Locals gather on an overcrowded beach in Nha Trang, Vietnam, where "overdevelopment without a watchful eye" has plummeted the region to the bottom of this year's "Destinations Rated" scorecard, an annual ratings list compiled by the National Geographic Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations.
To create the ratings, the center convened an independent panel of 340 experts in fields from historic preservation and sustainable tourism to travel writing and archaeology. The panel was asked to score 99 coastal hot spots around the world, using categories such as "top rated," "doing well," "in the balance," "facing trouble," and "bottom rated." (See pictures of 2009's best and worst destinations.)
As in previous years, the panel based its decisions on six criteria: environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of tourism management, and outlook for the future. (Read more about the survey method.) The results appear in the November/December 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. (Both National Geographic News and Traveler are part of the National Geographic Society.)
In Nha Trang, the resort town is "fast becoming ruined by rampant commercial development," one anonymous panelist noted. "The once nice beaches are packed with hotels and bars. I would not return."
(Related: "Best Beaches: Top Ten U.S. Shores of 2009 in Pictures.")