What is the purpose of Ethical Traveler?

Ethical Traveler is dedicated to educating travelers about the social and environmental impact of their decisions, showing how travel can be a potent form of diplomacy, and giving travelers a forum through which their united voices can serve the world community.

Who belongs to Ethical Traveler?

The people who make up Ethical Traveler are world travelers, local travelers, travel agents, tour outfitters and other travel industry professionals. But members of the ET community are also—most importantly—world citizens who want to learn how they can make this planet a wonderful place to continue exploring.

How can I be an Ethical Traveler?

For starters, please register with our community and we will inform you of some of the most pressing issues in which we are getting involved. Additionally, inform yourself about the places you want to travel, understand the social and environmental issues, and the impact of your presence as a traveler there. Also, check out our Tips for Accidental Ambassadors.

Why is such an organization necessary?

There is a growing need for travelers to play an active role in the world we explore. We believe that motivated travelers, with an understanding of our planet’s social and environmental concerns, can be instrumental in creating a better world.

Travel and tourism is the world’s largest industry, generating $47 billion in 2000. Many countries rely on tourism as a crucial source of foreign exchange. There is tremendous potential for the travel community to act as a positive force upon the world. Yet, until now, there has been no organization to unite travelers and those who serve them into a global alliance. Ethical Traveler provides this alliance.

What does Ethical Traveler do?

We are raising awareness of the interdependency between travelers and the places they travel to. We are doing this by building a global community of travelers, and over time will be providing our membership with information on key issues (e.g., coral reef protection, deforestation, women’s rights, and forced labor) relevant to the world of tourism, and unite travelers’ voices with those of other, like-minded organizations.

Our signature work will focus on well-researched campaigns that harness our members’ combined actions to promote social justice and environmental conservation. We will offer automated online letter writing campaigns that will make it easy for our members to make their concerns known with international policy makers, and impact relief and development efforts. Rallying our alliance to impact social and environmental issues, we will at times offer points of view that encourage travel to some destinations, while conveying misgivings about others.

What impact do you expect Ethical Traveler to have on the world?

“We travel alone, but together we’re an army.” – Walter Kirn, Up in the Air

Ethical Traveler hopes to create a shift in the way travelers view themselves, and their influence within the global community. We are reinforcing the understanding that by banding together, travelers can make decisions in line with their own values to impact their global concerns. We believe that, given clear information and the resources to create solutions, travelers will embrace their ability to make the planet a better place to inhabit and explore. We hope to inspire more and more travelers into action, and to use their economic power to address our planet’s urgent environmental and humanitarian problems.

What makes Ethical Traveler unique?

The concept of creating an alliance of tourists and travelers, and focusing its social and economic power as a force of social change, is unique. Numerous eco-tourism projects (e.g., in Nepal and the Amazon) and well-publicized travel boycotts (Colorado, ’93; Myanmar since ’96) provide impressive examples of what travelers can accomplish when they band together. Yet no one has attempted to form a broad-based coalition which, like the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) or Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen, harnesses this power on a global scale in service of the world community.

Another unique aspect of Ethical Traveler is our intention to network and share human resources with like-minded organizations. We plan to partner and consult with dozens of other groups whose projects overlap with, and are affected by, the economics of the travel industry.

This synergy has never been skillfully utilized, which is surprising—because it is crucial that travelers understand the impact of where, and how, they spend their money. With this understanding, tourists can realize that they are “voting with their wings” on a global scale; that their dollars help shape the political and cultural climate of our increasingly global society.

Where does Ethical Traveler get its resources?

As of now, we operate on a shoestring budget and are entirely dependent on financial contributions from individuals. However, we have been the lucky recipients of some valuable donations-in-kind: our logo, web design, public relations and web hosting have all been donated through the services of generous and like-minded travel friends. We have also received grant writing and legal assistance on a pro-bono basis. For more information on how you can help us grow, please visit our Contact page. We are a sponsored project of Earth Island Institute, a non-profit affiliation which allows us to accept tax-deductible donations and grants. Hint, hint.

How do I make my world concerns known? Can I contact you?

Registering with us will provide you a mechanism to “vote” on the issues you are most interested in affecting, so please join us! Our members’ strongest interest areas will shape the programs we develop. We are also eager to forge relevant organizational partnerships and receive contributions from our community, so feel free to contact us directly with any special matters.

How did Ethical Traveler get started?

The seeds for Ethical Traveler were planted in 1996, when author and journalist Jeff Greenwald—Ethical Traveler’s founder—wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post supporting the boycott of tourism to Burma. In the essay, he called upon the community of travelers to “vote with their wings,” and use their combined power to chastise the military government that had imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi.

In August 2002, at a reading promoting his anthology Scratching the Surface, Greenwald was asked about Burma. A lively discussion ensued, and the idea of a travelers’ alliance to address such global issues was greeted with great enthusiasm. The idea was researched by Krista Haimovitch, who discovered there was no such organization in existence.

An active and respected member of the world travel community for over 25 years, award-winning author of six travel books and hundreds of articles, Greenwald was compelled to direct his passionately humanitarian voice towards creating such a traveler’s alliance. In recent years, Greenwald has been joined by a team of committed others to bring this idea to life.

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