There are four places I’d choose and recommend:
1. The Puglia region of Italy
I’ve chosen this for a few reasons – and not just that I come from there! Every time I have hosted well-travelled international visitors in Puglia, they have told me that this region is one of the best places they have ever visited, with some of the best food, wines and landscapes on earth.
Highlights include the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Alberobello, with its Trulli houses, Vieste and the Gargano promontory, and the white sandy beaches of Gallipoli in the Salento – referred to as the Maldives of Italy. The region houses baroque, medieval and ‘romanico-pugliese’ sites, with churches, castes and masserie (old farms) immersed in unique olive tree groves and vineyards. Some say that Puglia is the new Tuscany, only with 800km of coastline dotted with rocky and sandy beaches, coves and blue seas.
2. Basecamp Masai Mara in Kenya
I have sub-Saharan Africa at heart both professionally and personally, in the form of Basecamp Masai Mara. It’s a unique concept and location. It’s difficult to find a place like this that meets so many sustainable tourism principles as well as my own desire of making a difference while travelling. It’s kind of like an upmarket safari type of holiday, but very much embedded within sustainable tourism practice. It’s the ultimate experience in terms of safari, and they have their own philanthropy foundation supporting a number of local projects. I felt privileged to have visited this place for a few days as part of a research project, and would love to go back on holiday. I just need to save up bit more, or maybe a lot more!
3. The Gambia
I’d choose Kartong Eco-Village and Turtle SOS The Gambia at Sandele Eco-retreat and Learning Centre for its concept, location and the newly-conceived turtle conservation project, to which my students and the ECHO Grant from our School of Sport and Service Management have contributed in collaboration with 30+ local volunteers.
Gambia is a very well-known winter sun destination, but many places there are not so well known. Gambia is often in the media for the wrong reasons, including human rights issues, but there are a number of amazing projects and enterprises which have sustainability embedded in their practices. Kartong Eco-Village is very much involved in training local people in tourism, as well as a number of other capacity-building activities. There are also a number of community groups focused on building community resilience in relation to climate change issues and poverty.
4. Kathmandu in Nepal
I’d recommend Kathmandu for the sense of spiritual wellbeing that fills your senses while walking through the city. I visited in 2008, which was before the 2015 earthquake, and I found it fascinating. I travel a lot, so people ask me about the best places I’ve been, and I always refer to Kathmandu as somewhere that blew my mind. There’s a lots of reconstruction work going on following the earthquake, and tourism has the potential to contribute to that. I’m visiting again in April 2017 to give a keynote speech at a Sustainable Tourism Development Conference. I cannot wait.