… and three destinations stand out in particular.
Published: 4 October 2017
Going on holiday is not always a simple matter. At least, not if you are trying to view things from the perspective of Mother Earth.
Several places in the world are in fact being pushed to their limits by visitors. Excessive tourism not only affects the immediate area but also the planet's climate, resource allocation and livelihoods.
And although it's been 30 years since Gro Harlem Brundtland introduced the concept of "sustainability" as head of the UN World Commission on environment and development, the topic is more relevant than ever.
Fortunately, this problem is being increasingly spotlighted in the global arena, and the United Nations has proclaimed 2017 as the international year of sustainability and development, which includes the promotion of responsible tourism among travellers as well as the authorities as a goal.
On World Tourism Day, which is marked every year on 27 September, the British website Verdict, in association with GlobalData Travel and Tourism, ranked the world's ten most sustainable destinations. Among them is Norway.
In the rationale behind the top-10 ranking – which Norway happens to share with Finland – special focus is put on the extensive and ambitious work done by governmental organisations and other key players over the past decade.
In 2007, the Norwegian government launched the massive project, Sustainable Norway 2015, which aimed to identify and boost new and sustainable ways of developing tourism – in close cooperation with the travel industry – and thus make the slogan "Powered by Nature" a reality.
Earlier this year, a new parliamentary report on tourism was released whereby sustainability and environmental concerns are not only referred to as important means of achieving national and international environmental objectives but as a kind of tourist attraction in and of itself. In parallel with this, the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature published its "Roadmap for the tourism industry in Norway" in which the environmental organisation together with key travel industry players outlined their visions for 2030 and 2050.
During World Tourism Day last week, an even more extensive ranking was also presented: The 100 most sustainable destinations in the world. The ranking is organised by the organization, Green Destinations, with a jury consisting of around 100 international experts.
Norway also placed well on this list: Fully three of Norway's travel destinations were evaluated and deemed green enough for such fine company.
The fact that Geilo is among them will hardly surprise anyone who has experienced the idyllic mountain village at the foot of the Hardangervidda and Hallingskaret national parks. However, mere appearances are not crucial in this regard. In fact, the village is praised for its communication with and way of dealing with tourists, recycling in the production of sod roofs, creative power-saving solutions and environmental training of local businesses and manufacturers.
Norway's Arctic component on the list is the Svalbard archipelago, which encompasses over 60,000 km² and has less than 3,000 inhabitants, and is one of the world's largest areas that still has pristine nature. The rationale for its ranking among the world's greenest destinations refers to the local community's efforts to preserve and protect the area's nature as well as its cultural heritage.
The fact that the residents working in the tourism industry enjoy sound working conditions and solid wages throughout the year are also mentioned as being important factors.
The last Norwegian destination in the ranking is Lærdal. The western Norwegian village is nestled among dramatic mountain peaks and lush nature at the head of the Sognefjord, which is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. The jury praises the local community's preservation of old and priceless cultural relics such as the Borgund Stave Church that dates from 1182 and the protected wooden houses in Gamle Lærdalsøyri.
Similar to Geilo and Svalbard, Lærdal is among the nine Norwegian places that are certified as "sustainable destinations" (see separate box).
The Vega Archipelago
The Svalbard Archipelago
The Golden Detour
… and these five may become certified as soon as next year:
The Geiranger Fjord
The Lindesnes Region
The Lyngenfjord Region
Magnificent winter scenery in Rjukan has a starring role in the soon-to-be-released feature film, The Snowman.