National Geographic Traveler
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from March 2004
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Destination Scorecard: 115 Places Rated

Read What Our Panelists Had to Say

Click on a part of the world below to read a sample of our judges' comments.

The Caribbean
Meso- and South America
North America

Learn about our survey, and rate your favorite places >>
Meet our Panelists >>


Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

Amboseli, KENYA

Score: 54

• "Great wildlife viewing, mass tourism a problem for local conservation efforts, lodges maintained and owned by local people, but the majority of tourists do not stay overnight."

• "There is concern that without immediate attention to successful methods of ecotourism, this place will be lost to the future. Good intentions are present, but good practices are less evident."

Fez, Historic Center, MOROCCO

Score: 71

• "Extremely authentic. By design, the maddeningly confusing labyrinth of streets seems impervious to 'Disneyfication.'  As the religious heart of a surprisingly and quietly religious country, Fez hasn't seen the extreme 'hucksterism' that mars Tangier and Sahara."

• "Good balance between the local population and tourists. Good preservation of the historic part."

Kruger National Park, SOUTH AFRICA

Score: 74

• "Major problems in generating local economic benefits, although          environmental benefits seem adequate."

• "Despite good ecological management and recent efforts to be community friendly, the majority of South Africans find it [like other South Africa National Parks] too expensive."

• "Fantastic and relatively unspoiled. Some signs of wear and tear on certain roads, although overall the landscape has been preserved. Great way for tourists to encounter the natural ecosystem with minimal impact."

Masai Mara, KENYA

Score: 56

• "Extraordinary African wildlife."

• "Mass tourism degrading area, but efforts at advanced stages to incorporate local Masai people into wildlife and cultural tourism. Benefits to local conservation efforts minimal."

• "This site is in moderate trouble. The safari vehicle use is very poorly managed, leading to heavy negative environmental impact."

Ngorongoro Crater, TANZANIA

Score: 55

• "Lack of community benefits from tourism will compromise long-term ecological sustainability; people need to become more a part of tourism revenue benefits."

• "Too much inappropriate resort development now allowed along the crater rim."

Pyramids, Giza, EGYPT

Score: 51

• "Lots of money has been spent on conservation recently; however infrastructure, in particular roads, is encroaching on the site until it will become locked in by a completely urban landscape. In other ways, fantastic."

• "Needs more control over encroaching city and mass tourism."

Serengeti National Park, TANZANIA

Score: 63

• "Little involvement of locals in ecotourism-related ventures. Locals are very poor, and may not support tourism wholly."

• "Money does not go back to local communities; poachers are a problem, but this destination still offers great wildlife viewing."

• "The migration experience is unparalleled, and community projects are getting better."

Valley of the Kings, Luxor, EGYPT

Score: 57

• "Another very special area that needs much improved visitor interpretation. Must set carrying capacity or limits of acceptable change."

• "Overpopulated, touristy, expensive but acceptable as long as funds are put towards restoration and management of the site. Should control number of tourists."


Score: 52

• "Heavy population pressure on surrounding woodland and poor visitor facilities to control impact."

• "Falls stunning but need more protection on the Zimbabwe side. Doesn't appear that locals are benefiting from tourism in the area."

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Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.


Score: 52

• "Temple complex is straining under sheer weight of numbers but managing okay under the circumstances. Could do more to advise tourists of appropriate behavior. Little evidence of Siem Reap residents benefiting significantly from tourism—large-scale new hotels with self-contained, tourist-bubble feel."

• "The historic/archeological structure and the aesthetic appeal are wonderful, but the condition of the old buildings is still poor and the tourism management side is disastrous due to its socio-cultural disintegration and bad quality of life for poor locals."

Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL

Score: 56

• "Real problems over local community engagement."

• "Good attempts in sustainability but needs more work."

• "The fabric of society is rapidly eroding."


Score: 58

• "It's easy to get away from the tourist traps. Find a place in a small village and wait. The culture comes alive around you."

• "Bali is small but extremely complex and its culture surprisingly resilient to tourism. Environmentally there are major concerns, especially regarding resort golf courses."

• "A dichotomy between the coast, sold to tourism, and the inside of the island, with wonderful landscapes, villages, people, and cultural way of life. But there, also, tourism begins to affect it."


Score: 48

• "Overcrowded, poor infrastructure for the number of tourists."

• "Conflict discourages tourism. Much more could be done to enhance an understanding of the area."

• "It is a shame that such an important and revered place is neglected."

Borobudur, INDONESIA

Score: 61

• "With all cultural sites, the main problem is related to human activities around it and its conservation."

• "Serious problems with planning for greater commercialization near the temple."

• "Must sustain villagers. World Heritage Sites too often focused on built environment and not on living culture around it."


Score: 51

• "What was once 'clean and green' is increasingly overcrowded and polluted from too many vehicles and overuse of Doi Suthep National Park."

