‘Tis the season for looking forward and sifting though the map to pinpoint which nations will be hot in 2013. Everyone has their predictions, but in a sea of soothsayers, non-profit Ethical Traveler proposes a different set of metrics: What if we “voted with our wings” and used our travel to support developing countries that treat their land and people right?
A project of the Earth Island Institute, Ethical Traveler issues its annual report on the most ethical travel destinations on the planet to educate people about the social and environmental impact of their decisions, “showing how travel can be a potent form of diplomacy.”
“Travelers have no idea how much power they have,” said Jeff Greenwald, executive director of Ethical Traveler and one of the report’s authors. “Travel is one of the biggest industries in the world, and travelers can have an enormous impact.”
The annual list encourages those struck with wanderlust to reward nations in the developing world that have excellent records on environmental protection, human rights and social welfare.
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Greenwald and the report’s other authors looked at both the past and present states of some 150 developing nations “from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe” to see how they’ve changed over time using information from sources like Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Environmental Performance Index and the World Bank. Each country that made the final cut also offers opportunities for travelers to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful and mutually enriching way.
The 2013 list includes six carry-overs from 2012, though nations like the Bahamas, Chile, Serbia and Argentina fell off for declining in environmental protection. Greenwald said both Chile and Argentina also showed negative trends in civil liberties, including infringements on the right to freedom of the press and freedom of information. Argentina, he said, showed a lack of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, while Chile fell 47 places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom rating this year for violations committed by security forces during student protests.
On the flip side, Greenwald said, “Island nations seem to get it right.”
While Latin American countries fell off the list this year, island states and African nations rose to the top, though Ethical Traveler excluded several shortlisted countries specifically because of homophobic laws.
The non-profit released its 2013 list Monday night in San Francisco, and representatives from eight of the 10 nations were present to receive the honors.
“We talked a lot about what the nations did good, but also what needs to improve,” Greenwald said, adding that the representatives were very receptive.
Now that the list is out, he hopes it will encourage travelers to use their imagination.
“People go places as a matter of habit, but we only live so long and it’s a wonderful opportunity to think about someplace new. You may not know much about Mauritius, Cape Verde or Barbados, but if you get off the beaten path and visit, you can have the satisfaction of supporting a country that is on the right track.”
For a complete look at the World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations 2013, scroll through the slideshow.