The Power of Place: Sustaining the Future of Destinations

  • Len Cordiner
  • 3 March 2009

I was reading an article in the Historical Houses Trust magazine in Sydney this month about the fabulous network of trams which operated in Sydney until 1961. It is reported that the Sydney tram network was in its day the largest in the Commonwealth outside of London, and was much loved by Sydney commuters. However progress (represented by a strong lobby of the auto industry) took its toll and in the late 1950s the tram network was scrapped despite a large demonstration by the public at the time to save the trams.

The historic Queen Victoria Building, Sydney. Photo by Flickr/australiaphotos.co.uk.

Sound familiar? Around the same time some of Sydney’s most treasured buildings were up for demolition in The Rocks area, as well as the Queen Victoria Building. Fortunately strong union action at the time saved them (thank God).

Much of course is destroyed with no protest at all as we ‘progress and grow’. It’s often only when we look back that we lament that which has passed and which our children and their children will never know, or wonder at, or share. In fact in the past 100 years, during which time the world’s population has more than quadrupled, we have ‘consumed’ more of nature’s bounty than all of our predecessors had in all of history, and the destruction of the natural environment, local cultures and heritage sites continues apace. Frankly it is scary. I feel like we’re hurtling toward a brick wall at 100 km/hr with no brakes.

With this backdrop the team at whl.travel has partnered up with the National Geographic Centre for Sustainable Destinations and Ashoka to support the 2009 Geotourism Challenge.

We are trying to indentify organisations doing great things to retain the “Power of Place” – sustaining the future of destinations for future generations. This is more than just to celebrate the innovation and commitment of the people and organisations involved; it importantly provides a window on ways we can all play a role to save what is left.

So please, join in. Put forward any initiatives out there you have seen which you think we all need to know about. The place to check out other nominations and make your own is www.changemakers.net/geotourismchallenge.

[Editor’s note: The 2009 Geotourism Challenge is now over. The winners were announced on 9 September. Read more about it here.]

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Len Cordiner

In incubating and running numerous companies over 35 years, Len Cordiner has developed a passion for win-win outcomes. Most recently, he has made harnessing the power of the Internet and new communications tools central to his mission to change paradigms in travel, making it more accessible to all. In this vein, founding the WHL Group, of which Len is the CEO, is his latest and most ambitious global business initiative.
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human interests, local knowledge, opinion, partnerships, responsible travel, responsible travel news, WHL Group news,

2 Responses to “The Power of Place: Sustaining the Future of Destinations”

  1. Jodi says:

    Yes, very scary. Noticed this explicitly on a recent road trip from Arizona to Florida, in the USA. I find myself saying “this place looks like this place” constantly and see very little differentiation between the small towns and suburbs…unless they are clearly a tourist town or have made great strides at retaining some of their cultural heritage. The sad part about the US, though, to me, is that so much of the heritage gets exploited and commercialized to the point that it’s not authentic anymore. I would love to see some more nominations for geotourism enterprises in the US.

  2. Great post Len. You paint a very clear picture of why it’s so important to champion the unique and identifying elements of a destination. Why we should all look hard at what makes a place special, and then strive to appreciate the story and history behind these components. After all they are the reasons we love to travel.

    I like that all the nominations and entries for the Geotourism Challenge are visible to everyone. It takes effort to nominate a project and for a project to be entered therefore any initiative that connects with this idea of ‘power of place’ and features in the nominations is probably worth checking out. It’s not all hidden behind curtains and then only a handful of initiatives highlighted when the curtains are opened like in so many similar awards. Great stuff.

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