For Travelers

Responsible tourism includes many types of travel, all of which aim to minimize tourism's negative impacts on the environment and local communities while maximizing the positives. Traveling responsibly is not about making sacrifices, stopping development, or staying home. It is about designing trips carefully so that you're able to enjoy the experience you seek, while leaving a positive footprint at the destination.

At the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), we have seen a shift in the types of travel experiences consumers demand and an increase in sustainability initiatives and community involvement among the tourism industry. A growing number of travelers are looking for authenticity, localization, uniqueness, and a pristine environment. From the destination perspective, a competitive advantage is created by offering those qualities. It pays for the destinations and travel businesses to protect their "product," which goes hand in hand with sustainability and community well-being.

It is important to note "responsible travel" does not mean your trip has to be expensive. There is a common misconception that you must pay for sustainability. This simply isn't true. While a number of luxury tourism companies have made tremendous strides in sustainability, budget and moderate travelers have countless options as well. Destinations want you – responsible travelers – because you spend your money staying in locally owned hotels, eating in non-chain restaurants, buying local handicrafts, building bridges with different cultures, and acting with an environmental and social conscience. Not only are you leaving more money behind in the pockets of locals, you are also supporting the sense of place. It's not about how much money you spend – it's about where you spend it. Responsible travel options are everywhere, but it is up to you – the traveler – to educate yourself on how to get involved.

Here is some advice to help you on your journey:

  • Check out CREST's Responsible Travel Tips, where most of our tips can be found.
  • If you'd like to give back while traveling, see our Dos and Don'ts of Travel Giving.
  • View the past donors to CREST Eco-Auctions, if you need help picking out a hotel our tour operator.
  • Look into sustainable tourism certification programs in the places where you are traveling to find out what tourism businesses are certified. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has a really helpful list of approved and recognized certification programs.
  • Check out websites like sustainabletrip.org, bookgreener.com, and responsibletravel.com, for more hotel and tour operator alternatives.
  • Consider visiting a place that has a formal geotourism program. Geotourism is defined as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place - its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents." These destinations have had MapGuides made by National Geographic Maps that help connect travelers with localized experiences, though many other towns and rural regions offer similar experiences if you explore what they have to offer.
  • Explore the organization Pack for a Purpose, which allows you to simply use a small amount of space in your luggage to pack supplies needed by community projects around the world that work with partner hotels.
  • Consider visiting a destination with a Travelers' Philanthropy program. CREST has helped to establish three destination-wide give-back programs in Cape Cod, Monteverde, Costa Rica, and Grenada, West Indies. Travel Oregon also has a very robust Travel Philanthropy Fund. Don’t miss the Travelers' Philanthropy page on our website to connect with individual travel companies all over the world that have established community and environmental support programs.

We wish you the experiences of a lifetime!