A Historic Thai City Finds Ways to Solve Tourist Waste

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 one from Thailand, that showcase the importance of engaging all stakeholder groups within a destination. Synopses by Ailin Fei. Top 100 submission by Mrs. Suparada Karndissayakul, Managing Director of DASTA 6.

Nan’s overtaxed historic center engages the elderly to clean up after visitors

Local volunteers stand ready to improve the waste management in Nan Old City. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Nan Old City is a part of Nan, the provincial administrative center of the Nan province, in northern Thailand. Nan Old City, with its rich history and cultural significance, faces overtourism issues, primarily at nights and weekends. To meet tourist demands at the old square of Nan Old City, the municipality opened weekend outdoor markets. This created a surge in waste generation and the challenge of managing unfamiliar types of waste. The municipality needed a suitable waste management solution to address the increased waste, mainly food waste and plastic. A comprehensive study assessed waste types, visitor and merchant behavior, waste amounts, and generation methods. This municipality decided to ban foam container usage in favor of biodegradable paper ones. The municipality is struggling to enforce the ban among merchants. They plan to train local merchants to improve their understanding of the waste issue and foster better cooperation.

Bins are marked for different types of waste, as locals contribute to the waste separation process. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

To improve recycling and reduce pollution, the municipality categorized waste into 9 types with designated separation points and engaged local volunteers to assist visitors. The municipality recognized the value of involving elderly volunteers in waste separation and provided them an opportunity to earn a modest income while promoting sustainable waste management. Given their strong community ties, available free time, and potential income need, the elderly provide a cost-effective and sustainable solution to support waste management efforts. This approach contributes to waste reduction and enhances the stability of the elderly population without the need for a costly new waste management system. The municipality sustains compensation for their efforts through a fund established from recyclable waste sales and stall rental fees. The fund is used to improve waste separation equipment, directly support the program, and address local needs like scholarships for underprivileged children.

The municipality’s report shows that waste separation practices significantly reduced daily residual waste from 1-1.5 tons to around 0.2 tons in Nan Old City. Nan’s success in waste management serves as a model for other local organizations in Thailand and highlights the importance of efficient waste management in small cities.

Using Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism to Alleviate Poverty in Kyrgyzstan

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 Brazil and Kyrgyzstan, that showcase different reasons for engaging the local community. Synopses by Devika McWalters. Top 100 submission by Imanaly Turkbaev, Project Manager, the Swiss Small Business and Income Creation Programme Bai Alai Program

Tulpar Kol Lake offers stunning views of the Alay Mountains and Lenin Peak. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Supporting Women Through Community-Based Tourism

Although the mountainous valleys of Alay (or Alai) in southwest Kyrgyzstan had been attracting alpinists from around the world for mountaineering and trekking, tourism and cultural experiences in the picturesque community were largely untapped. To diversify the subsistence-based agricultural district and to alleviate widespread poverty, “Community-Based Tourism (CBT) Alay” was formed in 2007.

CBT Alay developed a ten-year tourism development strategy aligned with the national sustainable development agenda. Tourism offerings included nomadic home experiences with the Kyrgyz people, staying in a yurt, and nature- and Great Silk Route-oriented activities.

One of the development targets was to support local women, who – like other artisans around the world – were making handicrafts as a hobby or leisure activity but did not see the benefit or income potential of integrating it into tourism experiences. As a result of a partnership with the local business women’s union, poverty has been reduced by 9% in just four years by engaging women and providing them with income-generating opportunities in the handicrafts and tourism sectors.

Key Steps Taken

  • Partnering with the Business Women of Alay Public Union (BWA) to give artisans financial, technical, and organizational support to produce, package, and sell a wide range of products to tourists.
  • Retail and commercial channels were established to sell ethnic clothing; accessories;

    Women showcase handmade decorative rugs and other handicrafts at the annual mountain tourism festival. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

    national ornaments; naturally dyed wool- and cotton-based products; and other traditional crafts that were at risk of disappearing or being forgotten.
  • Training workshops that included women of all ages, providing mentoring and cross-generational knowledge-sharing.
  • Involving spouses to mitigate conflict due to patriarchal and cultural norms being challenged by empowering women.
  • BWA members support each other by taking turns with daycare.
  • Creating partnerships on all levels, including local producers; business partnerships; public authorities; tourism companies, associations, operators, and hotels; as well as local and online retail and commercial channels.
  • Working with the local municipality’s leadership on legal barriers, disseminating information, and coordinating with the regional and national government bodies.


