Destinations React to Traveler Magazine's Scorecard

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MacDonald knows that potential environmental problems—such as contentious plans for shoreline gas and oil exploration—could jeopardize the island's rank. Speaking to Canadian Press, Tourtellot agreed, warning, "You have a lot to lose."

And prompted by a middling score, Costa Rica's Tico Times described the conflict between perceptions of the country as an ecotourism destination and the realities of mass tourism and deforestation, reflected in comments by scorecard panelists.

While noting conservation organizations' efforts to improve sustainability practices in Costa Rica, the article quoted William Rodriguez, president of the National Tourism Association. Rodriguez acknowledged the presence of "the kind of tourism that could be called generic—big hotels, sun, and beaches." He added that protection of the ecosystem remains essential to Costa Rica's appeal.

Panelists Comments Released

The "Destination Scorecard" ratings were based on a survey of some 200 experts in fields such as urban planning, sustainable tourism, anthropology, and geography.

Some expert comments were blunt appraisals: "Amazing site within terrible surroundings," was one summation of Italy's Pompeii. But panelists could be enthusiastic, as well. One called the colonial city of Guanajuato, Mexico, "an undiscovered gem." Comments were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality.

In the March article, Traveler included only a few of the experts' comments. Now sample quotes for all 115 destinations have been released, including these noteworthy remarks:

Comments on High Scorers

• Torres del Paine, Chile: "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 is getting overcrowded, and measures need to be taken to mitigate any problems, but overall a sensational area."

• Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles: "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."

• Alpine regions, Switzerland: "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."

Comments on Medium Scorers

• Salvador (Bahia) historic center, Brazil: "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."

• Lake Tahoe, United States: "Amazing scenery, recreational heaven, but development and crowding are affecting the destination."

• Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt: "Another very special area that needs much improved visitor interpretation. Must set carrying capacity or limits of acceptable change."

Comments on Low Scorers

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

• French Riviera: "Lost most of its charms due to overbuilding—quality management of public space is insufficient."

•Algarve, Portugal: "Developments aimed at capitalizing mass market tourism have destroyed the natural environment."

See all comments.

Download a two-page summary (PDF version) of scores and survey methedology.

For more TravelWatch news, scroll down.

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