Top 10 Ethical Destinations

A grass-roots alliance uniting everyone who loves to explore the world, Ethical Traveler believes that through conscientious travel, we can use our cultural interactions and economic power to strengthen human rights and protect the environment. Last week they revealed their list of top 10 ethical destinations for 2010. They are;

The World’s Top 10
Ethical Destinations
South Africa

Founder Jeff Greenwald opens the list talking about his definition;

During the past decade, “Ethical Travel” has become an increasingly important value. It’s an easy term to define. Ethical travel is mindful travel: an awareness of our impact and responsibilities as we explore the world. Travel has become one of the planet’s biggest industries – on par with oil – and our economic power as travelers is enormous. Which countries should we visit? Where should we spend our money when we get there? How do our interactions with our hosts promote international goodwill and cross-cultural understanding? The way we travel has a measurable impact on the environment, human rights, and the way our home country is viewed by people in other lands.

As Vagabonders, mindful travel is our preference. Not only does it give us a richer experience, but it promotes cultural exchange. It also opens up more of the world to us, when we forsake the safety of France for the curiosity of Cambodia. When my wife and I traveled to Morocco a few years ago, a number of people that we spoke with beforehand were surprised. “Are you sure it’s safe? Aren’t you worried?” While there are certainly more and less risky places to visit in the world, if one keeps their wits about them and treats people with respect, I believe that one can go anywhere.

As more of the world opens up with the advancing of technology and cheaper travel, it will be more important than ever that we act as goodwill ambassadors, promoting the free exchange of thoughts and currency.

How does your definition of ethical travel differ from or add to the above? What destinations do you believe should be included in the top 25?

Posted by | Comments (9)  | December 10, 2009
Category: Travel News

9 Responses to “Top 10 Ethical Destinations”

  1. Frank Says:

    I saw Jeff Greenwald speak back in 2002, just as he was putting up his Ethical Travel website. The fundamental question is what is ethical and what isn’t? I don’t consider spending $800 billion a year on defense (read: global security) to be very ethical, yet I would never tell a foreigner not to travel to the USA because of this. Furthermore, as I recall, Thailand is way down on Greenwald’s list, yet I know for a fact Greenwald has traveled there. In the end, there may be too much disagreement on what is ethical and what isn’t to provide any sort of guidelines.

  2. Pete Says:

    I was wondering what the criteria were for making the list? Just seemed kind of random to me, but what the hell do I know? I go to places like Orlando, Vegas and Baltimore! LOL.

    Thanks for the list anyway!

    Maybe I’ll see you on your Next Flight Home.

  3. Says:

    What’s the criteria for making the list? Totally agree that “ethical travel” is mindful travel: an awareness of our impact and responsibilities as we explore the world. Surprised South Africa is on the list. All we here about in the States is South Africa this or South Africa that. Major celebrities seem to have an affinity for “saving South Africa” when most South Africans believe they can save themselves…curious…

  4. Michael McColl, co-founder, Says:

    Great questions, thanks to all! Our methodology is outlined in the full report, whhich is available at .

    But for a quick answer, our list is created starting with three general categories: Environmental Protection, Social Welfare, and Human Rights.

    Many of the Asian countries had corruption and environmental destruction issues which made it impossible for us to recommend travel there. A quote from the report: “South Africa received high marks for supporting eco-friendly, community-based tourism ventures, as well as for sustainable coastal development and environmental management. The country, however, has a huge rich/poor gap, and a high crime rate persists. Travelers should be mindful of the dangers, and stay informed about which areas to avoid.”

    Note that no country is perfect. These are simply the destinations that our analysis determined were the best given the reality of today’s developing world.

  5. Jeff Greenwald Says:

    Thanks Rolf! A quick note. I don’t think it’s clear from this blog, but these are the “Ten Best Ethical Destinations” in the developing world. Our aim is to steer travelers to well-intentioned countries where travel and tourism are genuine alternatives to industrialization, resource exploitation, etc. So of course the US or other “go to” countries would not be considered in any case.

  6. Ted Beatie Says:

    You’re welcome, Jeff ­čÖé

  7. Ruth@Exodus Says:

    I think no matter where you go you can travel mindfully and in a way that benefits the area you visit. Indeed, many places and lives literally depend on the tourism industry. Simple things such as respecting the culture, not littering, travelling with as little environmental impact as possible and using local suppliers can go a long way.

  8. Gregory Hubbs Says:

    I am sorry viz first post. I had not see the hyperlink to the methodology and did not know this list related to developing countries. You had written piece for Transitions a few years a which described then what you were getting at:, and we certainly continue to support your analysis and efforts.

    I guess my only question remains how not to unintentionally punish people who live in badly governed countries by not traveling there. Ethiopia is and has been in dire need of tourism, but its government is currently corrupt. When my parents went there, the locals said they did not need volunteers from abroad, just money for to provide continuity for volunteers within the country to improve the lot in life of orphans and maintain the incredible heritage of that great country and its environment. And the Ethiopians treated them with incredible hospitality. Yemen too maintains some of the great architecture on earth, but is a governmental mess.

    And within even within the boundaries of many countries there are hostages of centralized governments who need support: e.g. those in Chinese Tibet. I recall how empty the markets were in the Arabic parts of Jerusalem were during the Intifada. Those selling (often organic) products grown on an ancient land suffered due to the actions of extremists resulting as part of a diminution of tourism which hurt all parties. How to handle such quandaries while trying to be a responsible traveler?

  9. Nicolaï Says:

    How is Argentina, a banana republic, #1?

    Think I’ll stick to Taiwan for the next trip. Pollution aside, how can Taiwan not be above Argentina?