• "The ever-stricter standards for obtaining Thai guide licenses is having a positive effect both on the quality of information available for tourists, and on the appreciation amongst guides of their responsibilities toward the local natural and cultural environment. There are still big problems with hill tribe trekking."

• "Tremendous infrastructure development, lost traditional charm as result. Warm Thai hospitality."


Score: 60

• "Problems with lowering sea level."

• "The lack of tourist facility development enhances this destination's authenticity. But political conflict is present in this part of the world."

• "Certain areas are overcrowded. Future development should not include large-scale development. Increased tourism equals increased pollution."

Great Wall, CHINA

Score: 59

• "Overvisited and not enough interpretation."

• "Partially preserved in several scenic spots with aid of tourism income and government, yet still some problems with preservation as a whole."

• "No good conservation plan is in effect. Absolutely essential if visitors can benefit from this incredible engineering feat."

• "Extraordinary heritage but in bad repair in many places."


Score: 53

• "Currently battling the major highway project that could go straight through the old town. Otherwise officials and the community appear to be working hard to maintain authenticity."

• "Attractions (heritage sites) in very poor condition; urban setting of low quality."

Kyoto Historic District, JAPAN

Score: 74

• "A great deal of effort goes into preserving the most valuable historic sites, but everything around it is ugly and tasteless."

• "Well preserved and managed destination though expensive."

• "Wonderful temple area, beautiful gardens, well preserved, well kept. An example of sustainable tourism. The only fear is the problem of modern urbanization and the height of new buildings."


Score: 64

• "Good progress has been made on local economic benefit and management of impacts."

• "Sites well kept."

• "Visitor management still unsatisfactory at this great world site."

Phuket Area, THAILAND

Score: 43

• "Real hard sell. Tourist boats often deliver pollution to local fishing grounds, and scantily dressed tourists to 'off-the-beaten-track' Muslim communities."

• "With the current tourism climate of 'sell first—value later,' things aren't going to get any better."

• "You'd think the Thais would have learned from the Pattaya experience. Almost inevitably will degrade and decline unless current planning/management changes."

Rajasthan, INDIA

Score: 56

• "Authentic but no idea of sustainability or social integrity."

• "Old Jaisalmere is absolutely stunning and still retains an incredible, authentic medieval atmosphere. Some concerns with the production line for camel-trekking."

• "Changing very fast."

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The Caribbean

Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.


Score: 54

• "Social/cultural integrity is questionable."

• "Inappropriate coastal development and misuse of the scarce water resources are the largest challenges to sustainability."

Bahamian Out Islands

Score: 63

• "Mainly the Out Islands are authentic and unspoiled. Wonderful people who appreciate their islands and their heritage."

• "Except for a couple of islands, there are currently not enough stringent measures and guidelines to ensure a sustainable destination."


Score: 55

• "Beautiful natural and cultural resources. Problems are coastal and unsustainable agriculture."

• "Too many traditional tourism products."

Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

Score: 70

• "The marine park is well managed."

• "It has taken a generation, but this is a good example of how the enlightened self-interests of the local people can be tapped so they are partners in maintaining environmental and ecological quality."

British Virgin Islands

Score: 65

• "Tortola is the big problem because of improper road building and subsequent sedimentation in coral reefs. The rest of the BVIs are beautiful."

• "BV Islanders are beginning to recognize the importance of the surrounding waters and reefs to their primary industry—tourism."

• "Visitation needs to be spread out to some of the lesser known sites and limits set at the most popular destinations."

Havana Historic Center, CUBA

Score: 55

• "Tourism is on the rise and already one sees too many people begging on the street. Crime is very low and Cubans are friendly."

• "Fascinating city from a historic and architectural perspective and also from a restoration and social perspective. While some buildings and neighborhoods have been restored beautifully, others remain in a state of continual deterioration."

• "Rate of decay surpasses redevelopment efforts."


Score: 46

• "The only benefits for locals are employment and the all-inclusive products are doing very little for the local economy. Negril is in serious trouble."

• "Negril is now just another tourist destination. They really don't understand sustainable tourism."


Score: 46

• "Far too rapid development with inadequate environmental planning and infrastructure."

• "Beautiful, beautiful terrain. Although mass tourism is rampant in certain sectors, there is much ecotourism potential."

North Coast, JAMAICA

Score: 42

• "Poverty and corruption, enclave tourism, little economic benefit for locals, no environmental protection, lack of interest in true culture."

• "Well done in some areas, but strictly commercial with little regard for the environment."

St. John, US Virgin Islands

Score: 69

• "Well-preserved nature, beautiful sites."

• "National Park contributes to maintenance of environmental and ecological quality."

St. Lucia

Score: 61

• "Quite pleased with tourism development. This island shows a lot of promise."

