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The Ying and Yang of Island Tourism

National Geographic Ranks the World's Islands in Terms of their Tourism Sustainability. See How Bali Rated in Efforts to Preserve its Appeal.

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A recent poll of 522 experts by National Geographic Magazine set about to rank the world's most appealing island destinations in their struggle to maintain a proper balance between any innate appeal and the tendency for tourism to overrun and eventually consume the very charms that initially brought the world's travelers to their shores.

In the well-chosen words of National Geographic:

"Tourism is a phenomenon that can cook your food or burn your house down. In other words, we all risk destroying the very places that we love the most."

The just published survey [(National Geographic Island Survey)] looks at how popular island destinations are bearing up in terms of the sustainability of the "own traditions, ecosystems, cultures, landscapes."

In the fourth survey of its kind, the Traveler magazine and the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations polled 522 experts in sustainable tourism and destination stewardship to review the conditions of 111 selected islands and archipelagos.

Guide to the Scores

0-25: Catastrophic: all criteria very negative, outlook grim.

26-49: In serious trouble.

50-65: In moderate trouble: all criteria medium-negative or a mix of negatives and positives.

66-85: Minor difficulties.

86-95: Authentic, unspoiled, and likely to remain so.

96-100: Enhanced.

The survey showed that of the 111 islands reviewed only one island – Faroe Island in Denmark earned an "authentic" and fully sustainable rating. Bali earned a rating of "57" (In moderate trouble); Lombok rated a slightly higher "62"; Phuket in Thailand together with Oahu in Hawaii both earned "46" which means both islands "are in serious trouble" in the opinion of the expert reviewers.

Here's The Complete List

87 Faroe Islands, Denmark

84 Azores, Portugal

82 Lofoten, Norway

82 Shetland Islands, Scotland

82 Chiloé, Chile

81 Isle of Skye, Scotland

80 Kangaroo Island, South Australia

80 Mackinac Island, Michigan

80 Iceland

79 Molokai, Hawaii

78 Aran Islands, Ireland

78 Texel, Netherlands

77 Dominica

77 Grenadines

76 Tasmania

76 Bora Bora, French Polynesia

76 Fraser Island, Australia

76 Bornholm, Denmark

76 Hydra (Ídra), Greece

76 Falkland Islands (U.K.)

75 Corsica, France

75 Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

74 Vanuatu, Melanesia

74 Santa Catalina Island, California

73 Upolu and Savai'i, Samoa

73 Isle of Man (U.K.)

72 Palawan, Philippines

72 Moorea, French Polynesia

72 Block Island, Rhode Island

71 Ilha Grande, Brazil

71 Sardinia, Italy

71 Hvar, Croatia

71 Jersey and Guernsey (U.K.)

70 San Juan Islands, Washington State

70 St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

70 Seychelles

70 Anguilla (U.K.)

70 Nevis

69 Palau, Micronesia

69 Cook Islands

69 Prince Edward Island, Canada

69 Salt Spring Island, Gulf Islands, British Columbia

69 Mount Desert Island, Maine

69 Réunion (France)

68 Bon aire

68 Sicily, Italy

68 St.Vincent

68 Yasawa group, Fiji

67 Pemba, Tanzania

67 Hawaii (Big Island)

66 Out Islands, Bahamas

66 Bermuda, North Atlantic

66 Tobago

66 São Tomé and Príncipe

65 Cyprus, Turkish side

65 Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

65 Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

64 Solomon Islands

64 Jeju/Cheju, South Korea

64 Ocracoke, Outer Banks, North Carolina

64 Kauai, Hawaii

64 St. Lucia

63 Nantucket, Massachusetts

62 Martinique (France)

62 Corfu, Greece

62 Crete, Greece

62 Lombok, Indonesia

62 Barbados

61 Tonga, Polynesia

61 Madeira Islands, Portugal

61 Tortola, British Virgin Islands

61 Islands of Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia

61 Sanibel, Florida

61 Santorini, Greece

61 Maldives (except Malé)

59 Grenada

59 Capri, Italy

59 Tahiti, French Polynesia

59 St. Kitts

58 Viti Levu, Fiji

57 Maui, Hawaii

57 Bali, Indonesia

57 Cape Verde Islands

57 Curaçao

55 Isla Mujeres, Mexico

55 Malta (all islands)

55 Guadeloupe

55 Mauritius

54 Mykonos, Greece

54 Federated States of Micronesia

54 Mallorca, Spain

53 St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

53 Zanzibar, Tanzania

52 Canary Islands, Spain

51 Puerto Rico

51 Cyprus, Greek side

50 Antigua

49 Hatteras Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina

48 Aruba (Netherlands)

47 Grand Cayman

47 Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras

47 St. Martin (Netherlands/France)

47 Cozumel, Mexico

46 Oahu, Hawaii

46 Key West, Florida

46 Phuket, Thailand

45 Hilton Head, South Carolina

44 Jamaica

44 Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

37 Ibiza, Spain

37 St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

The reviewers had the following comments on Bali:

"Bali is one of the world's magical places. Even though it has been overrun by tourism development and population growth, somehow it has been able to maintain its unique character, though some parts of the island—Denpasar, Kuta Beach—are now incredibly degraded and depressing for those of us who knew Bali in the good old days."

"Yes, Kuta and Nusa Dua represent the ugly faces of crass commercialism—but if they are developed as specific mass tourism enclaves and generate income, and if development in the rest of the island is more restrained, Bali will still be worth visiting. The flowers are still colorful, the smiles still warm, the rice fields still mesmerizing, and the gamelan music still a calming, soothing backdrop—after 30 years of rampant development."

"Bali is a mixed bag of tourism projects that represent the absolute worst (Kuta) in sustainable travel and some of the best (Ubud)."

"In spite of the recent terrorist events, Bali is still an excellent destination. Magnificent rice terraced landscapes. Gentle, warm people. The culture is strong, vivid, and vibrant. Facilities are varied, catering to many tastes. However, beaches are not good, and the environment is under threat from destruction of reefs and mangroves, linear development, salt water intrusion, etc."

© Bali Discovery Tours. Articles may be quoted and reproduced if attributed to


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