Ethical Travel Guide FAQ

1. What is the purpose of the Ethical Travel Guide?
The purpose of the Ethical Travel Guide is to help travellers in making better decisions about where to go, who to go with, where to stay and what to do in accordance with principles of ethical tourism.

The initiative intertwines two essential strands of how Tourism Concern works:

We seek to give a voice to communities where tourism takes place, sharing their concerns and recommendations in order to encourage more equitable and sustainable tourism. Developing the interactive map will involve a substantial building of our network of partner organisations worldwide which share adherence to our principles.

  • We aim to help travellers to take responsibility for their impact by choosing ethical options for what to do and where to stay, and being responsible, sensitive and well-informed whilst travelling. Research suggests that once the main criteria for a holiday are satisfied (location/facilities, cost and availability), travellers will make choices based on ethical considerations, which will in turn encourage the industry to adopt more ethical approaches.
  • We are promoting ethical travel – in the form of community-based tourism (CBT) for example – as an alternative to the mainstream. However, we will also promote mainstream ethical approaches, not least because research suggests that private sector initiatives perform at least as well as CBT initiatives. Nonetheless, we are aware that the industry has a habit of hijacking and diluting positive initiatives. There are plenty of examples of tour operators – including local organisations – who make extravagant claims for the amount they put back into the community.

2. Do you have a certification process?
No. Certification programmes can be important tools for distinguishing genuinely ethical companies, products, or services from those that are merely these labels for marketing (see STEP, TIES, GSTC etc, as well as numerous local/regional initiatives around the world). However, there is no one fixed definition of what is ethical, and even if basic criteria can be agreed, they may be interpreted and weighted very differently by different people. Tourism Concern’s own attempts to establish Fair Trade Tourism as a meaningful concept bears out these challenges. In short, it is pretty much impossible to come up with one system to assess the sort of huge variety of tours, operators, accommodation etc, which we might include on our map. The other major issue is that for any certification to have any integrity require time and resources and therefore will have a cost. The very organisations that we want to include will not have these resources or be able to afford to pay

3. How do you decide who goes into the Ethical Travel Guide?

There are several ways in which we are able to assess potential entries. Firstly, all entries must comply with our basic principles. A more nuanced assessment can then be made (via an on-line form) by looking at a range of detailed criteria, which will apply differently according to the type of entry. Rich information can also be accessed via our expanding network of partner organizations worldwide. They can suggest things to be included, other organisations to contact, and help in assessing existing entries for their region. Local certification schemes for particular types of entry will also be consulted, their criteria being compared to our own. Finally, travellers can feedback information about their experience of a particular place. Whilst this will not necessarily be expert assessment of ethical criteria, it is valuable qualitative information.

4. What are the assessment criteria?
We will ask applications to complete an on-line application and demonstrate how they meet each of the following criteria. We will make an assessment based on the answers given and score under each heading from 1 to 5 on how well they have demonstrated they meet each of the three strands of sustainability (social, economic and environmental). We will involve local NGOs and partners in country where appropriate to help with initial and ongoing assessments. All organisations will have to declare that they meet health and safety requirements and have equality policies. The visitor fulfilment will be determined via feedback from travellers.

Community Well-being:

  • To maintain and strengthen the quality of life in local communities, including social structures and access to resources, amenities and life support systems, avoiding any form of social degradation or exploitation.
  • To engage and empower local communities in planning and decision making about the management and future development of tourism in their area, in consultation with other stakeholders.
  • To respect and enhance the historic heritage, authentic culture, traditions, and distinctiveness of host communities

Local Prosperity and Social Equity

  • To maximize the contribution of tourism to the economic prosperity of the host destination, including the proportion of visitor spending that is retained locally.
  • To seek a widespread and fair distribution of economic and social benefits from tourism throughout the recipient community, including improving opportunities, income and services available to the poor.
  • To strengthen the number and quality of local jobs created and supported by tourism, including the level of pay, conditions of service and availability to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability or in other ways.

Environmental Protection

  • To maintain and enhance the quality of landscapes, both urban and rural, and avoid the physical and visual degradation of the environment.
  • To support the conservation of natural areas, habitats, and wildlife, and minimize damage to them.
  • Minimise use of scarce or non-renewable resources in the development of tourism facilities and to minimise pollution of air, water, land caused by the generation of waste by tourism enterprises and visitors.

Visitor Fulfilment

  • To provide a safe, satisfying and fulfilling experience for visitors, available to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability, or in other ways.

We appreciate that small scale operations will have limited resources and time so will need to balance the assessment process accordingly.

5. What is Tourism Concerns responsibility if places are not ethical?
Tourism Concern are only signposting places that may be of interest to ethical travellers. By its nature the term ethical can be interpreted in many ways. The decision whether an organisation appears on the site will be Tourism Concern’s decision and whether we are satisfied, on balance, that they are appropriate. Additionally information on the site and any assessments are for information only and it will be clear that any assessment is based on the information supplied to us. The application process will include third party verification where possible but the nature of and scale of many of the places will mean that this is not always possible. Traveller (and third party) feedback will be an important part of the guide and if any organisation is found to have misled us during the application process they will be removed from the site. We are not able to assume responsibility for the information or any claims made. Any bookings will be direct with the supplier and it will be up to the travellers to check any specific information direct.

6. Do you charge organisations to be listed?
No. The aim of the guide is to put small scale tourism providers, which bring real benefits to the local community, in touch with travelers who are looking to meet the real community. Many of the places listed will have limited or no resources for promotion so will be unable to afford any fee to be listed, however we do encourage those being listed to join as Ethical Travel Partners, which helps cover the assessment costs from those organisations that can afford to do so. This will also help us to support smaller organizations who cannot afford to pay. However, all listed organisations must comply with our criteria and cannot pay to be listed. Equally, no one will be excluded on the basis of whether they make join or not.

7. Do you charge visitors to use the Guide?
No. The aim of the guide is promote ethical and fairly traded tourism. Travellers can improve the economic well-being of communities and drive positive social change by the decisions they make and the purpose of the guide would be defeated if we limited its availability. However if we do not charge people to be listed or to access the information we need to find a way to provide the service. As discussed those organisation that can afford a fee to be listed will be asked to contribute and enable us to list the small scale operations that have no resources. Additionally our Members will play an important part in funding the service. The guide will directly meet our charitable objectives by providing information to travellers so that they can avoid harmful or negative practices while maximising the positive benefits of travel. The Guide will therefore be designed to encourage people to sign up and donate to our campaigns, to become Friends and to Adopt a country. Members will be able to access certain features of the site and we will encourage listed organisations to offer benefits or discounts to Members.

8. Do you take a commission from any bookings?
No. Tourism Concerns role is to provide a guide for travellers and put small scale tourism projects in touch with interested parties. We will not be selling or involved with any arrangements after the introduction. We will not be taking any commission; however we will be asking listed organisations to provide a benefit or discount to our Members.

9. How is the Guide funded?
The print edition of the Ethical Travel Guide was sold as a book, which covered some of the costs. The online version is part of our mission, which is to promote ethical and fairly traded tourism. This means we do not charge organisations to be listed, nor visitors to access them. However we do encourage people to join our Ethical Travel Club as our aim is to build a global network of ethical travellers and hope that those that share our vision will join as Members.