• "St. Lucia is very conscious of sustainable development issues. However, St. Lucia appears to be suffering from 'tourist fatigue.' St. Lucians in the restaurants, in particular, do not appear to want to serve visitors."

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Score: 45

• "Massive overvisitation by massive cruise ships with poor waste management; high economic leakage."

• "Intense development and government that refuses to embrace sustainable tourism. Coral reefs being lost at an enormous rate."

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Meso and South America

Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

Belize: reef and islands

Score: 58

• "Some cays manage tourism traffic well, and are not overvisited, while others—Ambergis, for example—receive much mass tourism. Belize government and non-governmental organization are making excellent advances in sustainable tourism and conservation."

• "Islands are varied, but many are slowly being degraded due to lack of environmental controls. Proceed with caution."

Caribbean Coast, Quintana Roo, MEXICO

Score: 46

• "Going, going. A once beautiful and unspoiled corridor is being paved, gated, and commercialized into anyplace USA, but the ruins are still great."

• "Showing signs of massive build-out and low social/cultural integrity and participation."

Costa Rica

Score: 64

• "Have seen much illegal logging in recent trips."

• "Costa Rica started well with some exemplary ecotourism projects, but in the last five years it is swaying to the demands of mass tourism. Too many golf courses and large hotels in the past five years and on the drawing boards."

Cuzco Historic Center, PERU

Score: 65

• "Great Inca and colonial town, but in serious trouble… Without real protection and local participation."

• "Buildings in Cuzco's historic center are well kept and are highly aesthetic. Numerous operators, bars, shops, Internet cafes, restaurants, and hotels catering to tourists have taken over the center of town, which may be seen as a positive economic influence for many."

Easter Island, CHILE

Score: 71

• "More care and thought is needed in developing tourism and mitigating problems that are currently arising."

• "State government should take the responsibility to implement conservation practices and follow through."

Galápagos, ECUADOR

Score: 67

• "Increased development from mainland residents and illegal fishing are threatening this area. Amazing natural area, unique, and precious to the global mix of bio-regions."

• "Conservation strong, interpretive programs excellent. Other tourism- and fishing-related problems causing damage to the islands and waters."

Guanajuato, MEXICO

Score: 68

• "Authentic old mining city."

• "An undiscovered gem. Is this the most European city in North America or what?"


Score: 63

• "In general, there is much mass tourism with little interpretation offered on trails, little attempt to follow principles of sustainability."

• "Great place, but there is no harmony between the tourism being practiced and the area."

Lake Titicaca, BOLIVIA/PERU

Score: 59

• "Lacks overall planning management and lacks social/cultural integrity and participation of local communities."

• "The cultures of Taquile and Amantani Island have maintained their social/cultural integrity and benefit from tourism through the sale of artisan goods, homestays, and local restaurants. Local guides are very informative."

Machu Picchu, PERU

Score: 66

• "Fascinating, exotic, needs to be protected from overcommercialization."

• "Machu Picchu already is getting more people that can be managed with the infrastructure it has."

Salvador (Bahia) Historic Center, BRAZIL

Score: 65

• "Training of local population to understand tourists and their role moving slowly."

• "The old buildings on the main street of Pelourinho are well kept but are run down elsewhere in the old town. Local restaurants, shops, and hotels benefit from tourists. African/Brazilian culture has been maintained although outside influences are evident."

Sea of Cortez and Its Coast, MEXICO

Score: 61

• "Need more planning to conserve environmental and ecological quality."

Tikal/Flores, GUATEMALA

Score: 61

• "Tikal is wonderful, the most amazing of all ancient Maya sites. Flores is a dump."

• "The ecological value of Tikal is immense. The visitor interpretation program badly needs improvement."

• "Were Tikal to receive international assistance in developing sustainable, local-benefiting tourism, a little bit of support could go a long way. It's not too late to save it."

Torres del Paine, CHILE

Score: 78

• "In very good shape; some problems with campsites (huts) along the circuit and around the torres."

• "It's a remarkable site. The trail system is low impact, the transportation of food and employees is by animal, there's little environmental pollution. It's getting overcrowded, and measures need to be taken to mitigate any problems, but overall a sensational area."

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Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

Acropolis, GREECE

Score: 51

• "Fantastic view and sense of history—need for care/maintenance."

• "Many places like the Acropolis lack a good interpretation program that can help visitors better understand the meaning and significance of the site as well as to manage visitors in a way that reduces impact."


Score: 46

• "Uncontrolled shoreline development."

• "Developments aimed at capitalizing mass-market tourism have destroyed the natural environment."

Alpine Regions, SWITZERLAND

Score: 71

• "For such a densely populated nation, Switzerland's innate awareness of aesthetics and land husbandry make for a comfortable proximity of towns and wild/open space."

• "Heavy high altitude ski-development is troubling."

