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Guiding Principle #12:

Protect sense of place

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Encourage tourism policies and business practices that protect and benefit natural, scenic, and cultural assets. Retain and enhance destination identity and distinctiveness. Diversity of place is the reason for travel.

This is an overriding guiding principle, one by which all activities can be measured. Sense of place manifests itself in numerous ways and places, destinations, are not just businesses. They are total experiences that can inspire deep attachment. In this sense, protecting the various aspects and assets of a place are akin to protecting home and family, or for visitors, ensuring the safety of cherished memories. Either way, the locale should inspire that greatest of compliments, “I love this place!” 


Supporting local businesses who are preserving a sense of place is key to this - artists, guides, farmers, fishermen, chefs, and activists. Work with the grassroots organizations who know their community best and keep more money in the community to preserve local traditions and businesses and the local way of life.

Real life examples:

  1. IMPULSE Travel, a tour operator and social enterprise operating in Colombia, brings tourists directly into the local communities - eating in their homes, visiting locally owned businesses, and sleeping in locally-owned accommodations. Through their Sounds of Colombia tour, they preserve a unique sense of place - through the music that defines the Afrolatinidad roots of their country.

  2. How a Brazilian community rediscovered itself in the face of growing popularity

  3. Ataúro Island revives a conservation tradition

  4. Implementing activities aimed at preserving a healthier and thriving marine environment and reducing water pollution in the Philippines

  5. Bringing more local pride and understanding of the value of local traditions to the local community in Romania

  6. Conservation culture in Palau

The questions we should ask to further achieve this principle:

  • As an organization/company, are we sustaining or enhancing the character of the place?

  • When you enter a town or walk down a street, does the architecture suggest what region you are in? Does the landscape? If you enter a hotel lobby or disembark at an airport terminal, can you tell where you are? Does your restaurant menu have regional dishes and/or drinks? What music is playing in public spaces?


Further resources:

Turismo de Pequena Escala: Una mirada desde Cuba y Costa Rica. Center for Responsible Travel (2020).

GSTC Destination Criteria

SECTION C: Cultural sustainability

 C(a) Protecting cultural heritage 

   C1 Protection of cultural assets

   C3 Intangible heritage

   C4 Traditional access

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