Do you love to travel? Are you interested in what happens to the places you travel to?
Or to places you have yet to visit? Will they still be “unspoiled” by the time you get there?
Now you can offer your opinion about protecting such places—to people who are doing something about it.
Destinations around the world these days contend with everything from poverty to mass tourism, from vanishing wildlife to vanishing cultures, from decaying history to billboard eyesores. And in some of those places, local leaders are taking action. They are rallying around the concept of becoming a “sustainable destination.” For travelers seeking authentic experiences in unspoiled places, this is good news.
And “sustainable” means . . . ?
But what, exactly, qualifies whole cities or states or regions to call themselves sustainable? Is it just recycling? Or does it mean respecting local culture, supporting indigenous music, protecting scenery, caring for historic places?
An international group called the Global Sustainable Tourism Council has been striving to lay out criteria that provide the answer. Supported for three years by the United Nations Foundation and aided by Sustainable Travel International, the GSTC and its volunteer Destinations Working Group (of which I am a member) have been soliciting opinions on the matter from around the world. The result is a proposed set of more than 30 criteria for destination leaders to steer by. The criteria address such matters as tourist behavior, local resident rights, protection for wildlife and historic places, fair trade for artisans, truth in travel advertising, and on.
Most of the work in sustainable travel goes on behind the scenes, among professionals. The GSTC wants make sure that two critical groups have their say: Destination hosts—the people who live there—and destination guests, the travelers who visit the place, or hope to.
Your Chance to Weigh In
If you have read this far, you may just be interested enough to click on the GSTC’s criteria questionnaire and offer your opinion about the criteria.
WARNING! It’s a slog; make a cup of coffee and plan on spending at least half an hour. Be sure to identify things you think are missing, as well as things that perhaps don’t belong. You can suggest revisions, and you don’t have to do it in one sitting. Just finish before the new deadline, March 15, 2013.
The GSTC effort seems as close to an international consensus as we’re likely to get. The criteria are dry and wonky, but they can make a difference. Destinations are already signing up, from Norway’s Fjordland to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole. Before you dive in, you can see more about evaluating the criteria here, as well as a list of the “early adopter” destinations.
This is your chance to be heard. The results may help shape the future of the places you love.