Wednesday, March 10, 2004 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

C.B. 2nd in world tourism ranking

By TERA CAMUS / Cape Breton Bureau

SYDNEY - Cape Breton has scored big on a world tourism most-favourites list.

A survey of industry experts in the March edition of National Geographic's Traveler magazine put the island ahead of places like the Tuscany region of Italy, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii and the Grand Canyon as being one of the top spots in the world to visit.

The 200 experts gave Cape Breton 78 points, placing it second only to the Norwegian fiords at 82.

Cape Breton shares second spot with South Island in New Zealand and Torres del Paine, Chili.

Areas were ranked on natural beauty, ecological quality, cultural integrity, historic preservation and future sustainability.

The magazine's first-of-a-kind poll was done in 2003 by Leeds Metropolitan University in England.

"Popular places today are subject to a variety of pressures - development, pollution, globalization, mass tourism," the magazine's publisher stated. "We wanted to get a measure of how well destinations are taking care of themselves."

Typical sun-and-sand destinations score low because most are "vulnerable to overbuilding and degradation."

"Quite a few of the top scorers are high because they are hard to get to," the publisher said. "The Norwegian and Chilean fiords aren't sunny beaches, so they aren't as likely to be overdeveloped ... but some locations are heavily touristed, such as New Zealand's South Island."

Other Canadian destinations to make the top 115 places to see include the Rocky Mountains, which placed fourth with 76 points, Quebec City, seventh at 74, and the Laurentian Highlands of Quebec, eighth at 73. The pass between Alaska and Canada ranked in 10th place with 71 points. No other Canadian area was singled out.

Sandra MacDonald, executive director of Destination Cape Breton, gave a "Wow!" when told of the rankings by The Chronicle Herald.

"We take what we have for granted," she said from Sydney. "It's nice for Cape Breton to realize what we have is what others want."

She said the 300-kilometre Cabot Trail, alive with traditional Acadian, Gaelic and Scottish cultures, gives Cape Breton that special something when it comes to tourism.

"It's just unbelievable," she said of second-place billing for the island.

"From a tourism perspective, it's going to mean a pride in our product. Positive feedback and reinforcement is sometimes necessary. . . . It will continue to create positive investment, positive infrastructure and positive ideas."

The average score in the survey was 62 points. Tuscany received 71 points, the Great Barrier Reef 66, the Grand Canyon 65 and Hawaii 62.

Other places that scored below Nova Scotia include the Scottish Highlands 75; Easter Island, Chile, 71; Fiji 62; Dead Sea 60; Great Wall of China 59; Tahiti 53; and the Pyramids in Giza, Egypt 51.

Copyright © 2004 The Halifax Herald Limited