So here’s my current project. In between plotting and character development for my novel, I’m writing grant proposals for Ethical Traveler, www.ethicaltraveler.org. It’s an interesting organization. The travel industry rakes in billions and billions of dollars from airlines, hotels, restaurants, and t-shirts. Most destination countries rely on all that money to support their economies. It’s unfortunate that many of those countries also have questionable practices in the areas of environmental protection, human rights, and social welfare. They kind of get away with doing what ever they want, and they still get tourists to give them money. What if the tourists stop coming?
Here’s where Ethical Traveler comes in. Every year they put out a Top 10 list of the World’s Best Ethical Destinations. This is a list of countries that are great to visit and have made serious improvement in the areas of environmental protection and human rights and social welfare. For example:
- Palau, which declared its waters a dolphin, shark and whale sanctuary, rescinded support for Japanese “scientific” whaling, and called for an international moratorium on shark finning.
- Costa Rica returned to the list, after falling off last year, due to increased efforts by recently elected president Laura Chinchilla to address human trafficking problems.
- Quantifying social welfare improvements are not as straightforward, but issues such as access to safe drinking water, sustainable water management, responsible sanitation practices, and agricultural management are carefully noted.
Taking our tourism dollars to countries working hard to improve the quality of life for their people and the environment affirms their good work. That sends a message to countries that don’t. It’s a passive-agressive way of telling some countries we won’t support your sex trade or toxic waste dumping.
To be honest, I never thought about how my travel affected the countries I visit. Do the few dollars I spend on a meal really make that much difference? Added to the billions of other dollars spent on food and travel, yes, I guess it does. Will I think twice next time I plan to travel overseas? Youbetcha. But what if I have a reason to go to one of those countries that didn’t make the Top 10 list? I would still go. It’s when I have a choice in a destination that I would consider where I want my dollars to vote. Think about it. There’s a whole lot of world to see. Why not check out the places doing good?