Building a Destination with a ‘Sense of Place’


This is the second article in the Putting the I Back in Community tourism article series. You can read the first article, Building Excellence in Tourism here.


Building a Destination with a ‘Sense of Place’
Integrity can be defined as how a person responds to a challenge, question, situation or problem. When a person has developed, defined, and lives by their core values, responding and making choices becomes almost automatic.

The same can be said for a community, a group of people that live in a particular place because they have roots and are connected to the geographical space, the history, and the people.

When a person decides to travel to a destination, it is because they already have roots there, or their curiosity was piqued by something that created a sense of place for them – whether it was a conversation, literature or a visual presentation. This sense of place communicated inspired a desire to visit and experience the destination for oneself.


It is our human response to both the natural and built surroundings – what we see, hear, touch, smell and feel –  that creates a unique sense of place. A sense of place creates memories, stories and experiences to be shared with others, giving the destination its unique identity.


This authentic identity is how a community defines and recognizes itself. This is who we are, and we are more than just a physical description. The physical look of a destination is important, but it is the recognition and preservation of the ancestry and heritage that gives the community its authenticity or core values and uniqueness.


Communities will always face outside and economic pressures that push for change. It is the management of change that is important to the sustainability of the community. Changes, or actions with intention, need to benefit community needs and values, while preserving and enhancing the sense of place in order to have true and lasting sustainability.

Local involvement is key in developing sustainable tourism that has economic benefits with no negative impacts on the community or its uniqueness.

When developing a destination with the intention of showcasing its unique character, the history and historic events of the region are just as important as the  geographic, physical and natural features. The creative aspect of a destination, the art, music and literature then adds the character, mood and feeling. All these ingredients deliver the visitor the experiences and memories they hoped for when they decided to spend their time and money in a particular place.


The steps to developing a community’s health and economic stability rests with a strategy that allows for education, diversity in business and career opportunities, and a quality lifestyle that is secure, clean and sustainable. Tourism can be the strategy that does this when developed with the intention of including the community’s needs and wishes, preserving and conserving the local historic and natural treasures, and setting up sustainable practices to publicize and manage the destination.


Gathering input and knowledge about what the destination has to offer is the first step. What is unique? What does the destination have that others do not? What is the local flavor? What has happened in history to shape the destination? What is ‘the look’ of the destination? What are the sites, smells, and sounds? What makes it memorable? What does the destination have that needs developing, protecting or managing? How do current and potential visitors find out about the destination? How are visitors treated? Is the destination easy to get to? Does it have the needed amenities?

Once the information is gathered from the public and local community, and the resources are assessed, a sustainable and responsible tourism strategy that protects the integrity or sense of place of the destination can be outlined. Once the outline is complete, a plan can be put in place.

After years of working in the tourism and travel industry in five countries (USA, England, Kenya, South Africa and Mexico), Nancy & Lisa have seen that the benefits of this industry far outweigh any of the negative aspects, and that the negative aspects can be fixed or even avoided all together, if a smart strategy or plan is formulated, put in place, and then attended to with care. The plan should be Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Together, Nancy & Lisa have over 50 combined years of experience in travel, tourism and hospitality, sales and marketing, publishing and media.


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