SMART Destinations

We work with local companies, governments, civil society, and universities to protect the health and well being of local people and the environment to guide a balanced economic development approach using tourism.  

New technologies, such as the latest versions of geographic information systems (GIS)—called geodesign—will help local people, civil servants, and authorities visualize the rapid changes tourism will bring into their home communities so they can better decide how to proceed. Geodesign can help anticipate impacts from climate change and allow citizen scientists to gather data and inform governments about points of concern on a wide range of social, cultural, and environmental health issues, using scientific data.  

Geodesign allows local people to identify where compromised systems lie and where investments in alternative energy, clean development infrastructure, and protection of green spaces can be made to better manage the future of destinations. 

RELATED PROJECT: Regional Planning and Geodesign for Tourism


GeodesignTo achieve the healthiest possible future, we must unite the skills and expertise of many disciplines and professions working in the tourism industry. That’s why our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative (ISTI) has teamed up with the Harvard Graduate School of Design to deploy innovative systems—incorporating geodesign, modeling, and quantitative analysis—to help developers, site managers and hotel corporations work with communities, governments, and businesses to create plans for healthy and sustainable tourism growth.

It is our vision to design an entirely new system for tourism planning to replace the antiquated and unresponsive tourism master planning system, which costs governments and donors hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, with a new dynamic approach which projects dynamic comparisons of future scenarios with genuine public collaboration.  This system can inform government actions and allow local people to design their future with human health and well-being and the preservation of ecological and socio-cultural systems as primary goals.

To implement our vision, we have developed a course for the Harvard Extension School on Sustainable Tourism, Regional Planning and Geodesignwhich enlists governments, researchers, communities, and planners to take part in creating dynamic tourism destination planning systems.  We are sharing this knowledge via interchange and experimentation on geodesign planning hubs in the global digital classroom.  In the next phase pilot projects will be launched in collaboration with local governments, civil society, and businesses. 


Iceland Case Study 

Westfjords ISTIHarvard ISTI’s SMART Destination team is working with the University of Iceland to develop a case study on the Westfjords region of Iceland.  The goal is to help the Department of Tourism and Innovation of Iceland incorporate regional planning and geodesign into land planning for tourism in Iceland.  We will share data and develop maps to study Westfjords and create a formal case study.  The annual full day geodesign workshop for the course Sustainable Tourism, Regional Planning, and Geodesign at Harvard Extension School will take place in the Spring of 2021 with participation from stakeholders in Iceland.

Josh Weiland, a graduate of the course work on geodesign and tourism, was awarded the position of Research Manager for this project for six months in 2020-2021 at Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health, and Faculty Aide Sarah Farooqi is assisting on behalf of the Harvard Extension School.



Contact Megan Epler Wood, Founding Director of our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, for more information HERE.

Megan Epler Wood

Founding DirectorMegan Epler Wood 

Vicente Moles

AdvisorDr. Vicente Molés 

Stephen Ervin

AdvisorDr. Stephen M. Ervin