  • Poverty in Alay was reduced from 57% in 2017 to 48% in 2021.
  • New tourism nature-based and cultural experiences for Alay include master classes and showcases for local handicrafts and demonstration of Kyrgyz traditions and games.
  • Tourist numbers have grown from 4,000 to 16,500 in four years. The average spending increased from $15 to $50 USD/day. CBT Alay sales more than doubled from 2017 to 2021 ($1,400 vs. $3,020).
  • Alay has received international coverage in blogs, reviews, and publications for its sustainability principles and cultural experiences.
  • BWA’s beneficiaries rose from 10 women in 2014 to 324 in 2021, with an average age of 40.
  • Sales by BWA members went from $0 to KGS 317, 000 ($4,000 USD) in just four years.
  • CBT Alay’s partnership with BWA has led to the international exporting of handwoven fabric made from sustainably sourced organic cotton and final products certified from Kyrgyzstan. (Europe 39%; USA 29%; Russia 13%; Kazakhstan 11%; Japan 8%.)
  • BWA distributes and sells products on multiple foreign and domestic online platforms, making up 40% of their sales.
  • The female artisans of Alay have not only gained valuable business and financial skills and income but have also increased their self-esteem and support from their husbands.
  • Alay women now serve as mentors and trainers in neighboring communities interested in replicating their success.
  • Kyrgyzstan’s cultural and national heritage and artisan crafts are being preserved and passed on to new generations and visitors from around the world.

Redefining Tradition: How Diamantina’s Carnival Embraced Change

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 Brazil and Kyrgyzstan, that showcase different reasons for engaging the local community. Synopses by Ailin Fei. Top 100 submission by Camila Guedes – Tourism Board / Municipal Secretary of Tourism / Diamantina City Hall.

Crowds flood the streets in Diamantina to join the party and dance to local samba band Bat Caverna. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Embracing tradition and adapting to change

For decades, people have celebrated Diamantina’s carnival. However, in recent years, the carnival has evolved into a mass tourism event. Diamantina is a Brazilian municipality in the state of Minas Gerais with an estimated population of 47,825 people (2020 census). Diamantina’s carnival highlights cultural heritage with the potential to set an example for other cities, promoting tourism, local culture, income generation, and social inclusion.

About 10 years ago, the city of Diamantina noticed a decrease in visitors, so they “resurrected” the carnival through increasing cultural diversity prompted by a national initiative to change the carnival scene and embrace the traditional and historic values of Brazil, which altered the itineraries and tourist flows. Unfortunately, this reconfiguration led to an increased presence of low-budget tourists, intense overcrowding that provided no substantial financial benefits to the municipality, and structural issues such as disruption in water supply and pollution.

A new management strategy, Carnaval Radical, includes a focus on encouraging more local participation. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

By 2017, the carnival management acknowledged the need to adapt to the changing environment and engage in dialogues to make the carnival more beneficial for citizens, visitors, and the city’s development. This involved creating ‘University Space’ to confine the young, low-budget carnival-goers from the local population and revitalizing the street blocks included in the carnival perimeter by recognizing the oldest “caricato” (carnival) block as “a material Cultural Heritage of Diamantina.”

The carnival management launched the newest redesign of the carnival, entitled ‘Carnaval Radical,’ in 2020, which included curated space for adventure sports, increased gastronomy experiences, and raised awareness of attractions and traditional historical monuments, further diversifying the tourist profile, including family tourists. These strategies reduced mass tourism, included more locals in the carnival, alleviated pressure on urban services, and enriched the city’s culture, nature, and economic development.

Diamantina’s Carnival holds significant symbolic value and can serve as a model for Brazilian cities and any other city that faces challenges due to mass tourism and seeks to revitalize their own events in a sustainable manner.

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.


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.

Repairing Tourism in Transylvania County, NC

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3, No. 1 – Summer 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. This entry, from the winners announced last year, showcases how a popular North Carolina county created a locally supported program to clean up its tourism wear and tear. Synopsis by Supriya A. N.

The City of Brevard sits nestled amongst the mountains of Pigsah National Forest. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Top 100 submission by Lee McMinn, Transylvania Always.

In the Wake of Overcrowding, Eco-sensitive Transylvania County Mobilizes Stakeholders to Enhance Sustainability

The love of nature and desire to spend quality time outdoors has resulted in a spike in visitor numbers beyond the carrying capacity in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Not surprisingly, this was causing long-term damage to park resources with overcrowded trails, worsening water quality, increased litter, and even death and injury. The inconvenience caused by overcrowding led residents to question the positive effects of tourism as a vital contributor to the local economy.

Visitors cool off at a popular waterfall and swimming hole. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

To establish the long-term sustainability of the region and restore balance to the natural environment, Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority created a subcommittee called Transylvania Always whose mission addresses the above issues. Transylvania Always partnered with various environmental agencies, non-profits, public land managers, volunteer organizations, and public relations firms to establish a sustainable natural environment for visitors’ safe and memorable enjoyment of the region and diversify the local economy with consistent tourism income.

Some of the steps that helped achieve their goals are:

  • Offering grants to agencies to improve the quality of the experience by repairing and rerouting trails, and improving river safety
  • Consulting with experts to study and develop a comprehensive river inventory to better implement safety strategies and any new activity near the water body

    Trail maintenance is crucial for access to outdoor recreational activities. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

  • Hiring agencies to develop materials to convey the message of trail etiquette, waterfall hazards, and organize campaigns like ‘Leave It Better’ motivating residents and visitors to pick up litter and keep the surroundings clean

With these measures, Transylvania Always changed the narrative of the county as an overcrowded destination to one that’s better managed through active and enthusiastic participation from various stakeholders.

