Integrity of a Place
Photograph by Gilbert M. Grosvenor
National Geographic's Center for Sustainable Destinations works to protect the world's distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship. Here are its 13 geotourism principles for governments and tourism operators.
1. Enhance the geographical character of the destination by developing and improving it in ways distinctive to the locale. Encourage market differentiation and cultural pride in ways that are reflective of natural and cultural heritage.
Above, deer roam outside Eremitage Palace in Dyrehaven, Denmark.
Photograph by W.E. Garrett
2. Adhere to the principles embodied in the World Tourism Organization’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the principles of the Cultural Tourism Charter established by the International Council on Monument and Sites (ICOMOS).
Above, a ferry leaves the lush harbor of Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Photograph by Otis Imboden
3. Base tourism on community resources to the extent possible, encouraging local small businesses and civic groups to build partnerships to promote and provide a distinctive, honest visitor experience and market their locales effectively. Help businesses develop approaches to tourism that build on the area’s nature, history, and culture, including food and drink, artisanship, performance arts, and the like.
Above, a sunny day lures visitors to an open-air art festival outside Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Photograph by Jonathan Tourtellot
4. Encourage micro- to medium-size enterprises and tourism business strategies that emphasize economic and social benefits to involved communities, especially poverty alleviation, with clear communication of the destination stewardship policies required to maintain those benefits.
Above, a hotel waiter arranges lawn chairs for the day at a hacienda repurposed as a hotel in Peru's Sacred Valley of the Inca.
Photograph by James P. Blair
5. Ensure that satisfied, excited geotourists bring new vacation stories home and send friends off to experience the same thing, thus providing continuing demand for the destination.
Above, folk dancers whirl and twirl at a wedding festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Conservation of Resources
Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie
6. Encourage businesses to minimize water pollution, solid waste, energy consumption, water usage, landscaping chemicals, and overly bright nighttime lighting. Advertise these measures in a way that attracts the large, environmentally sympathetic tourist market.
Above, climbers gaze on sky, snow, and rocky mountains from atop Pico Espejo in Venezuela.
Protection and Enhancement of Destination Appeal
Photograph by James L. Stanfield
7. Encourage the destination to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, aesthetic appeal, and local culture. Prevent degradation by keeping the volume of tourists within maximum acceptable limits. Seek business models that can operate profitably within those limits. Use persuasion, incentives, and legal enforcement as needed.
Above, the sun dramatically illuminates the ancient Treasury building in Petra, Jordan.
Photograph by Winfield Parks
8. Recognize and respect immediate economic need without sacrificing long-term character and the geotourism potential of the destination. Where tourism attracts in-migration of workers, develop new communities that themselves constitute a destination enhancement. Strive to diversify the economy and limit population influx to sustainable levels. Adopt public strategies for mitigating practices that are incompatible with geotourism and damaging to the image of the destination.
Above, crisp white boats dot the picturesque harbor of Portofino, Italy.
Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart
9. Anticipate development pressures and apply techniques to prevent undesired overdevelopment and degradation. Contain resort and vacation-home sprawl, especially on coasts and islands, so as to retain a diversity of natural and scenic environments and ensure continued resident access to waterfronts. Encourage major self-contained tourism attractions, such as large-scale theme parks and convention centers unrelated to character of place, to be sited in needier locations with no significant ecological, scenic, or cultural assets.
Above, autumn hues color farmland in Little Deer Isle, Maine.
Photograph by Maria Stenzel
10. Encourage a full range of appropriate food and lodging facilities, so as to appeal to the entire demographic spectrum of the geotourism market and so maximize economic resiliency over both the short and long term.
Above, dusk falls on Adamants Lodge in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada.
Photograph by John Scofield
11. Engage both visitors and hosts in learning about the place. Encourage residents to show off the natural and cultural heritage of their communities, so that tourists gain a richer experience and residents develop pride in their locales.
Above, detailed sculptures adorn a temple in Madras, India.
Photograph by W. Robert Moore
12. Encourage growth in tourism market segments most likely to appreciate, respect, and disseminate information about the distinctive assets of the locale.
Above, a woman poles a canoe laden with harvested rice through Inle Lake in Myanmar.
Photograph by Robert Sisson
13. Establish an evaluation process to be conducted on a regular basis by an independent panel representing all stakeholders' interests, and publicize evaluation results.
Above, biologists catch red sockeyes for tagging and tracking in Shuswap Lake, British Columbia, Canada.
More About CSD
Jonathan Tourtellot is a consultant specializing in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship. He is also a journalist and editor with a focus on travel, geography, and science.
The world’s coasts feature some of our most beloved vacation spots. But are we loving them to death? Our panel of 340 experts rates a wide selection of coastal destinations.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
World Heritage Sites in Europe