Ethical Travel

  1. First, do no harm. Tourists and the tourism industry are often the driving force for travel, rather than the perspectives of the communities that receive and host them. Be thoughtful and intentional about the personal decisions you make when traveling to avoid doing harm. Befriend and speak to locals where possible. The more you understand the local community, the more you can make decisions that don’t affect them negatively. Spend some time considering how the local community may view your presence or activities. Seek advice (from locals or local partner organizations) on how to carry out your activities to avoid causing disturbance.
  2. Understand the issues. Some consequences of tourism can include disturbing the distribution of power, or putting stress on local organizations or institutions, for example, if visitors take more resources than they bring.
  3. Consider the unintended consequences of good intentions. If you are working as a volunteer of some sort, be clear about how your work will be used and be able to inform people about this in a clear and concise way, without promising unrealistic results. Make sure to hand over any activities being carried out or findings, results, general knowledge, etc. to the local community, so that activities can be continued locally.
  4. Support the local industry. When planning guided tours, transportation or accommodation, research options that support the local economy and bring much needed wealth to communities. Pack light – and buy from local entrepreneurs if necessary.

Recommended Reading on International Experience

Websites and Articles

    "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Other Useful Resources

    Learning Service has a series of videos on ethical travel and volunteerism, covering topics such as orphanage tourism, traveling through Southeast Asia, among others. 

    Tourism Concern is a UK-based charity that campaigns for better tourism. It outlines the impact of tourism on communities in different locations and has numerous resources on how to travel ethically. You can check out their interactive map for a better understanding of the impact of tourism on the locations you are visiting. 

    The Ethics of International Engagement and Service-Learning Project at the University of British Columbia offers a number of online resources for exploring the ethics of international service learning projects.

    First, Do No Harm: A Qualitative Research Documentary by Alyson and Timothy Holland that explores the ethics of global health clinical electives and volunteer projects in developing regions.