We are excited to present this interview with Albert Salman, Founder of the Green Destinations initiative and passionate defender of our world’s coastal areas. In the interview, Albert explains how Green Destinations is innovating, redefining and expanding the possibilities of sustainable destination certification and aims to bring a more well-rounded approach to the concept of ‘Green Destinations’. He also shares with us his feelings on what makes a truly sustainable destination, the loss of authenticity and sense of place in today’s tourism landscape, and why many existing certifications fall short. He even tells us his personal picks for Top 5 Green Destinations.
- How Albert’s view of sustainability has changed over the years;
- His main insights gained through his professional career;
- Why sustainability is not about stopping people from making short-term investments – and what it is all about;
- What destinations need to consider to be truly sustainable;
- Why “green” certification programs aren’t always helpful, and what visitors really care about;
- The purpose of the Green Destinations initiative;
- His favorite books on sustainability and tourism;
- Which challenges destinations struggle most with.
Albert, do you remember your view of sustainability linked to tourism when you first started your professional career?
When working in coastal management in the Netherlands in the 1980s, I was mainly focused on nature and landscape issues, but also on the traditional architecture of coastal towns. During the Second World War, the German army had cleared much of the traditional seafront buildings, so there was not so much left of the 18th and 19th century coastal towns in the Netherlands. I was surprised to see how easily investors could demolish the last remaining buildings and replace them with seafront apartments.
Thanks to the traditional protection of the Dutch dunes, our country never witnessed the type of large-scale seafront development experienced around the Mediterranean. In that region, sandy beaches and coastal sand dunes really suffered great losses. Resort developers built their properties as close as possible to the sea, at a time when scenarios of accelerated sea level rise had already been published.
This was the reason to create the Coastal & Marine Union (EUCC), where I work since 1991.
At many international conferences on coastal management, the Spanish approach to coastal development was broadly considered unsustainable, also by Spaniards. Participants from countries that were still in the early stages of coastal tourism development, like Turkey, said they would not make these mistakes. But in the end, most did. In many places, the original landscape and nature, local culture and tradition were wiped out and changed into all-inclusives. Many resort developers were only interested in short-term profit, and not in sustainability; it is a pity that they could not be stopped by local politicians, or by the local community.