The idea that the tourism industry can balance its way out of its destructive habits bleeds away any sense of urgency. “Balance” holds out the false hope that destinations can always buy more time, that we can always restore what tourism destroys, that we can compromise with the planet’s ecosystems—ecosystems that appear disinclined to compromise with humanity.