Ethical Tourism: 5 Essential Steps

Ethical tourism and great experiences: backpacker at the top of a mountain

Ethical tourism is a type of tourism that focuses on the responsible behavior of tourists and the positive impact they can have on the communities they visit. It is a growing trend in the tourism industry, as more and more travelers are looking for ways to minimize their negative impact on the environment and local cultures.

When it comes to ethical tourism, there are a lot of different factors to consider. From choosing responsible tour operators to being aware of the impact of your travel on local communities, there is a lot to think about.

There are many ways to be an ethical tourist. One of the most important things you can do is to research the destination you are planning to visit. This includes learning about the local culture and customs so that you can respect them while you are there.

Have you ever considered how your travel choices affect the planet and the people you visit? With a little bit of research and planning, you can make sure that your trip is not only ethically sound but also an amazing and enriching experience for both you and the communities you visit.

Below are six steps you can take to make sure your travels are as responsible and ethical as possible.

But first, let’s understand how tourism can negatively affect the environment.

Negative Impact Of Tourism

The tourism industry is a booming industry with no signs of slowing down. However, with the increase in tourism comes an increase in the negative impact of tourism. The negative impact of tourism can be seen in the form of environmental damage, social impact, and economic impact.

The environmental damage caused by tourism is well documented. The carbon footprint of the tourism industry is huge and growing. Tourists often come from developed countries and travel to developing countries, which puts a strain on the environment of developing countries.

Tourists often visit natural areas and do not always follow Leave No Trace principles, which can lead to environmental damage. The social impact of tourism can be both positive and negative. On the positive side, tourism can bring people of different cultures together and help to promote understanding and tolerance.

On the negative side, tourism can lead to the displacement of local people, as well as cultural appropriation. The economic impact of tourism can also be both positive and negative. Let’s talk about its negative effects (the reasons why ethical tourism is needed).

Tourism Can Have A Negative Environment Impact

Tourists generate waste in abundance, which can have a negative impact on the environment. This waste can degrade the quality of local waters and shorelines, and it may even cause disease in wildlife.

Moreover, it can damage the health of humans and other animals. Birds often mistake floating plastic for fish, and these creatures die as a result of insufficient nutrients in their bodies. Further, it can negatively impact the local economy and social structures.

Tourism increases the emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Since most tourists travel by car, plane, and train, this inevitably contributes to the pollution of the air. In fact, tourism accounts for nearly 60% of all air travel. Unless there is a shift toward renewable energy, this number is expected to continue to increase.

drought-stricken farm field
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Water pollution from tourism is also a growing problem. Water is a limited resource, and resorts using vast amounts of it can result in a water shortage. Many popular tourist destinations overuse water for swimming pools, luxurious wellness facilities, and other tourism-related uses.

In addition, travelers also use large amounts of water for personal use while on vacation. As a result, this waste can lead to water shortages, which have adverse effects on local residents.

Tourism Contributes To Climate Change

It has been estimated that the global carbon footprint of tourism increased by 3.9 to 4.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2009 and 2013 compared to previous estimates.

Today, tourism is responsible for approximately 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Its growth is due to the increasing demand for goods and services.

Since the late twentieth century, tourism has become one of the fastest-growing sectors. With falling air travel costs and a growing middle class, the number of people traveling abroad is on the rise. Some studies estimate that this growth is four times as large as previously thought and could threaten the Paris Agreement’s targets.

The tourism industry faces a number of challenges due to climate change. This issue is global in nature and affects all the basic elements of life on Earth, including food production, health, and the environment. Consequently, it has a major impact on tourism destinations. It also affects the competitiveness of the tourism industry.

In addition to increasing demand for sustainable tourism, climate change also affects the supply and quality of tourism services. It is important to understand how climate change affects these aspects of tourism and to adapt to it.

By learning more about the potential impacts of climate change on local communities, we can develop more sustainable and ethical tourism practices.

Tourism Contributes To Water Depletion

The tourism industry contributes to the problem of water depletion by over-exploiting aquifers, lowering groundwater tables, and contaminating freshwater. Consequently, it is critical to find new ways to increase tourism while minimizing water consumption.

Water depletion is a major concern for many countries. In Fiji, tourism contributes 7.2% of municipal water withdrawal. Across countries, tourism use is increasing. The water pumped by tourism facilities is disproportionately high. In some countries, water consumption is more than double the amount used by local residents.

Tourism-related water use in developing countries is far higher than municipal water usage. In some countries, tourism-related water use exceeds municipal water use by as much as eight times.

This imbalance is especially problematic in countries with limited water resources. The large disparity between local water consumption and tourism-related water use in these countries raises questions about water equity and the ethics of access.

In addition to these concerns, tourism also puts tremendous pressure on local resources and raw materials. This can further exacerbate physical impacts. Tourism is also seasonal, with peak tourist season coincident with the driest months of the island.

Locals rely on water and other natural resources to provide for visitors. During high season, the island’s population reaches ten times its normal level. As a result, water usage increases, increasing the burden on the local economy.

Now, let’s explore 5 essential steps for truly ethical tourism.

1. Keep It Local

The tourism industry is vital to many economies around the world, but it can also be a major source of income inequality. A study by the World Travel & Tourism Council found that in 2015, the top 1% of earners in the tourism industry took home almost 20% of all tourism income.

This means that a tiny minority of people are raking in the majority of the money generated by tourism. One way to help alleviate this inequality is to make an effort to spend your money with local businesses when you travel.

This could mean anything from eating at locally owned restaurants to booking tours and activities with small, independent operators. By directing your money towards the people who actually live in and depend on tourism for their livelihood, you can help ensure that more of the benefits of tourism are shared more evenly.

So next time you’re planning a trip, remember that your spending choices can make a big difference. Seek out the businesses that are truly local and help make your travel dollar go further.

Book With Locally-Owned Tourism Businesses

When planning your next vacation, consider choosing a trip that supports local businesses. There are many benefits to doing this. Not only will you get to see a unique place, but you will also help out the local economy.

Many small businesses struggle to compete with large retail chains and online retailers, which makes this kind of trip an excellent way to support your community.

As a traveler, there are many different ways that you can support local economies. One way is to book with locally-owned tourism businesses. This can be anything from a bed and breakfast to a tour company. When you book with these businesses, you are directly supporting the local economy and helping to create jobs.

There are many benefits to booking with locally-owned businesses. They are often more personal and invested in their community. They also tend to be more environmentally friendly. And, of course, as mentioned before, you are directly supporting the local economy.

So, next time you are planning a trip, consider booking with locally-owned businesses. Not only will you be supporting the local economy, but you are also likely to have a more authentic and enjoyable experience.

Try Experiences That Benefit The Locals

One of the most important ethical travel practices is to try experiences that benefit the local people. For example, you can choose to stay in a homestay or hostel run by locals instead of a hotel. You can also make a donation to a local organization working to improve the tourism industry in your destination.

This form of tourism is very sensitive and should be done with great care. It should involve local people in the planning, guiding, and production of your experience.

Local guides are knowledgeable about the culture and customs of the place and should make sure that the profits go back to the local community. This way, you can be sure that the experience will benefit everyone.

Spend Your Money On locally owned businesses

Supporting locally owned businesses is a great way to spend your money on ethical tourism. Not only will you be helping the local economy, but you’ll also be helping out the people who make the products. By doing this, you’ll be helping the people in the area directly, and ensuring that your money is spent on something meaningful.

a woman holding a shop local sign
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The tourism industry has an enormous impact on the world’s economy. It also helps improve the social and cultural structures of the country that hosts it.

However, not everyone benefits equally from this economic growth. Governments rarely distribute tourism revenues fairly and the local people often miss out. It’s important to know your rights and choose your business wisely.

You can also support local businesses by booking through them. If possible, stay in a local hotel or guesthouse. Locally owned hotels and guesthouses support the local economy and help the local community. It’s also important to avoid giant chains when booking.

2. Help Sustain Local Economies

By spending your tourist dollar in a way that benefits local communities, you are directly contributing to their economic development. This is especially important in developing countries, where tourism is often a vital source of income.

In addition to sustaining local economies, ethical tourism also helps to create jobs and support businesses that are owned by locals. This has the knock-on effect of reducing poverty and promoting social inclusion.

This can be done in a number of ways, such as buying local products, eating at locally-owned restaurants, and using local transportation. Ethical tourism is important because it ensures that the local economy is able to thrive and that the community is able to benefit from the tourism industry.

Visit Lesser known and Less Crowded Destinations

When considering a vacation destination, many people default to well-known, crowded places. However, lesser-known destinations can be just as fun and offer a more authentic experience. They also help to sustain local economies by providing much-needed tourism dollars.

Next time you are planning a vacation, consider venturing off the beaten path to a lesser-known destination. Not only will you have a more unique and memorable experience, but you’ll also be helping to sustain a local economy.

This allows for more money to go into the local economy and less to outside businesses. When people visit new places, they are also more likely to spend money on local goods and services, which further boosts the economy.

Respectfully Interact With the Locals

When doing ethical tourism, you should try to find ways to respect locals and minimize your impact on their environment. This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Changing your trip dates to coincide with off-seasons.
  • Choosing to stay in local homestays instead of hotels.
  • Donating to local organizations to address the problems associated with tourism.

Whenever possible, learn the local language and interact with the locals in a respectful manner. Remember that you are a guest in the country you are visiting and they are the cultural ambassadors for their home country. Respect local customs and culture by avoiding inappropriate behavior and asking permission before taking pictures.

Respect Local Laws And Traditions

When doing ethical tourism, it is essential to respect local laws and traditions. While it’s easy to get caught up in selfie-stick-brandishing tourists and the resulting overcrowding of places, these activities can lead to a variety of problems, including overloaded infrastructure, destruction of natural habitats, and alienation of the local people.

people sharing a meal from one big bowl according to the African Ubuntu or togetherness philosophy
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Whenever possible, avoid eating at multinational chains and choose restaurants run by locals. This ensures that your tourism dollars stay in the country. Water and electricity are often scarce, so be sure to respect these valuable resources.

Lastly, try to learn about the local customs and traditions. Some cultures even have their own greetings, so make sure to learn about the local way of life before visiting.

The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism encourages countries and organizations to engage in social tourism, which provides better access to leisure for local residents. It also encourages the development of community tourism, which supports local traditions and serves as an alternative source of income for rural communities.

3. Travel in a More Ethical Way

We all want to travel and see the world. It’s a natural desire. But how can we do so in a way that is ethical? We often don’t think about the consequences of our actions when we travel. But we should. There are a lot of things we can do to make our travel more ethical.

There are many different ways to travel, but not all of them are ethically sound. If you want to make sure your travels are having a positive impact on the world, here are a few things you can do to travel in a more ethical way.

Travel During the Tourism Off-season

Traveling during the tourism off-season is a great way to visit a destination without the huge crowds and high prices. By traveling outside the peak tourist season, you will be able to support local economies and find a more affordable place to stay.

You’ll also be able to explore parts of the country that are not well-known to the general public.

There are a number of reasons that make certain destinations more or less expensive. These include holidays, school schedules, and weather. Doing your research beforehand will help you determine the low season.

Oftentimes, travelers will find great flight deals during this time of year. Additionally, hotel rates drop significantly during this time.

Select Your Destination With Care

As a traveler, you should always select your destination with care. If you can, visit a country where human rights are respected. By avoiding places that are notorious for abuses of human rights, you will be helping to create a positive change. However, even a country like the United States is not immune to ethical dilemmas.

Overtourism is an issue that many countries face. It causes infrastructure to become overloaded, natural habitats to be destroyed, and local people to be priced out.

To be truly ethical, select your destination based on how it will impact the local people and its infrastructure. For example, you should avoid visiting countries that are too remote, where locals may protest against tourism.

As a traveler, you can help to create an impact by donating to a social enterprise or established non-profit. You can also volunteer with organizations such as Not Just Tourists, which provides donated medical equipment to communities in need. Alternatively, you can read a book such as Song of the Open Road, which highlights the plight of those in poor communities.

4. Help Sustain And Regenerate The Environment

Although it often goes unnoticed, the environment plays a vital role in sustaining human life. Just as we rely on the environment to provide us with air, water, and food, the environment also depends on us to protect it.

By taking steps to sustain and regenerate the environment, we can ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same benefits that we do. This is one of the most important steps to ethical tourism.

We all know that the environment is important, but sometimes it’s hard to know what we can do to help. Luckily, there are lots of small things we can do to make a big difference. Here are some tips to help sustain and regenerate the environment.

Bring Your Own Reusable Bag For Shopping

Choosing to Bring Your Own Reusable Bag For Shopping is a great way to minimize the amount of plastic waste you generate. Each year, more than one billion plastic bags are thrown away in the United States alone.

2 hands holding a leaf on dirt with one side red and dead and the other side green and alive
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Reusable bags are made from recycled plastic or Eco-Friendly Fibres. You should always carry one with you when you go shopping. If you don’t have a reusable shopping bag, ask the cashier for a paper bag.

It is also a great way to reduce waste and support local job creation. Many eco-friendly companies support this practice by employing local workers and promoting environmental standards. These companies include REI Adventures, G Adventures, and Intrepid Travel.

Many other companies have made commitments to become more eco-friendly. For example, Cunard and P&O have announced plans to phase out single-use plastics in their cruise ships by 2022. Some airlines have committed to switching from plastic stir straws to bamboo stir sticks.

Marriott International plans to switch to shampoo dispenser systems in its hotels by 2020, eliminating 10.4 million single-use plastic mini bottles.

Some stores may offer discounts if you choose to bring your own bag. If you must buy a plastic shopping bag, it is better to use a reusable one. Reusable bags are more convenient and can be carried around easily in a wallet.

Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle

Choosing to Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle when traveling is an excellent way to reduce your impact on the environment and reduce your carbon footprint.

a lightbulb drawing with a growing plant inside it
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Water bottles are used to transport water, but they don’t break down completely, and when you use a reusable bottle, you are not contributing to plastic pollution. Many bottles can be reused several times. In addition to preventing plastic pollution, they also make great collectible souvenirs.

When choosing a reusable water bottle, consider the materials used. Glass bottles are best because they are 100% recyclable. But they also need to be properly stored in a silicone sleeve to avoid breakage.

If you’re planning on taking long journeys, consider investing in a stainless steel or glass bottle. These bottles are durable and will keep the water cool. If you’re on a budget, plastic bottles are fine when used sparingly and ethically.

Besides plastic-free water bottles, you can also use water fountains to get a quick drink. Having a water fountain in your hotel or restaurant is a great way to ensure that the water is pure. Many hotels will offer water in glass bottles for guests to fill up their reusable bottles.

5. Make A Positive Impact By Giving Back

Giving back is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Not only does it make you feel good, but it can also have a positive impact on the lives of others. There are many ways to give back, but one of the best ways is to volunteer your time and talents to a worthy cause.

There are many ways to make a positive impact through tourism, such as volunteering, supporting local businesses, and sustainable tourism. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community while also getting to know the local culture. There are many different organizations that offer volunteer opportunities, so there is sure to be something for everyone.

Whether you’re tutoring children, helping the elderly, or working with animals, your time and effort can make a difference in the lives of those in need. Not only will you be making a positive impact on the lives of others, but you’ll also be gaining valuable experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

Volunteer In Local Programs

Volunteering with ethical organizations in a foreign country can offer a rewarding and fulfilling experience. However, there are many things to keep in mind before making your decision.

It is crucial to do your research and make sure that the volunteer organization is reputable. You should also seek the advice of people who have volunteered with the organization in the past.

Look for a program that employs local staff where possible, and is led by local leaders. Volunteering for an ethical organization should involve working with locals to ensure that your work will be valued by the community.

a group of people removing plastic waste from a forest
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Look for a program that has a grassroots model, and ask about the costs of their volunteer programs. Most organizations will be happy to provide this information.

If you are planning to volunteer in another country, you should make sure to obtain a passport and renew it when necessary. Many countries do not allow entry to visitors with expired passports.

Share Your Experience With Others After Your Trip

As a tourist, you have the opportunity to help promote ethical tourism simply by sharing your experiences with friends and family. When you return home, take the time to tell others about the great experiences you had while supporting ethical tourism businesses.

You can write positive reviews online, post photos and stories on social media, or even give presentations to community groups. By sharing your experiences, you can help raise awareness of the importance of supporting ethical tourism businesses.

By sharing your positive experiences with these businesses with others, you can help to encourage even more people to shop locally. This word-of-mouth promotion is one of the most powerful marketing tools available, and it costs nothing but a little bit of your time.

Additionally, you are helping to create jobs and support the local economy. So, next time you have a great experience while traveling, be sure to tell your friends and family about it and post about it online. You may just be helping to make someone else’s dream vacation a reality.


Ethical tourism is a voluntary activity in which tourists spend part of their vacation learning, interacting, or volunteering with the local communities they visit. Essentially ethical tourism is a conscious choice for travelers to spend their vacation helping to improve the host community.

Tourism has the potential to change the character of a country. It can place a nation on a more equal footing with others. However, tourism can also cause problems. The environment is damaged by many visitors.

The loss of culture by in-country residents also happens through tourism. The industry must be managed for the good of the local people. Both cultural and economic benefits should outweigh any negative impacts.

Through ethical tourism, communities can promote eco-friendly activities that reduce their carbon footprints. Ecotourism encourages locals to protect nature. It empowers them to protect their environment, develop their tourism industry, and create jobs. Yes, you can experience an adventure of a lifetime and do good at the same time.

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