National Geographic Traveler
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November/December 2007
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Island Destinations Rated: East & Southeast Asia

Introduction       Africa     Caribbean Region     East & Southeast Asia    

Indian Ocean Region     Mediterranean     North & West Europe    

North America      Pacific/Australia/NZ     South America    

Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality during the rating process. These lightly edited 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.

Bali, Indonesia
Score: 57

"Bali is one of the world's magical places. Even though it has been overrun by tourism development and population growth, somehow it has been able to maintain its unique character, though some parts of the island—Denpasar, Kuta Beach—are now incredibly degraded and depressing for those of us who knew Bali in the good old days."
"Yes, Kuta and Nusa Dua represent the ugly faces of crass commercialism—but if they are developed as specific mass tourism enclaves and generate income, and if development in the rest of the island is more restrained, Bali will still be worth visiting. The flowers are still colorful, the smiles still warm, the rice fields still
mesmerizing, and the gamelan music still a calming, soothing backdrop—after 30 years of rampant development."
"Bali is a mixed bag of tourism projects that represent the absolute worst (Kuta) in sustainable travel and some of the best (Ubud)."
"In spite of the recent terrorist events, Bali is still an excellent destination. Magnificent rice terraced landscapes. Gentle, warm people. The culture is strong, vivid, and vibrant. Facilities are varied, catering to many tastes. However, beaches are not good, and the environment is under threat from destruction of reefs and mangroves, linear development, salt water intrusion, etc."
Jeju/Cheju, South Korea
Score: 64

"One of the most visited scenic areas in Korea has been under heavy tourism pressure. There was obvious tourism impact such as at the top of Hala Mountain. However, efforts are made to control the tourism impact and raise awareness about conservation. Biosphere Reserve status encouraged more local discussion on environmental sustainability. A new information center has been built focusing particularly on geological features such as large lava tunnels. Local cultural traditions are well kept in rural areas."
"An island with natural beauty. Tourism development seems to be focused mainly on man-made attractions. Mainly developed for domestic tourists, as most of the signage, leaflets, and interpretations are in Korean."
"Developed areas seem fake and contrived . . . tourism for tourism's sake, offering visitors little but well-branded facilities, attractions, and dining. Probably OK for domestic honeymooners."
"Under review as potential World Heritage site. Generally in excellent condition and extremely well-managed, despite high numbers of domestic visitors."

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Lombok, Indonesia
Score: 62

"Bali's little sister. Lower numbers of visitors than Bali, so has been slower to develop. Some luxury accommodations. It is relaxed, and the local government expresses concern for careful development. There is a lack of interpretive information, although guidebooks generally tell the stories well."
"Lombok has many scenic natural sites and some lovely, comfortable hotels. It also has several strips of beach that are overdeveloped and disappointing. Some of the cultural tourism in the south is a bit like 'human zoo' tourism, where tourists are accosted by aggressive local people in local dress."
"The strong Islamic culture to a certain extent ensures its cultural survival from the tourist onslaught. A lot of tourist development, some of it illegal, threatens the integrity of its seashores. Huge gap between the tourism resort culture and local incomes and traditions."
Palawan, Philippines
Score: 72

"Incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines. The Calamianes Group of Islands in northern Palawan are particularly beautiful—extensive fringing reefs, sandy beaches, majestic vertical karst cliffs, mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and protected bays and inlets. Home to indigenous peoples who consider the land and sea their ancestral domains. To date, tourism development has been selective and purposive, thereby preserving islands' aesthetic appeal as well as social/cultural and environmental integrity."
"The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since early 1990s, showing local interest for conservation and sustainable development. More work needed to protect karst forests and marine biodiversity, as well as to promote community-based tourism for social benefit."
"Town of Nido is undergoing significant growth of tourism enterprises. Some inappropriate coastal development is associated with this (e.g., foreshore development). Care will be required to maintain values appealing to visitors. Current environment unspoiled. Waters surrounding El Nido appear clean."
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Phuket, Thailand
Score: 46

 "Chaotic development. The Thai people do not realize what a beautiful island we have. They continue to over-exploit all the island's resources. Old buildings from the pioneer settlement era still can be found downtown. However, many are not taken care of. No building code harmonizing construction with the natural settings, especially on Pathong beach (ugly high-rise building). We missed the window of opportunity after the 2004 tsunami to clean out illegal coastal development. Very sad."
"Phuket's original charm as an astonishingly beautiful, unspoiled, and culturally rich destination has been completely lost."
 "Given the tsunami, it's wonderful to see what has been achieved to rebuild people's lives in two and a half years. What I experienced is a credit to small and micro businesses that kept faith in the tourism future of the island. Like all destinations, there are various ecological, social, and economic challenges."
"A planning disaster! Reputation for bars and illicit activities overwhelm the natural charm of the Thai people. Prostitution and urban sprawl rampant."
"Too much tourism development without a plan. Pathong is a classical sex-tourism destination, probably worse than Bangkok. Some nice resorts and beaches. The water 'looks' fine, but is polluted."

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