Amalfi Coast, ITALY

Score: 61

• "Has reached the limits of carrying capacity in terms of impact on the physical environment."

• "Tourism numbers increased at a quick rate in recent years, putting stress on infrastructure and the environment. The Italian government has invested very little in planning; local municipalities rate a little higher."

Amsterdam Historic Center, NETHERLANDS

Score: 65

• "Sleaze, tack, and takeaway food."

• "Amsterdam does a great job with visitor experience. The historic area is well preserved."

• "Good aesthetic view of buildings, channels and streets. Not so good condition of water and air."

Azure Coast, TURKEY

Score: 58

• "Paradise lost."

• "The coastline is somewhat saturated and disfigured by buildings and urbanization. But the historical sites and landscapes are still unique. A little further from the coast, you can discover the Turkish way of life, and people who are very welcoming."

Baden Baden, GERMANY

Score: 70

• "Beautiful city center, very ecologically oriented city administration."

• "Baden Baden is trying hard to manage its success. Marketing needs to attract a public that will respect the tremendous history."

Balearic Islands, SPAIN

Score: 50

• "The destination is mass-tourism oriented. There have been attempts to revise the tourism product. However, the pressures and the intensity of development are so high that a reversal is unlikely."

• "Traditional tourism is now replaced by secondary residence tourism and the built environment is growing every year. Sustainable regional development has not been adequately addressed, and the islander culture, as well as the language, is in danger."

Bavarian Alps, GERMANY

Score: 70

• "Unusually pristine for such a long-inhabited region. Even towns are attractive, being generally compact."

• "Ski resort proliferation."

Brittany, FRANCE

Score: 69

• "Wonderfully low key and authentic in feel, even in places with high tourist numbers such as St. Malo. The French and Bretons seem to know how to protect their heritage and culture."

• "Largely unspoiled, but future pressures are likely to increase."

• "Development not always appropriate."

Canary Islands

Score: 52

• "Perceptions in tourism trade are that Canary Islands have been overdeveloped and degraded."

• "Large masses of tourists in concentrated areas a serious threat to environment; commodification of local culture."

Capri, ITALY

Score: 62

• "Ecological vulnerability of being a small island. Well-preserved historical center."

• "Has reached the limits of carrying capacity."

Corfu (Kerkira), GREECE

Score: 57

• "Beautiful, but pressures likely to increase, so local integrity and environment need to be carefully maintained."

• "It is under siege, and serious intervention should be done now."

Costa Brava, SPAIN

Score: 46

• "Overcrowded, mass tourism, unappealing, beaches in poor condition."

• "Contrast between coast (heavy impacts) and interior (fewer impacts)."

Costa del Sol, SPAIN

Score: 41

• "The epitome of overdeveloped mass-tourism."

• "Bulldoze and start again. Jerry-built flats and hotels, abysmal architecture,
degraded beaches. Too much built, too quick with too little forethought—the antithesis of sustainability."


Score: 67

• "Some intrusive development."

• "Environmental quality difficult to sustain because of traffic."

• "The Cotswolds may be the original theme park. Delightful to the eye. Best in the off-season."


Score: 55

• "Larger hotel developments not always in keeping with local character."

• "Excessive shoreline development in the northern part."

• "Good environmental condition in inner areas of the island, but beach areas in serious danger."

Dubrovnik, CROATIA

Score: 71

• "Damage from recent conflict is almost imperceptible. The old town is a wonderful heritage site. Mass-tourism developments beyond the central area are not well thought out but could be a lot worse. Croatians have recognized the need for land-use planning and are going in the right direction."

• "Very good condition, but pressures and threats are grossly underestimated."

French Riviera

Score: 48

• "Spoiled nature! Lost most of its charms due to overbuilding—quality management of public space is insufficient."

• "Wonderful physical setting but abysmally overdeveloped. No sense of being in France. Degraded, overcrowded beaches."

Heidelberg, GERMANY

Score: 73

• "Example of best practice in urban environmental destination management."

• "Good authentic quality, well maintained."


Score: 65

• "Archaic and expensive transport links to the mainland are likely to restrain rapid change. Young people will continue to leave the island, retaining the Isle's 'retirement town' image."

• "Ecosystem fairly intact."

Krakow Historic Center, POLAND

Score: 70

• "Environment is the most negative aspect. Social integration with tourism better than many comparable destinations."

• "A historic center with many potentials, but investment required for reuse of historic buildings, for improvement of the hospitality sector."


Score: 64

• "There are certainly crowding problems, including serious traffic jams. Despite all this, development is tightly controlled, and it is a site with the interaction between natural and cultural as one of its key attractions."

• "Considering the pressures, this National Park has been successful in managing its tourism industry so as to preserve the landscape that people go there for. It has maintained its customs and atmosphere in the face of large tourist numbers."

