As sustainable development in tourism is more and more concerned by organizations in the sector, destination management does not stop at marketing. It’s time for destination management organizations to consider the destination stewardship concept.
For the past decade, the strong growth of tourism has brought many economic benefits but at the same time brought about many challenges in destination management and sustainable development. In 2018, the word “overtourism” put in the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year shortlist shows that the problem of overtourism has had global negative effects. Many destinations must welcome more tourists per day than people living there. Even in Iceland, the yearly number of tourists is more than the population of the country.
Excessive tourism development can threaten the balance and development of the natural ecosystem, environment and local communities in the destination. Therefore, destination stewardship has become a topic that needs more attention than ever to meet sustainable development goals.
What is destination stewardship?
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) defines destination stewardship is a process by which local communities, governmental agencies, NGOs, and the tourism industry take a multi-stakeholder approach to maintain the cultural, environmental, economic, and aesthetic integrity of their country, region, or town. In other words, to ensure that the destination retains and enhances the distinctive attributes that make it attractive to beneficial tourism.
The shift from Destination Marketing to Destination Stewardship
The evolution of tourism has seen a shift in the destination management approach of destination management organizations (DMOs), from merely destination marketing to destination management with the development of new tourism products and revenue generation. The further step now is destination stewardship with more comprehensive management approaches, not only destination development but also community collaboration and sustainable development for the destination as well as the entire tourism sector.
A project of sharing destination stewardship stories around the world
In order to provide comprehensive experiences for tourists while developing local communities, preserving cultural heritage and natural environment, DMOs requires to understand the needs of their destinations as well as localities. In addition, DMOs can learn from the success stories of destination stewardship and apply destination stewardship mindset right to the initial development plans for the new destinations.
In 2018, The Destination Stewardship Center collaborated with Sustainable Travel International Organization carried out a pilot project to share stories about the different ways that people, businesses, and destination leaders are protecting nature and safeguarding human well-being in tourism destinations around the world. This project, The Worlds’ Inspiring Places, includes a series of videos that tell success stories in destination stewardship in the world.
The purposes of The World’s Inspiring Places project is to make a difference and motivate destination stewardship by:
- Encouraging travelers to visit, enjoy, and appreciate authentic destinations that protect their nature, culture, and sense of place
- Helping individuals, businesses, and governments care for these places and the people who live there
- Informing and inspiring leaders to secure a solid economic future through wise destination stewardship
The outstanding video, also the first one of this project, is about Sierra Gorda, Mexico. The destination stewardship here has succeeded in turning this poor rural area into a stewardship model for community engagement in conservation and ecotourism
The foundation of destination stewardship is to develop the economy by tourism associated with local community development, cultural heritage preservation and natural environment conservation. It is the key to sustainable development in tourism in the future.