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Sanibel and Captiva lauded by National Geographic Society in survey

By Staff | Nov 4, 2009

In conjunction with National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations, National Geographic Traveler has devoted its sixth annual “Places Rated” Destination Stewardship survey to the world’s most celebrated and iconic travel destinations and how well they have weathered the pressures of mass tourism and other threats.

In the featured review, Sanibel and Captiva scored fairly well (53 points) behind National Geographic’s top destination – Norway’s fjords region – which scored an 85. In their summation, they offered much praise for the islands and its preservation-minded efforts.

“Locals have fought to maintain the character of these islands – and have

largely succeeded,” the survey states. “Yet these Gulf Coast destinations now face destructive “red tides,” agricultural runoff and the continuing drumbeat of overdevelopment.”

Like the first Destination Rated survey in 2004, Norway’s fabled fjords region has taken top honors again. Judges noted the gorgeous scenery and well-preserved rural life that are vigorously protected.

Others making the top “Best Rated Places” category range from Japan’s ancient Kyoto (#4, 79 points) for honoring the “serenity and charm of ancient Japan” to Slovenia, formerly part of communist Yugoslavia, tied at #5 (78 points) for being among the most sustainable and authentic places to visit in Europe.

The United Kingdom is the country with the most winners in this year’s top category: England’s Yorkshire Dales, Scotland’s Highlands and Wales.

A total of 133 destinations were surveyed by a panel of 437 well-traveled experts in a variety of fields related to sustainable tourism. The survey is the cover story of the November-December 2009 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine, on newsstands this week.

“We hope the survey will bring attention to the places faring well, as well as to those in trouble, often due to reckless development and commercialism,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, director of the Center for Sustainable Destinations, which conducted the survey. “If there is a blessing to the global downturn, it is the respite from such rampant, quick-buck degradation of Earth’s remaining beautiful places.”

The best U.S. ranking was the state of Vermont at #5 (78 points), scoring well not only for its scenic countryside but for environmental and social sustainability practices. .

National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations is dedicated to protecting the world’s distinctive places through wisely managed geotourism and enlightened destination stewardship.

See more details on the 133 iconic destinations ranked for wisely managed tourism at www.nationalgeographic.com/traveler.