Loire Valley, FRANCE

Score: 69

• "Cultural landscape well maintained."

• "It's well preserved, but not as attractive as it seems in brochures."

• "Considering the enormous amount of visitors: good visitor management; historic sites well kept."

Mont-Saint-Michel, FRANCE

Score: 61

• "Superb site physically, but extremely overvisited, inappropriate guiding for a religious site."

• "Overrun by visitors in peak periods. Opening the bay to tidal flows will be a positive step."

Norwegian Fjords

Score: 82

• "This place has wonderful, living traditional culture, wonderful landscape, not crowded. I am very happy how this destination is managed. Excellent environmental quality, local people involved in a very smooth way. Very good."

• "Need to pay attention to environmental impacts, built heritage well preserved, great scenery."

Pompeii, ITALY

Score: 62

• "Amazing site within terrible surroundings. It will need much better conservation measures to help preserve the ruins and the surrounding environment."

• "Authentic substance but serious problems with conservation of recovered remains; frustrating lack of information on site."

Porto Historic Center, PORTUGAL

Score: 61

• "Very interesting town but problems with litter and traffic."

• "Efforts to improve attractions, infrastructure underway, but difficult to move around now."

Prague's Historic Center, CZECH REPUBLIC

Score: 64

• "Positive: aesthetic appeal and future outlook. Negative: air pollution and social integration."

• "Very authentic city, one of the most beautiful settings, but tourism impact too aggressive."

• "Needs protection from neon lights and westernized fast food restaurants. Western influences are changing the social structure."

Rhine Valley, GERMANY

Score: 66

• "Road traffic along the river is a problem."

• "Pockets of quality but real intrusions."

• "Real feeling of Germany."

Ring of Kerry, IRELAND

Score: 71

• "Has coped well with recent drive to encourage tourism."

• "Great, atmospheric place but traffic problems on narrow roads."

• "Quality of some of the heritage tourist attractions is poor and development of golf courses could be seen as inappropriate."

Salzburg Historic Center, AUSTRIA

Score: 72

• "Excellent historic preservation, outstanding aesthetic appeal, both natural and human-made, a lot of historic sites, the best state of environment one can imagine."

• "Very charming old city and remarkable landscapes, but really too crowded."

Scottish Highlands, UNITED KINGDOM

Score: 75

• "Mostly in good shape except for occasional hot spots. Still retains the aura of remoteness and mystery."

• "Needs more tourism of the cultural and natural heritage kind. Too much cheap coach traffic with little economic benefit accruing to community or for conservation of natural and cultural resources."

• "Beautiful place to travel. Locals appear to have accommodated tourism without sacrificing their traditional way of life."

St. Petersburg Historic Center, RUSSIA

Score: 56

• "Buildings in poor state of repair, and crime. Most of what you see is restoration. Some bad. Some good. Well worth the visit."

• "A great cultural monument, masterpiece of classic architecture, including landscape. Unfortunately, care for it was poor during last decades."

Tuscany, ITALY

Score: 71

• "Authentic, genuine, agritourism effective in retaining local benefits."

• "Many beautiful landscapes available, relatively unaffected by signs of development. Traffic in Florence very intense; countryside still has narrow and dirt roads through beautiful scenery."

• "As a whole it is remarkable how well the area maintains its integrity
notwithstanding the amount of tourism. The city is a different story."

Venice, ITALY

Score: 49

• "An ecological and social mess."

• "A riddled situation where authenticity equates to decay, heavy-handed schemes to control water levels in the lagoon could have huge irreversible impacts on the city and its surrounding ecology; the 'life within' is continuously being eroded in favor of a predominantly tourist experience."

• "This is an endangered city. The sinking buildings and the ongoing global ocean level rise will lead to severe problems for this city in the future."

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North America

Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

California Wine Country, USA

Score: 63

• "Too much conversion of prime forest and agricultural land to vineyards, overuse of pesticides and herbicides."

• "Popularity threatens to swamp the region. It is inherently pretty; wine-making is agriculture, after all. But traffic is heavy on most two-lane roads. Still, a rewarding, interesting destination."

Cape Breton Island, CANADA

Score: 78

• "The National Park and the island ecosystem are in great shape."

• "Retains some sense of remoteness."

• "Locals here seem genuinely happy to see tourists, so they must be doing something right."

Cape Cod, USA

Score: 63

• "Blend of authentic with noticeable tourism."

• "Cape Cod is Cape Cod. Crowded in the summer. Great the rest of the year. It's been overdeveloped forever. I think that's what people expect. What saves it is the National Seashore."

Charleston, SC, Historic Center, USA

Score: 71

• "One of the few towns to successfully reconnect with its waterfront. Business booms but the historic center still retains its authenticity."

• "Be careful of commercialized junk and trinkets."

Colorado Rockies, USA

Score: 71

• "Large enough to take a lot of abuse but still needs political protection before it is too late."

• "Fantastic natural area with several development problems."

• "Skiing areas need more stringent planning control."

Everglades, USA

Score: 54

• "Alteration of waterways into the Everglades has significantly changed the hydrology and hence the ecology of the area. There are wonderful plans to correct this over time, but money and politics are the major blocks, not easy to remedy."

• "A very special place that is threatened more by surrounding nontourism activities than by excess visitation or abuse from tourists."

Four Corners (Colorado Plateau), USA

Score: 69

• "Subdivision of old lands is a major threat to current landscapes and ecosystems."

• "Moab has lost some of its charm, but the power of the huge spaces keep things in the positive range."

Grand Canyon, USA

Score: 65

• "Flights over canyon a problem, as are ecological effects of Glen Canyon Dam upstream."

• "The North Rim is far more peaceful. Good management of heavy South Rim visitation makes for an enjoyable experience but not a solitary, meditative one."

Great Smoky Mountains, USA

Score: 49

• "Smoky Mountains National Park is surrounded by a bathtub ring of ugly, insensitive development."

• "Depending on where you enter, the area can be absolutely splendid or absolutely tragic. Communities are beginning to work together, but the impact of 10 million visitors each year must be dealt with."

• "This is one of the saddest situations anywhere—an extraordinary ecosystem being destroyed by external forces."

• "Gateway towns are shameful."


Score: 62

• "Significant improvements to save the culture are currently underway. Danger of overuse of some areas still exists."

• "Too much emphasis on increasing numbers of visitors without adequate management planning or impact assessment."

• "Hawaii is still a paradise when visitors plan properly. New initiatives and public policy offer hope that both the culture and the environment can be better protected and in some cases restored."

Inside Passage, ALASKA/CANADA

Score: 71

• "Some problems with cruise-ship pollution and overcrowding at hot spots like Skagway, but can still be a relatively low impact trip with much to admire."

• "Scenic quality is as real as the concern over future development. More interpretive efforts are needed. Greater emphasis is being placed on the cruise-line operators to protect the resources that make such trips attractive."

Key West, FL, USA

Score: 43

• "Reefs face peril."

• "Remains a unique, charming, exotic city. But real estate development, absurdly heavy cruise-ship passenger foot traffic, and water problems are reaching critical mass."

• "The island's character has been robbed by cruise ships and greedy development. Hard to see how it could rebound, but maybe if they dramatically limit the ships."

• "Preservation and antidevelopment sentiment is growing; the island might regain some of what's been lost."

Lake Tahoe, USA

Score: 60

• "Amazing scenery, recreational heaven, but development and crowding are affecting the destination."

• "South Lake Tahoe development is ghastly casinos, tacky hotels, cheap condos. The North Shore is more upscale; the West Shore older, vintage. Water quality remains high, but pressure from popularity is constant."

Maine Coast, USA

Score: 71

• "The Maine Coast is suffering from skyrocketing visitor numbers."

• "Basically in good shape, especially from Acadia east to Eastport."

• "Rows of summer houses virtually along everywhere on the coast."

Mid-Coast CALIF. (Santa Barbara-Monterey)

Score: 63

• "Too much traffic at times, but the incredible beauty of the region makes being stuck a delight."

• "Coast in this region is lovely, and coastal zoning laws are strong, promising long-term preservation and growth management. But the coast is lined with upscale residential developments, mitigating the aesthetic experience and limited beach access."

Northern California Coasts (Marin-Eureka)

Score: 71

• "A much wilder coast, much less populated, excellent for driving trips and small town sojourns."

• "Sheer beauty and very well protected."

Outer Banks, NC, USA

Score: 52

• "Massive second home development and strip commercial development is changing the Outer Banks for the worse."

• "In serious trouble, overcrowded, junk tourism, no planning."

• "Abuse of the word 'ecotourism' for marketing purposes."

Quebec City Historic Center, CANADA

Score: 74

• "The old town of Quebec City is culturally vibrant."

• "This place is awesome. Superb historical renovation projects."

• "Future outlook in terms of sustainability is positive. Excellent."

Rocky Mountain Parks, CANADA

Score: 76

• "The management plans, looking up to 100 years ahead, are exemplary."

• "Positive travel experience but a little bit commercial."

• "Impacts of tourism recognized and some moves are being made to maintain ecological integrity; however still negative impacts on wildlife throughout Rocky Mountains."

San Juan Islands, WA, USA

Score: 67

• "Has somehow maintained its appeal and quality over time. Seems to be strong local stewardship that ensures effective public policy that is protecting the resource."

• "Lacks an integrated tourism development and management plan."

Vermont, USA

Score: 74

• "Compared to most U.S. destinations, Vermont is still in great shape. No billboards, relatively little sprawl. A strong sense of place, but its uniqueness is slowly eroding."

