Island nations such as Dominica are greatly affected by climate change and are therefore very aware of the importance of effective environmental policies. Photo: Flickr/gailf548
Island nations such as Dominica are greatly affected by climate change and are therefore very aware of the importance of effective environmental policies. Photo: Flickr/gailf548

Why Ethical Travel Matters

Travel is one of the world’s largest industries. Americans alone spend upwards of $118 billion annually on international passenger fares and travel abroad.

Greenwald calls travelers “the world’s largest untapped political group,” referring to the fact that they can show support for countries that are doing the right thing environmentally and socially by spending money there.

You may have noticed that six out of 10 of this year’s chosen destinations are islands. That’s because, according to Greenwald, those countries have a higher stake in environmental protection. “Island nations have a vested interest in protecting their environment against climate change because they’re likely to disappear as a result of rising sea water,” he says. “They also, since they’re usually pretty compact and often homogenous cultures, they agree to take care of each other more easily and quickly than very diverse countries. . . .They’re careful about making sure they do not run out of resources and are able to sustain their forests and their fisheries.”

For Americans, choosing to vacation in one Caribbean island over another may not seem like a big deal, but it could make a difference to the neighboring islands’ economies. By not spending your dollars in unethical destinations, you can put pressure on them to change.

Greenwald says it all boils down to a question of living ethically.

“You want to put your money where your beliefs are,” he stresses. “Everyone loves the thought of traveling to Thailand or Cambodia or Burma, [but these places] don’t really have great human rights records. Why not use your travel dollars to show your support and solidarity for countries that are struggling to have good government and attract travelers? Why not reward them? It could create a groundswell of economic incentive for countries to do the right thing.”

To learn more about how you can be a socially and environmentally conscious traveler, check out Ethical Traveler’s “Thirteen Tips for the Accidental Ambassador.”