WASHINGTON (Nov. 2, 2010)—Coastal destinations are generally everyone’s favorite vacation spots. Yet, as more and more people visit, as development soars and as sea levels rise, pressure on these destinations has increased. The sustainability of coastal areas is the focus of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s seventh annual “Places Rated” destination stewardship survey. The survey rates 99 of the world’s great islands, beaches and coastlines by measuring the evaluations of 340 well-traveled experts in a variety of fields. The study assesses each destination’s authenticity and stewardship, determining the qualities that make it unique and providing a measure of its “integrity of place.” The criteria used were environmental and ecological quality; social and cultural integrity; condition of historical buildings and archaeological sites; aesthetic appeal; quality of tourism management; and outlook for the future. The results of the survey are published in the November-December 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler, along with profiles of seven destinations with interesting stories. Representative panelist comments for all 99 places are posted at http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/coastal-destinations-rated/.
Taking top honors and heading the “Top-Rated” category — places in excellent shape, relatively unspoiled and likely to remain so — is Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, with a score of 84 (out of 100 possible points). The easternmost point in North America, Avalon Peninsula is home to brightly painted fishing villages and the lively city of St. John’s. Judges note its strong social and cultural appeal reflected in music and art, and unspoiled scenery, and they extol its “stunning natural and cultural integrity.”
Among the 18 other destinations in the top-rated category (between 84 and 74 points) are:
-Wales: Pembrokeshire coast (80 points, tied at #2)
-New Zealand: Tutukaka Coast, Northland (80 points, tied #2)
-Hawaii: Na Pali Coast, Kauai (79 points, tied at #4)
-Chile: Chilean fjords (79 points, tied at #4)
-British Columbia: Gulf Islands (79 points, #7)
-Scotland: Moray Firth coast, Inverness to Peterhead (76 points, tied at #10)
-Italy: Cinque Terra (76 points, tied at #10)
-Namibia: Skeleton Coast (75 points, tied at #13)
-Oregon: Oregon coast (75 points, tied at #13)
Coastal destinations rated “Doing Well,” in the 73- to 65-point range, are those that retain a sense of place, with a few surmountable problems. The 21 destinations in this category include:
-Portugal: Southern Atlantic coast (73 points)
-Malaysia: Kota Kinabula, Sabah (72 points)
-Costa Rica: Caribbean coast (70 points)
-Puerto Rico: West coast (69 points)
-California: The Peninsula, San Mateo/Santa Cruz coast (68 points)
-Florida: Forgotten Coast (Apalachicola area): (67 points)
-Brazil: Rio de Janeiro beaches (66 points)
The “In the Balance” category (63-55 points) features such destinations as India’s Kerala coastal areas (63 points), Maldives (61 points), Washington’s Puget Sound (61 points), Turkey’s Turquoise Coast (60 points) and Mallorca in Spain (57 points). The 28 destinations in this category are a mixed bag of successes and worries, with the future at risk.
The 16 destinations in the “Facing Trouble” category (54-48 points) are under severe pressure, yet many are working to improve. They include Florida’s Treasure Coast: Boca Raton-Vero Beach (54 points), Arizona’s Lake Powell (53 points), Indonesia’s Bali coasts (52 points), Monaco (49 points) and Australia’s Gold Coast (48 points).
Fourteen destinations are deemed to be “In Trouble” (47-36 points). They have severe problems, and while some are fighting back, others are not. Destinations in this category include Waikiki in Oahu, Hawaii (45 points), Lebanon’s coastal areas (43 points), South Carolina’s Grand Strand: Myrtle Beach and region (43 points) and New Jersey’s North Shore (36 points).
Bottom of the rankings in the “Near Catastrophic” category are two destinations that have suffered from recent disasters — Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. The Louisiana Gulf Coast ranks last with 24 points, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast ranks second last with 33 points. Yet, the panelist comments show that these destinations remain worth visiting, and that well-managed tourism can help in their recovery.
The survey shows that rankings can vary significantly within certain coastal regions. These include Jamaica’s southwest coast (70 points) vs. northwest coast (45 points); Crete’s south coast (67 points) vs. Crete’s north coast (52 points); Oman’s Batinah Coast (79 points) and United Arab Emirates’ Abu Dhabi (61 points) vs. Dubai (37 points); Portugal’s southern Atlantic coast (73 points) vs. Algarve (44 points). In each case, panelists cite unsustainable development as the leading reason for the lower scores.
Jonathan Tourtellot, a National Geographic Fellow and National Geographic Traveler magazine’s geotourism editor, founded and supervises the survey. “The contrasting results in the survey send a message,” he says. “The biggest factor in healthy versus unhealthy destinations — in spoiled versus unspoiled — depends less on climate or geography, but on us: How we develop our coasts, how we use them, how we care for them. All 99 of the destinations offer unique experiences. Visit them well. Support the businesses that are helping to protect and restore the natural and cultural character of these places. Your choices count.”
National Geographic Traveler: All travel, all the time.
National Geographic Traveler is the world’s most widely read travel magazine. Published eight times a year, Traveler is available by subscription (800-NGS-LINE) and on newsstands in the United States ($4.99) and Canada ($6.99). Its website is at www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler.