Brevard, NC – Only five destinations in North America were honored recently with the coveted “Global Top 100 Sustainable Destination” award sponsored by Green Destinations, an international sustainable tourism organization. Not only was Brevard/Transylvania County one of the five, it was the only destination chosen from the eastern United States.
“We’re very proud of this recognition,” said Clark Lovelace, executive director of Transylvania County Tourism, whose Transylvania Always committee entered the nomination. “The Top 100 Award reflects this community’s deep commitment to protecting our cherished natural and cultural resources.”
Other notable award winners included Alberta, Canada; Vail and Breckenridge, Colorado; as well as destinations in 33 other countries, including Australia, Ecuador, Germany, New Zealand, Republic of Congo, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania and Taiwan.
The Sustainable Top 100 competition is organized to showcase sustainable tourism stories and “good practices” as inspiring examples for other destinations, tour operators and travelers.
Transylvania County’s nomination was evaluated by the Sustainable Top 100 Team based on quality, effectiveness, and transferability of good practices and procedures.
The two Good Practices Stories submitted by Transylvania Always showcased Transylvania County’s COVID-19 tourism response and its ongoing Waterfall Safety program, now in its third year.
“Visitor and community safety are important aspects of sustainability,” said Aaron Baker, chair of the Transylvania Always committee. “We hope that the manner in which we’ve navigated the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, working together through multiple shared initiatives, can become a model for how we tackle other sustainability challenges.”
The Good Practices Stories, authored by committee members Brad Campbell and Lee McMinn, were part of a much broader Sustainability Assessment undertaken by the committee on behalf of Transylvania County Tourism. Campbell and McMinn spent ten months and over 180 hours providing in-depth descriptions and supporting documentation to show full compliance with 30 core sustainability best practices.
“Our goals were to create a baseline for our sustainability efforts and identify Transylvania County’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Campbell. “It was a lot of work, but we came away with a great roadmap to help direct our future efforts.”
“Working on this project gave us a greater appreciation for the ways in which sustainability touches almost every aspect of a community’s life,” said McMinn. “It’s certainly about natural resource preservation – protecting sensitive habitats, lowering energy use, and reducing waste. But it’s also about increasing public safety, honoring our cultural heritage, and celebrating authenticity.”
The Transylvania Always committee members were guided in their effort by Bobby Chappell, president of Tourism Impact Services. Chappell, an international expert in sustainable destination certification who previous stewarded Vail, CO and Jackson, WY through an extensive assessment process that resulted in those communities being awarded certification to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. These are the only two destinations in the United States to have earned this distinction.
“Working with the Brevard/Transylvania County team was a pleasure and it is clear the community is actively engaged in sustainable destination best practices,” said Chappell. “The county has a destination stewardship council, tourism strategic plan, and a passionate community giving them a solid foundation on which they can and should continue to build.”
As a result of the assessment, the committee has developed a series of action steps to work on going forward.
“One area we’re exploring is the development of a Sustainable Business Training and Certification program,” said Lovelace. “Vail, Colorado has developed a similar program entitled ‘Active Green’ that helps local businesses manage waste, conserve water and energy, and purchase sustainable local goods and services. We envision a program that’s a win-win for everyone: helping businesses improve their bottom line while also reducing environmental impacts.”
Transylvania Always is also currently working to expand its “Leave It Better” campaign, which challenges visitors and residents alike to play an active role in taking care of the community.
More information on Global Top 100 Sustainable Destinations may be found at GreenDestinations.org.
“We’re glad this honor will help shine the spotlight on our community’s commitment to sustainability,” said Lee McMinn. “But, more importantly, we hope it will inspire others throughout our community to join us in embracing the principles of sustainability as a way to balance economic interests with protection for everything we hold so dear – our woods, our water, our culture and our traditions.”