Find the complete Good Practice Story (PDF) from Transylvania County and Brevard, North Carolina.

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).

Battle Over a Dam Spawns a New Green Destination in Bosnia

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. This Top 100 entry, submitted in 2021 from Bosnia, shows how a catalytic citizen battle to save a river – even if only partially successful – can knit together a new, community-based sustainable destination: Dinardica.

Fly fishing is one popular outdoor activity that remains possible after the successful fight to save the Sana River. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Submitted by Emir Dervisevic, Sustainability Coordinator

Dinardica Creates Itself by Fighting for its River

Located in western Bosnia and Herzegovina, the rural Dinardica region faced off in 2009 against a proposal for an externally funded hydropower plant to be built on its signature Sana River, which is extremely important for the biodiversity of a wide area of western Bosnia. A coalition of 20 citizens associations and hundreds of individuals actively opposed the construction of the dam. Dinardicans placed 230 hectares of land under official protection, including sources of the Sana River threatened by the dam – all during their first year at work. While assorted legal battles, campaigns, and protests failed to stop construction, they did succeed in moving the dam to a less harmful location.

The hydro campaign also succeeded in giving birth to a multi-stakeholder collaboration and a shared vision allied against domestic and international investors who sought to tear up local landscapes and ecosystems. In Dinardican eyes, preserving nature for the public and future generations was deemed far more important than exploiting natural resources for the short-term benefits of individuals.

The conservation of healthy ecosystems was a top priority for the region of Dinardica. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Dinardica’s story shows that it is possible to form a destination’s identity around protecting natural resources and transform itself into a green tourism destination. This success came as a result of establishing a formal organizational structure for destination management and development, which included government institutions, NGOs, and private companies as stakeholders. From there, the partners designed and launched a series of concrete actions to strengthen the brand of the local destination and transform Dinardica into a green tourist destination. A plan was initiated to protect the most valuable natural habitats. They renovated an old, abandoned school building and transformed it into a Visitor Center. Currently in the works, the Visitor Center is working to support solar panels with the intention of demonstrating the renewable energy potential for private households and tourist facilities to adopt.

A local farmer leads his cattle across a field. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Driving these environmental actions is the destination’s ambition to have a good future for their community, while using renewable energy and providing younger generations the opportunity to live decent lives.

The story of Dinardica is an inspiring example for other rural destinations who might be fighting against forest exploitation, coal mines, power generation stations on rivers, or mass tourism. Although Dinardica is still in the early stages of tourism, they have achieved significant results of environmental conservation. To read more from this Green Destinations’ Top 100 story, click here.

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: top100@greendestinations.org.
  • 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.



About the new list of 2016 Top 100 Sustainable Destinations

[Above: An alpine landscape evokes “Slovenia Green,” the country’s national program for destination management, recognized as one of the Top 100. Photo: Jonathan Tourtellot]

The winners of the 2016 Sustainable Destinations Top 100 contest were announced in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 27-28 September. You can see the complete list below. A word of explanation on what this list is, and what it is not:

The Top 100 is a competition, not a systematic survey of all the world’s destinations to see which are the most sustainable. As a contest, it requires entries—either applications filed by the destinations themselves, or nominations filed by anyone else. The Top 100 are the best of those entries, reviewed, evaluated, and screened by an international panel of experts.

We at the DSC were pleased to co-direct the competition, headed by Albert Salman of Netherlands-based Green Destinations. As previously noted, we consider it the closest thing so far to the National Geographic’s surveys of destination quality conducted 2004-2010. There are differences. The Nat Geo surveys polled experts on a pre-assembled list of destinations, who rated them from excellent to poor based on six criteria. Top 100 winners, on the other hand, derive from voluntary entries subsequently subjected to expert evaluation. The Top 100 competiton does resemble the Nat Geo stewardship surveys in a key way: It measured destinations against an entire range of 15 criteria, shown below, that define the broad spectrum of destination excellence—environmental performance, of course, but also such elements as historic preservation, scenic appeal, cultural integrity, and so on.

Here, then, are this year’s Top 100:top100listYou can see these destinations mapped and illustrated at the Top 100 website.

Below are the Top 100 criteria. Winning destinations did not have to meet all 15, but did have to measure above a minimum acceptable standard. Destinations that came close will receive recommendations on how to improve.

15criteriaEach of the winning destinations has a story to tell. We will incorporate the better-known places into our Destination Monitor list. Over the next few weeks we will look at a selection of them and report on what they are doing right.  For starters, here’s Valere Tjolle’s report on County Down, Northern Ireland, a Top 100 listee. And here is my own commentary about Slovenia Green in Nat Geo Voices.

Perhaps other destinations will find some of the Top 100 achievements inspirational. The value of a competition such as this is to show what can be done, provided people care enough to do it.