• "One of the few places where a large percentage of the populace is committed to conservation/preservation over injudicious development."

Yellowstone, USA

Score: 71

• "Supposed to be the "flagship" of America's National Park System yet is in dire need of more funding for maintenance. Over 95 percent of visitors never get beyond the overlooks. Backcountry is one of the greatest unused resources in the world."

• "Threatened by snowmobile use, air pollution, overuse, rancher issues."

Yosemite Valley, USA

Score: 66

• "We all know the Valley is crowded, but this park is a particularly special one. Even with all the people both the valley and the backcountry are breathtakingly beautiful and intellectually stimulating places."

• "Scenery is great. The attempts at traffic management are to be commended, but tourist numbers are a problem at certain times."

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Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality, during the rating process. These excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.

Bay of Islands, NEW ZEALAND

Score: 73

• "Great place, well managed."


Score: 62

• "In most parts Fiji is still 'authentic.' Of course there are also many hotel developments along the Coral Coast that put pressures on the environment."

• "Amazing resources but is threatened with international fishing and mining activities; little protection at the moment."

Great Barrier Reef, AUSTRALIA

Score: 66

• "The reef is well managed, but there are very real problems stemming from land use on the adjacent mainland and the fragmented management units involved."

• "A beautiful and unique environment, but it is already degraded and needs careful management to ensure that it does not deteriorate further."

• "Stunning scenery, very popular destination with increasing tourist traffic; however, operators do seem to be doing their part to preserve and protect the reef. Many areas surrounding it are very touristy."

South Island, NEW ZEALAND

Score: 78

• "Terrific context of history and natural resources, along with primary rural economy. Great scenic background and people. The New Zealand Department of Conservation takes these challenges seriously. Their management of resources should be examples for many others."

• "A lesson for us all. Still a few issues with indigenous rights but strong on nature, tourism, environment, general community development."


Score: 53

• "Tourism has had a big impact on the island and local culture due to large resorts, but still a beautiful place to go."

• "Need to distinguish between Tahiti and other islands in French Polynesia. Tahiti has been the commercial center for centuries. You don't expect much there. But the other islands—wow!"


Score: 77

• "Heritage assets still well conserved but need to watch commercialization in and around major parks."

• "The logging industry is out of control and the recent exemption of logging from the endangered species act is atrocious. All aspects are positive except for logging."

Uluru (Ayer's Rock) Area, AUSTRALIA

Score: 71

• "The work of the indigenous community with their tours and outstanding interpretation center as well as the licensing requirements for guides to the park are excellent. Casual visitors will not be aware of the extent of the work being done here and its success."

• "Excellent management plan for park, but the local Aboriginal community still appears to be under pressure either from too little involvement or too much tourism."

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Rate your favorite places 

Here's what panelists were asked. Using the criteria they used, try to rate your favorite destination. First, consider the following:

• Environmental and ecological quality.

• Social/cultural integrity.

• Condition of built heritage (archaeological, historic, and current structures).

• Aesthetic appeal, both natural and human-made.

• The nature of tourism development: To what degree is it of appropriate character? Does it benefit local people in a way that encourages protection of the locale? How well are tourists informed about the locale and their proper role in it?

• And, perhaps most important, the future outlook for the destination in terms of sustainability, taking into account all prevailing stewardship practices and policies.

Now, assign an overall score using the one-to-10-point Destination Outlook Scale:

1 to 2: Catastrophic: all criteria very negative, outlook grim.

3 to 4: In serious trouble.

5 to 6: In moderate trouble: all criteria medium-negative or a mix of negatives and positives.

7 to 8: Minor difficulties.

9: Authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so.

10: Enhanced.

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Meet our Panelists
*partial list

