Destination Stewardship

Destination Stewardship is defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as “a process by which local communities, governmental agencies, non-governmental agencies, and the tourism industry take a multi-stakeholder approach to maintaining the cultural, environmental, economic, and aesthetic integrity of their country, region, or town.”

Never before have the mountains of Western North Carolina been so attractive and accessible to travelers, which has created the need for focused attention on both the positive and negative impacts of tourism on a destination. The Highlands Chamber of Commerce/Visit Highlands, NC has embraced the responsibility of Destination Stewardship. Put simply, this means championing tourism's benefits, mitigating its impacts, and harnessing its regenerative power for the community and the environment. One beneficial trend emerging in tourism is that more travelers understand the obligation to visit responsibly, and many even prefer destinations that encourage it.

Our Story

It is easy to see why our quaint mountain town attracts visitors. The natural beauty is an idyllic backdrop for the simple charm and laidback lifestyle found here. As Highlands continues to flourish as a sought-after destination, we are aware of the challenges associated with that popularity. To be clear, we appreciate the opportunity to welcome visitors to share in this special place, but we must do everything we can to protect it so that it remains viable for current and future residents and visitors alike. We want the resident and visitor experience to be amazing – today and forever.

Our Duty

The Highlands Chamber of Commerce/Visit Highlands, NC is dedicated to addressing tourism impacts by actively promoting the protection and preservation of our unique mountain town. We are firmly committed to fostering safe, responsible, and respectful travel practices, which are essential for safeguarding the vitality of our community and ensuring a vibrant future.

Tips for Responsible Travel

  • Bring a reusable water bottle and shopping bag to reduce the amount of one-time use plastics.
  • Buy local goods and produce instead of imported goods.
  • Choose eco-conscious accommodations.
  • When you leave your hotel room or vacation rental, turn off the lights and all electronics.
  • Consider leaving the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so that housekeeping staff won’t clean your room every day.
  • Take time to immerse yourself in the local music, art and cuisine.
  • Hire a local guide.
  • Respect local cultures, traditions and holy places.
  • Always leave a place better than the way you arrived, this includes “pack in, pack out” and “leave no trace” practices.
  • Stick to marked trails to avoid harming native flora and consider taking a bag to pick up trash along your hike.
  • Consider local conservation or social projects that you could visit or support during your trip.


Responsible Travel Code

Leave No Trace Principals

Local Electric Vehicle Car Charging Stations

  • Two (2) on Oak Street
  • Two (2) on Third Street
  • One (1) at the Highlands Chamber of Commerce/Visit Highlands, NC Welcome Center at 108 Main Street.

The fee is $2.75 per hour for the first four hours. 

Community Collaboration

The Highlands Chamber of Commerce/Visit Highlands, NC proudly supports and collaborates with like-minded organizations, working to make our communities the best they can be for today and tomorrow.

Art League of Highlands
Highlands Biological Foundation
Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival
Highlands Historical Society
Highlands Performing Arts Center
Highlands Plateau Audubon Society
Highlands Plateau Greenway
Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust
Mountain Theatre Company
Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center
The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts