Asia Shines as a Destination for Ethical Tourism

The concept of social responsibility is mainstream and embedded into the collective consciousness. This is especially true for today’s millennial generation, but the awareness is not limited to this group. Before we decide to purchase a certain product or service, many of us will first want to know about its environmental impact, whether child labor was involved, if the provider exercises any corporate social responsibility, etc. We turn to social media or review sites to learn about the 'background' behind companies, drugs and consumer products.

Maturing From Eco-Tourism to Ethical Tourism

Travel is no different. As the world becomes more socially conscious of the idea of global responsibility, more tourists look to turn their vacation fun into an opportunity to do good in the world. Eco-tours were the first to cater for this interest, bringing tourists to the most pristine locations on earth while leading them on expeditions that leave the smallest footprint possible. Such tours, however, do not take into account factors like politics, human rights, and the culture and customs of the local residents. This prompted the development of ethical, or responsible tourism, which allows travelers to become a part of a larger effort to improve the well-being of local populations.

Recognizing Responsible Travel

In early November the winners of the 2016 World Responsible Travel Awards were announced. The list includes several destinations in Asia that were recognized for their commitment either to the environment or to social justice. This year's overall winner is Lemon Tree Hotels in India, which sets the gold standard for responsible employment. It does so by employing people with disabilities and from at-risk populations as a core part of its corporate strategic plan.

The winner of the silver award for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion is Sapa O’Chau Cooperative in Vietnam. Founded by Shu Tan Thi Su in 2011, Sapa O’Chau is a network of hospitality businesses totally owned and operated by ethnic minorities, focusing particularly on improving the lives of the Dao, Hmong and other disadvantaged groups.

The growth of the ethical tourism industry is wonderful not just because it sets up a mutually-beneficial relationship between those who 'consume' experiences and those who inevitably provide them. Often, it also enables an introduction between visitors and host that is much more direct, authentic and educational.