Frances B. Affandy, Anthropologist
Alejandro A. Alva Balderrama, Architect
Salvador Anton Clave, Geographer
Graeme Aplin, Geographer
Dr. Greg Ashworth, Geographer
Marin Bachvarov, Geographer
Shirley Barnes, Recreation Planner
Dr. Thomas Bauer, Tourism Educator and Consultant
Dr. Sue Beeton, Senior Lecturer (Tourism Marketing)
Dr. Ray Bondin, Urban Planner
Dr. Mark A. Bonn, Professor of Tourism
Robert S. Bristow, Ph.D., Recreation Geographer
William L. Bryan, Jr., Ph.D., Travel Executive
Heather Burke, Archaeologist
Lisa M. Butler Harrington, Geographer
Kerstin S. Canby, Environmental and Protected Areas Specialist
Dr. Arturo Carballo-Sandoval, Tourism Consultant
Dr. Neil Carr, University Lecturer
Dr. Olgun Cicek, Associate Professor of Tourism Management
Thomas A. Clark, Ph.D., Professor
Neil Clifton, Conservation Manager
Tom Clynes, Author and Journalist
Professor Harry Coccossis, Urban-Regional Planner
Dr. David Cole, Geographer
Grant Cushman, Leisure and Tourism Specialist
Chandra de Silva, Ecotourism Specialist
Jean-Michel Dewailly, Tourism Geographer
Allan Doherty, Senior Tourism Policy Advisor
Andy Drumm, Ecotourism Specialist
Dr. Hilary du Cros, CHM Academic
Richard G. Edwards, Tour Operator
Thor Flognfeldt, Jr, Tourism Geography Professor
Tim Foggin, MA, Tourism Consultant
Ford C. Frick, Resort Consultant
Dr. Carolin Funck, Geographer
William C. Gartner, Economist
Maurizio Giannone, Tourism Specialist
Dr. Harold Goodwin, Tourism Specialist
Romy Greiner, Ecological Economist
Tony Griffin, Tourism Lecturer
Tony Hansen, Ecotourism Consultant
David Harrison, Sociologist of Tourism Development
Phillip S. Hattingh, Geographer & Tourism Consultant
Dr. Donald E. Hawkins, Professor, George Washington University
Professor David Herbert, Geographer
Joseph M. Hnatiuk, MSc., Ecologist
Valerie Hume, Geographer
Dr. Kristin DeNure Hunt, Tourism Consultant
Dr. John D. Hunt, Tourism Planning
Thomas J. Iverson, Ph.D., Economist
Ariane Janér, Sustainable Tourism Consultant
Myriam Jansen-Verbeke, Professor / Tourism Studies
Ian S. Jenkins, Tourism Specialist
Dr. Simon Jennings, Geographer
Kenneth Anthony Johnson Diaz, HidroBiologist
Claudia Jurowski, Ph.D., Professor
Michael J. Kaczor, Heritage Program Manager
Maryam Khan, Ph.D., Tourism Specialist
Zoran Klaric, Ph.D., Tourism Consultant
Jack W. Klassen, Sustainable Tour Operator
Jithendran Kokkranikal, Tourism Educator
Philippe la Hausse de Lalouviere, Natural Scientist
Bruce Leaver, Conservation Manager
MSc Svjetlana Serovic Loncar, Researcher
Professor Patrick Long, Tourism Researcher and Educator
Dr. Ted Manning, Geographer, Tourism Consultant
Rafael Matos, Geographer
Lester D. Matthews, Lecturer
Yuri Mazourov, Geographer
Ed McMahon, Vice-President, The Conservation Fund
Matt McNulty, Tourism Consultant
João Meirelles, Environmentalist and Ecotourist
Klaus J. Meyer-Arendt, Coastal Geographer
Mark Miller, Journalist
Christa Morawa, Tourism Specialist
Sanjay K. Nepal, Ph.D., Geographer
Kunga Ngece N, Ecotourism Consultant
Lars Nyberg, Geographer
Claudia Polley, Museum Consultant
Bruce Poon Tip, CEO - G.A.P Adventures
Dr. Hari Kumar Pradhan, Tourism Specialist
Pushkar K. Pradhan, Ph.D., Regional Planner
Garry Price, University lecturer
Vicente Ramos, Economist
Jeff Rennicke, Travel Writer
Peter Richards, Community Based Tourism Project Assistant
Dr. Linda K. Richter, Professor of Political Science
Dr. Greg Ringer, Assistant Professor, International Tourism
K. Rivett-Carnac, Tourism Consultant
Kelly F. Robinson, Tourism Specialist
Abigail Rome, Ecotourism Consultant
Ronald Sanabria, Industrial Engineer
Dr. Rafael Sarda, Ecologist
Frans Schouten, Professor Visitor Management
Tom Selanniemi, Anthropologist, Tour Operator
Francisco Serra, Ph.D., Professor, Tourism specialist
Indriani Setiawati, Ecotourism Consultant
Dr. Elwood Shafer, Tourism Professor
Dr. Ronald V. Shaklee, Geographer
Ercan Sirakaya, Tourism Professor
Julian Smith, Travel Writer
Manuel Stefanakis, Consultant in Sustainable Development
Harold Stone, Environmental Planner
Russell K. Tippett, Educator
Indra P. Tiwari, Regional Development Specialist
Bob Toth, Tourism Certification Consultant
Dr. Pascal Tremblay, Tourism Academic
Jakub Trojan, Geographer
Richard Tuck, Ecotourism Developer
Dr. Alenka Verbole, Sociologist and Tourism Specialist
Carolyn Wild, Ecotourism Consultant
Paul F. Wilkinson, Tourism Geographer
Cary Wolinsky, National Geographic Photographer
Poh Poh Wong, Geographer
Rosa Maria Yague Perales, Tourism Teacher
Christopher Young, Archaeologist

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