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Home > About the Center for Responsible Travel

CREST at a Glance Brochure

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Our Mission

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a non-profit research institute with offices in Washington, DC and at Stanford University. Founded in 2003, our mission is to promote responsible tourism policies and practices globally so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity.

CREST has developed 5 successful program areas:

  • Global leader in Travelers' Philanthropy
  • Setting standards and strengthening responsible tourism
  • Paid consulting and field research
  • Sharing expertise and providing leadership
  • Analyzing impacts of different models of tourism and promoting innovation

CREST uses policy-oriented research to design, monitor, evaluate, and improve the social and environmental committments of responsible tourism, as well as to promote sustainable practices and principles within the wider tourism industry. We focus on tourism's potential as a tool for poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation.

The Center's activities include:

  • Coordinating international research projects, based in Washington, DC and at Stanford
  • Writing publications, including books, pamphlets, booklets, and handbooks
  • Participating in international workshops and conferences
  • Organizing responsible tourism courses and seminars at Stanford and other institutions
  • Building partnerships with universities and research institutes in developing countries

What is Responsible Tourism?

Responsible tourism includes many types of travel, all of which aim to minimize tourism's negative impacts on the environment, and maximize the positive contributions tourism can make to local communities. Traveling responsibly is not about making sacrifices, stopping development, or staying home. It is about designing tourism programs and individual trips carefully, to provide travelers with the experience they seek, while leaving a positive footprint at their destination.

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) recognizes the need to improve the social and environmental impacts of all aspects of tourism, from small-scale ecotravel, to large-scale resort tourism. There are ways to improve the footprint of any style of travel. CREST's goal is to transform the travel industry as a whole into a driver of positive change for tourism destinations, travelers, and the global economy.

Responsible travel has taken on global significance in the 30 years since the term "ecotourism" was first used, reminding the travel industry to keep in mind what kind of footprint is left on the destinations it visits. The UN even designated 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism. Today nearly every country with national parks and protected areas is marketing some type of ecotourism or responsibel tourism; lending and aid agencies are funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that include eco-conscious travel; major environmental organizations are sponsoring responsible tourism projects and departments; and millions of travelers are going on tours with travel providers who market responsible travel options.

While interest in eco-consious and socially conscious tourism has never been greater, the field has frequently lacked intellectual rigor, as well as broad consensus on definitions. Most tourism (including ecotourism) programs in U.S. universities are located within management schools for recreation, tourism, restaurants and hotels, leisure studies, and parks. With several notable exceptions, these programs focus on vocational skills and business training. There are, at present, no institutions in the U.S. comparable to the Center for Responsible Travel.

CREST views responsible tourism as a development and conservation tool that has the potential to address some of the most complex and compelling social and natural scientific issues of our times. Among the questions CREST addresses through its research and field projects are:

  • How can responsible tourism help to empower local communities and alleviate rural poverty?
  • How can responsible tourism truly contribute to the survival of endangered flora and fauna?
  • How can responsible tourism facilitate cross-cultural learning, while diminishing the exploitation of “host populations”?
  • What will ensure that tourism provides both enjoyment and education?
  • How can we monitor and protect biodiversity in areas used for tourism?
  • How can we create harmony, not hostility, between people and protected areas?
  • How can we decrease the negative social and environmental impacts of tourism?
  • How can we build businesses that are, at once, environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and profitable?
  • What process will create consensus-driven standards, with certification and accreditation oversight, for sound responsible tourism?