Responsible Tourism Day: Top 10 Resources

by Jenny Williams Nov 13, 2007
Travel by Boat

In celebration of tomorrow´s World Responsible Tourism Day we’ve put together a list of the ten best online sources for learning about and planning responsible travel. Please add your recommendation to the list in the comments section—there’s a wealth of material out there and new sources for green travel are always popping up.

Matador Travel and The Traveler’s Notebook should be the first stops for travelers passionate about making a difference on the road. And that’s not just because I write for them. The fact is, these two sites together offer an impressive collection of organizations doing great work, opportunities to get involved, and other dedicated travelers. You can exchange ideas, participate in forums, and search the network for like-minded souls.

Ethical Traveler is a “grass-roots alliance uniting adventurers, tourists, travel agencies, and outfitters—everyone who loves to travel, and sees travel as a positive force in the world.” The organization runs campaigns to raise awareness about environmental crises and human rights abuses all over the world, and offers ways to take action. They also provide a monthly news feed you can subscribe to if you want to keep up on the latest stories and campaigns. Ethical Traveler is a project of the Earth Island Institute, another good resource.

National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations presents a thorough look at the “geotourism” phenomenon. Their destination scorecards are a great place to start when planning a trip, and they even offer a booklet that “gives travel journalists and curious consumers ways to evaluate companies and destinations for sustainability.” The site also provides an excellent list of other resources, including links for “Green Hotel” organizations and eco-tour operators.

Tourism Concern, a UK-based organization, also has campaigns and action plans for green-minded go-getters. Their latest campaign takes a hard look at the effect of the Olympics on the indigenous communities that are often displaced or otherwise negatively affected by such massive events. Tourism Concern has an additional focus on the impact of free versus fair trade on local communities, and specifically aim to include UK Black and Minority Ethnic Diaspora in their educational outreach for travelers.

World Surface
calls itself a resource of “sustainable tourism for backpackers and independent travelers.” lists hundreds of eco-tours and offers contributions from travelers while they’re on the road. The site also details volunteer opportunities and conservation vacations. It’s easy to navigate and search for locations and tours.

The Connected Traveler has a long list of resources for “Good Travel” and “Volontourism” on the left sidebar. The site has essays, podcasts, and videos on all aspects of sustainable travel, and is generally a good site to get a feel for what’s out there.

Earthfoot’s Ecotour Posterboard runs a bunch of “very small-scale, locally produced, low-impact” eco-tours and homestays in countries all over the world. You can search by location or interest and then look at the profiles of each person involved in a tour. Though they’re not always budget choices, they are always rooted in the local community.

The International Ecotourism Society lists worldwide conferences, symposiums, and other events related to ecotourism. The site is geared more toward people in the industry—tour operators, lodge owners, etc—but travelers might find their research and publications section interesting. They’ve also got a searchable database of “ecotourism experts” that you can contact if you’re looking to hire consultants or speakers.

Leave No Trace is great for people who are looking for a more involved approach to ethical traveling. You can sign up for training courses and educational workshops, download free teaching resources, and gain access to serious research about the effects of travelers on their environment. Their focus is on the natural environment rather than communities of people, and most of the studies pertain to the American outdoors, but the site is still a good tool for general awareness and education.

Tread Lightly! focuses on “outdoor enthusiasts that use motorized and mechanized vehicles,” but the site also includes lots of good tips for horseback riding, camping, fishing, and snow sports. There’s a free “awareness course” and a section for kids, plus a twice-yearly newsletter that you can download in pdf form.

Okay, I know this is more than ten, but I couldn’t help myself. Responsible Travel is a massive database of thousands of eco-tours run by hundreds of operators, for people with a bit more cash to spend. Even for the budget-minded, the site includes some great tips and resources, including a handy air travel calculator that tells you how much carbon dioxide your flights add to global warming, and hints on offsetting and/or reducing your output.


A regular contributor to Matador, Jenny Williams, a former national soccer player, quit a job in book publishing to travel in the Middle East, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

Discover Matador