Responsible / sustainable tourism

20140324-223016.jpgWhat is responsible tourism?

Responsible tourism is about making places better to live in, and therefore also better to visit. It’s usually pretty easy, if you’re aware of the consequences of your travel decisions.

Also called sustainable tourism, it means maximizing social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits while minimizing related damages.

Travellers, governments and their tourism commissions, travel businesses, and local residents all have intertwining roles. Understanding the positive and negative consequences of tourism, and of the individual actions of the players, is the key to improving destinations for the short and long term.

P1360893My responsible tourism-related articles

The latest:

Making the world a better place

  • For Reader’s Digest, responsible animal tourism:
    • 11 whale shark facts you probably didn’t know, about the biggest fish in the world, including how to swim responsibly with them (spoiler: La Paz, Mexico is one of the best and most ethical places in the world to do it).
    • 8 of the most endangered elephants in the world, differentiating between the world’s elephants plus tips about how you can help protect them (that means no interactions with baby elephants, no riding elephants of any kind, and not supporting any organization which makes them perform).
  • For S.E.E. Africa Magazine, The pearl of the Pearl of Africa: Uganda’s mountain gorillas, about trekking with mountain gorillas in Uganda. Tourism helps protect the gorillas, and the gorillas help protect the people who live near the gorillas (low res PDF version).
    • High-res version, starting at page 38, via Issuu.
  • For Fodor’s, 10 things you need to know before you go to Cambodia, with tons of tips about how to have a great trip with as few negative effects to the country and its citizens as possible.
  • Turning life around, a “4 questions with” profile on the most amazing monk you’ll ever meet, Hoeurn Somnieng, (for Singapore Airlines’ regional in-flight magazine, SilkWinds) and the backstory.

Protecting economies and preventing scams


Protecting culture


IMG_6684 (1)

Photo by Omoniyi David.

Shopping sustainably: how you spend your money can make a big difference

Health and safety


Volunteering and donating

When westerners travel to developing countries, it reminds us how lucky we are to live in strong economies with strong democracies, and prompts us to want to give back. There are many ways to do this. However, there are more ways to cause damage than good.

Sustainable weekends


Meanwhile in Canada

P1380849I occasionally dip a toe back into my old life of public service, aiming to help Canada become an even better place. Here’s an op-ed I wrote for the daily newspaper of Canada’s capital city, The Ottawa Citizen. It’s about the state of my old employer, the Public Service of Canada, and its lack of readiness to take on the challenges of the new Justin Trudeau government, elected October 2015:

Why do I write about responsible tourism?

As travellers we have a responsibility to not make the places we visit worse because of our presence and behaviour. We also have the power and opportunity to make them better too. Knowledge is power.

Linking my new life of travel with my previous life as a policy executive with the Government of Canada, I write about responsible tourism wherever I can to help make the world just a little bit better. My writing is largely aimed at travellers, but I also provide consulting and advice to tourism commissions and partners in the tourism industry about how to enhance tourism.

I bring perspectives on two key opportunities for improvement:

  • advice to destinations about how to enhance a destination’s appeal to western travellers and to independent travellers (whose spending stays at the destination much more so than group travellers’);
  • advice to travellers about how to travel more responsibly, minimizing damage to a local economy and culture (while I sometimes touch on environmentalism, there are plenty of other writers who have more expertise).

Tourism is one of the most important industries in the world, particularly for many developing countries. Tourism touches upon almost every aspect of society and the economy, and is critical to helping developing countries become prosperous nations with citizens who thrive. I do my small part of sharing my knowledge with travellers and with the tourism industry.

Travellers: What would you like to know more about to help you travel more responsibly?  Comments welcomed below. 

Tourism commissions and tourism businesses:  do you need advice about how to better appeal to western travellers or need help sharing educational messages to travellers to your destination? Please contact me at TravelEater [at] to discuss how I  can help.

4 responses to “Responsible / sustainable tourism

  1. Pingback: 7 Easy Ways To Travel Respectfully In Southeast Asia·

  2. Great post. Thank you so much. I am a trekking tour operator from Nepal nepalkailashtrekking. com Nepal Kailash trekking is a reliable, service-oriented trekking agency in Nepal, specializing in Nepal trekking, nature, adventure, and trekking tours packages.


    • All the links are on the page above — just added as new one this week about the Tak Bat ceremony in Luang Prabang, Laos, which I wrote for a brand new magazine aimed at socially-conscious travellers, The Wayward Post. More to come! :-)


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