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National Geographic Traveler big on Cape Breton

By Nancy King – Cape Breton Post

Island ranks second among world’s greatest destinations

Cape Breton Island is tied for second place on a new international
score card of more than 100 of the world’s greatest destinations
released by National Geographic Traveler, which focuses on sustainable
tourism.

The Norwegian fjords obtained the highest score on the
destination-stewardship index at 82 out of 100, followed by Cape
Breton, South Island, New Zealand, and Torres del Paine, Chile, at 78.

Other Canadian destinations noted are Rocky Moun1am parks, with a score
of 76; Quebec City’s historic centre with 74; and Laurentian Highlands
with 73.

The authors of the magazine’s cover story indicate that to their
knowledge the destination-stewardship index is based on a survey that
is the first of its kind ever conducted, noting that popular
destinations are currently subject to a variety of pressures including
development, pollution, globalization and mass tourism.

“We wanted to get a measure of how well destinations are taking care of
themselves in terms of sustainability, environmental health, and
preservation of the distinctive character that makes each worth
visiting,” it reads.

While Cape Breton has previously fared well on several rankings of
international destinations released by other publications, the criteria
the National Geographic Traveler scorecard is based on is somewhat
different, noted Sandra MacDonald, general manager of Destination Cape
Breton.

“Sustainable tourism, environmental issues, sustainability and how
we’re maintaining our product,” she said. “Sometimes we tend to take it
for granted, what we actually have here, but seen through other
people’s eyes it’s quite amazing.”

Researchers surveyed more than 200 specialists in various disciplines
relating to sustainable tourism and destination stewardship to evaluate
the integrity of 115 destinations around the world.

They assessed each place with which they were familiar on the basis of
six criteria: environment, cultural integrity, historic preservation,
aesthetics, tourism management, and what is billed as possibly the most
important criterion, the outlook for the future.

Then, they assigned an overall score of one to 10 points, with one to
two meaning catastrophic (all criteria very negative, outlook grim);
five to six meaning an area is in moderate trouble (all criteria
medium-negative or a mix of negatives and positives); nine being
authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so; and 10 meaning enhanced.
Overall, destinations were scored on a 0 to 100 scale, with
destinations assessed ranging from a low of 41 to a high of 82.
Anywhere 63 or above is considered above average.

While Cape Breton’s assessment is not among the sample published on
National Geographic Traveler’s Web site, South Island, New Zealand,
which obtained the same score of 78 is noted as having a terrific
context of history and natural resources, along with primary rural
economy, as well as great scenic background and people.

Being ranked so highly among international destinations by a
distinguished publication is an impressive marketing tool for island
marketing efforts, MacDonald noted.

“We couldn’t purchase this advertising,” she said. “You have a whole
new set of readers, a whole new focus, a whole new distinct population
that reads this type of magazine.

“Anything out there like that will open up a world of new marketing.
Anything that’s out there in a positive light about Cape Breton Island
will be a positive marketing tool for us, we are competing with the
world.”

But communities across the island can also take a lesson from the
survey and the criteria on which it ranked Cape Breton so highly, with
its focus on environmental and cultural sustainability.

“They should be proud but they should realize the focus of what
travelers are looking for and how others perceive us, what a great
product we have and we really should look after it,” MacDonald said.

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