Beyond Green Travel with Costas Christ
Paving Paradise For a Better Future, Donald Trump Style?


Text by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ

Photograph by Jim and Sheila Glavine

During hard economic times, how do you convince rural communities living next to unspoiled natural areas to see a brighter future? If you are Donald Trump, who wants to build the world’s "best" gold course on wild sand dunes along the coast of north Aberdeen, Scotland, or Plum Creek Timber Corporation in USA, who are seeking rezoning approval to carve up more than 400,000 acres of wilderness for resort development and vacation houses around Moosehead Lake in Maine, you prey on local economic fears in a down economy. Although unrelated, both mega-tourism development projects have more than golf courses in common. They need special permits to proceed and they have argued that denying them that approval translates into economic stagnation.

Trump was recently in Scotland, where he decided to personally face off against those nagging gadfly’s of progress – environmental groups. Conservation organizations, including Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, among others, have raised serious concerns over Trump’s plans to build two 18-hole golf courses, a 450 room hotel, conference centre, spa, golf academy, 950 holiday homes, 36 golf villas and accommodations for 400 staff on fragile sand dunes that are an officially designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and home to thousands of migrating birds. Trump has said that if he does not get approval for his plan the way he wants it, he will take his multi-million dollar investment someplace else (apparently where his generosity will be appreciated). He referred to Scottish opponents of his development plan as "imbeciles". In fairness, Trump described himself as "an environmentalist" during questioning in the three week public inquiry held last month on the project.

Across the Atlantic in Maine, home to the largest remaining wilderness expanse east of the Mississippi – the North Woods – Plum Creek Timber Corporation is locked in a heated battle with local opponents and conservation organizations, including Maine Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, in an effort to gain rezoning approval to build more than 2000 resort rooms, condos, and vacation homes, in addition to a golf course, marina, restaurants, gift shops, staff housing, service buildings, etc. in the heart of back-country forests, lakes, and rivers. That it also happens to be in an area of abundant wildlife, including moose, bear and endangered species like the Canadian Lynx, doesn’t seem to matter. Like Trump, Plum Creek has threatened to take their economic investment elsewhere (where it will be better appreciated, no doubt) if they cannot get the zoning approval they want. The approach represents hardball fear tactics during hard economic times. In both cases, project opponents have sought compromises, but bottom line issues, like not building on the wild dunes of Scotland, and not putting a 400 room resort in the Lily Bay wildlife corridor of Moosehead Lake, where the endangered Canadian Lynx roams, have been met with firm resistance by the corporate real estate giants.

How much actual economic gain to local communities comes from mega-tourism projects like this in largely unspoiled natural areas? Historical experience points to a small pool of investors reaping large profits, with locals getting the crumbs from the economic table while ever-dwindling wilderness is destroyed in the process. At a time when global tourism trends show a growing interest among travelers to experience more nature, along with cultural authenticity and "sense of place", over-blown development projects like these are throwbacks to tourism’s poorly planned past, and not the new sustainable tourism vision needed for the future.


  1. Angel
    July 4, 2008, 7:18 am

    I really enjoyed reading this article, thank you. Some very interesting points to think about. It would be great, if you’re interested, to share this at It’s an online tool for travelers where you can post the best travel news and articles on the web and then vote for your favorites.

  2. Julie
    July 6, 2008, 7:56 am

    Some very important points, very well presented.
    This post is truly worth a read!!

  3. Laptop
    July 7, 2008, 5:59 am

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  5. vacations in Europe
    January 6, 2010, 1:24 pm

    I is just so sad – there’s is hardly any wilderness left! Sometimes I wonder if my children will ever get the chance to see a real forest- and not just a city lane with poor oak trees stuck in the middle of traffic.
    But thanks to the environmentalists and the new awareness movements I think we still might stand a chance!

  6. Meredith Kennedy
    June 10, 2010, 3:11 pm

    Excellent article – concise and informative, educating the general public on what’s really happening. Many thanks to Costas Christ.
    Meredith Kennedy

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    January 23, 2011, 9:24 am

    It was really good to read this kind of thing.

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