| Green Travel News |
Each year, Ethical Traveler reviews the policies and practices of the world’s developing nations, then selects the ten that are doing the best job of preserving their environment, promoting human rights and creating a sustainable, community-based tourism industry.
“Travel has become the world’s largest industry, exceeding a trillion-dollar annual footprint,” notes Ethical Traveler’s executive director and longtime travel author Jeff Greenwald. “That means that travelers have real power. Where we choose to put our footprints has real economic and political significance. Ethical Traveler believes that mindful travel offers many rewards, both personal and global. By ‘voting with our wings’—choosing our destinations well and remembering our roles as citizen diplomats—we create international goodwill and help change the world for the better.”
The 2015 winners (in alphabetical order):
Cape (Cabo) Verde
All offer much for the green traveler. For example: loggerhead turtle nestings (Cabo Verde), jelly fish lakes (“like swimming in a bowl of Jello,” in Palau), 300 flowering plant species (Mauritius), a river for every day of the year (“almost untouched since the day Columbus arrived,” in Dominica) and a penguin population of 120,000 (Chile).
How were these countries chosen? A research team first conducts a survey of developing nations—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—to identify the best travel and tourism destinations, focusing primarily on environmental protection, social welfare and human rights, past and present. For the second time in this year’s analysis, animal welfare was also considered. Using publicly available data, these countries are rated. Each country selected also offers the opportunity to experience “unspoiled natural beauty, and to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.”
New on the list for 2015 were Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. Like these countries, a total of seven of this year’s 10 countries are islands, “a trend in our winners’ circle,” says Ethical Traveler. “Climate change affects islands dramatically, so they tend to be very aware of the importance of effective environmental policies.”
This year’s report continues: “Sadly, no developing Asian country qualified this year; all betrayed too many human rights abuses, and showed too little movement toward sustainability.” The report notes even the winning nations face serious challenges that must be addressed to continue moving forward. “While LGBT rights seem to be progressing globally, many countries still outlaw homosexuality. Harassment and discrimination are widespread. We would also like to see a stronger stand against domestic violence, as this social illness is still common in many countries.” Other significant issues facing developing nations around the world include ongoing human trafficking, embracing fracking as an alternative to coal and a disturbing decline in press freedoms.
Additionally, five “Destinations of Interest for 2015” were called out by Ethical Traveler, with this explanation: “Though these countries are not yet considered ethical destinations, open-minded travelers can learn much by visiting them. We believe it’s sometimes essential to step behind the ‘media curtain’ and inform oneself about controversial places through direct contact with local people. Nothing compares to witnessing firsthand the dynamic processes of social and political change.”
These five countries are Cuba, Ghana, Grenada, Malawi, and Madagascar.
Ethical Traveler, based in Berkeley, Calif., is an all-volunteer, non-profit project of the Earth Island Institute. The organization stresses that its annual list is completely unbiased, and that “no money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted.”