SMART Destinations

We work with local companies and governments to translate rigorous science into visual projections for the future of destinations, to protect the health and well being of local people, and guide a balanced economic development approach using tourism.  

This interactive approach, which allows citizens and thought leaders to play a role is needed now more than ever, in emerging economies where the rapid growth of tourism has profound consequences for many of the highest profile ecosystems in the world—many of which are unprepared for the changes ahead.   

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 health and environmental 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


To 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) is teaming 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 new 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. 

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

Advisor: Vicente Moles