Our views

Our views

Our stance on responsible tourism issues

As well as offering great, responsible holidays, we take a strong stance on important issues in tourism. The trips on our site all meet our policies on various issues – from the welfare of animals to the treatment of people – as well as encouraging travellers to think about these when they travel, to widen the debate and make people more aware of their own actions, as there is no point in having an ethical tour if guests act irresponsibly.

Read our opinions on various responsible tourism topics below, and click on the links for more in-depth articles on each issue.


There is a lot of confusion around the role of flying in responsible tourism. Many people claim that the environmental cost of a long haul flight means that it can never be justified; others argue that the benefits to conservation (such as the paying of national park fees) and the generation of sustainable jobs in areas where logging and poaching may have been the preferred alternatives far outweighs the negative impacts of CO2. Read about our stance on flying, and why we chose not to promote carbon offsetting.


Wildlife is often the main tourist draw in a destination – from the plains of the Serengeti to the Amazon rainforest and the icy landscapes of Antarctica. Yet despite the huge importance of the animals’ presence, many are at great risk – from poaching, climate change, habitat loss and capture. Read our stance on wildlife to find out more about the issues.

Captive animals

Travellers who include a visit to see captive animals on their holidays should be well aware of any issues before booking their trip. Many animals, including horses, huskies and camels, have been domesticated over generations; other creatures have been rescued and taken to sanctuaries, where they are rehabilitated and cared for. Still others may have been captured from the wild and/or bred in captivity for the purpose of gaining money from tourism – including elephants, bears and big cats. Each comes with its own ethical issues – with some having positive impacts on animal welfare and conservation, while others are a big tourism taboo. Read more about our stance on captive animals, and our guide to elephant trekking.

Captive orcas

In the wild, orcas can dive to depths of 400m, and swim up to 160km in a single day. They live in family pods, spend most of their time well below the surface and are intelligent creatures - reacting to their complex natural environment. It is unnecessarily cruel to keep them in aquariums for our entertainment - shallow, chlorine water pools without plants or fish. Forcing them to perform like circus animals in front of noisy crowds adds to their distress. Read more about our stance on captive orcas here, and sign our petition to stop the orca circus.

Politics & boycotts

As a general rule, we don’t believe that boycotting entire countries is an effective means of campaigning for change. The only country we have ever boycotted is Burma – read more about this here. However, we do often get asked about our stance on boycotting countries for a wide number of reasons, from human rights to animal welfare. Read more about our stance on boycotts and tourism – and find out when we believe boycotting tourist attractions can work.

Local people & porters

Responsible Travel believes that any responsible holiday should benefit local people –by providing employment and training opportunities, showing appreciation and respect for traditional cultures and/or improving working conditions for porters. We support local business owners such as restaurant and accommodation providers, and believe that a truly ethical holiday can be as beneficial, if not more so, as volunteering in a community setting. Read more about our stance on people.


In 2013, Responsible Travel removed all orphanage volunteering trips from our site following extensive research and consultation with child protection groups and volunteer organisations. We had many concerns about the implications of sending travellers to work with vulnerable children, including the lack of background checks on volunteers putting children at risk. In addition, up to three quarters of children in Cambodia’s orphanages are not, in fact, orphans; the high fees paid by volunteers have made vulnerable children a commodity, with more and more “orphanages” opening in line with the number of tourists arriving in countries such as Cambodia and Nepal.

Read more about the issues, and our orphanage campaign, here.

Volunteering abroad

Volunteering may seem like the ultimate responsible way to travel, but it really needs to be very well managed in order to be of genuine benefit to wildlife and communities. If volunteers are not well matched to a project, they risk being of no use, or worse – causing more harm than good. Additionally, volunteer work should be carried out alongside local workers to ensure their jobs are being supported – not replaced.

Read more about how to ensure your volunteering holiday is beneficial to both you and the destinations you are visiting in our guide to volunteering abroad, and learn about the issues specific to volunteer teaching placements here.

All inclusive holidays

All inclusive holidays are the first choice for millions of tourists who want a hassle free, low-budget holiday – yet their rapid growth has huge implications for local communities, low-paid workers and the environment. Travellers who have covered all costs up front are less likely to leave the resort and spend their money in local cafes, on handmade crafts and with local guides. At Responsible Travel, we don’t believe that all inclusive resorts are inherently wrong; some indeed are taking measures to become more responsible – but there is still a long way to go. Read more about our stance on all inclusive holidays.

Carbon offsetting

Responsible Travel was one of the first travel companies to offer carbon offsetting in 2002; in 2009, we believe we were the first to remove them. Read more about why we chose to do this – and more about our views on carbon offsetting.

Tourism accreditation schemes

Like many aspects of responsible tourism, accreditation schemes are most effective when they are kept to a local, not global level. Find out why we oppose global accreditation schemes here, and read up on which kite marks and criteria we really believe do make a difference here.


Over the years, we have written about many responsible tourism issues, take a look at some of our articles below:
People should help poor families and communities Tiger The time has come to end whales in captivity Plane When you do fly, make it count
Convert currencies