When it comes to “Top Ten” lists, I find them fun but I never take them seriously. Some, such as “The Top Ten Spanish Swear Words” were clearly meant to be taken that way, but the “Ten Friendliest Places in the World” and “Ten Happiest Countries.” Well, I take them with a pinch of salt. Or, in 21st century language, I click “move to junk.”
So when an email landed in my ludicrously overpopulated inbox with the subject “The Top Ten Ethical Destinations,” my cynical old heart sank a little. Why? Because this was something that I really wanted to believe someone had put some thought into, that this might actually be something that “meant” something.
But a lifetime’s digital flotsam and jetsam prepared me for the worst.
In spite of myself, I opened it.
It started with a pleasant surprise (addressed by name! spelled correctly!) and then quickly moved on:
“Ethical Traveler conducts an annual study of developing nations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe to identify the best ethical tourism destinations. The group focuses on three general categories: environmental protection, social welfare, and human rights.”
It was around this point that my cynicism began to weaken: UNICEF, Amnesty International, The World Bank – and the list certainly didn’t end there. Even the quote had a sense of perspective and reality:
“Clearly, the idea of naming the 10 ‘best’ developing countries has its perils. No country in the world is perfect. All the places on our list have both strengths and weaknesses. Still these are the best of the best.”
“Suriname was removed from our list after the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Suriname to ensure legal acknowledgment of the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples. We remove Suriname with regret, as the country had conquered a place in last year’s Top 10 due to its unspoiled rainforest biodiversity and sincere efforts towards ecotourism and environmental preservation.”
“None of the countries on this year’s Ethical Destinations list is perfect, and four countries must include special caveats. In Barbados and Dominica, homosexuality remains criminalized. Normally this is a deal-breaker for us, but the laws do not appear to be zealously enforced. We sincerely hope that our vote of confidence will persuade these country’s leaders to repeal these backward laws. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland should do more to prevent discrimination against ethnic and sexual minorities while Costa Rica, Argentina, and Barbados have to step up their efforts even further to halt sex trafficking.”
The even better news was learning that this annual reports comes from a non-profit organisation called Ethical Traveler, a set-up that calls travellers to “vote with their wings.” Travel and tourism is the world’s largest industry and Ethical Traveler urges people “to use their economic power to address our planet’s urgent environmental and humanitarian problems.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Enough already! Show us the list…Here goes…
In no particular order…
Sorry everyone! I haven’t been to the rest of the places on the list…yet! Watch this blog though…
So there you have it, the Top Ten Ethical Travel Destinations of 2011. Sometimes it’s good to open every email…
To find out more about Ethical Traveler, the work they do and how you can get involved:
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com