December 10, 2009 | By Andy Sobchak |
On December 3rd, 2009, California-based EthicalTraveler.org released their 2010 annual report detailing the “world’s best ethical destinations” for travellers who want to have a great experience but also feel good about where their travel dollars are being spent. The report identifies the countries in the developing world that are “best protecting their natural environments, promoting responsible travel, and building a tourism industry which provides real benefits to local communities”.
“There’s no doubt that worldwide interest in mindful, responsible travel is growing – not only among travellers, but within the countries that host us,” says Jeff Greenwald, executive director of Ethical Traveler and co-author of the report. “Now is the perfect time for savvy travellers and well-intentioned governments to evolve together, each encouraging the other. This is especially true in the developing world, where travel and tourism can be developed as lucrative, low-impact alternatives to forestry, mining, and the destruction of ocean habitats.”
The report utilizes data from a variety of sources including the UN, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Millenium Development Corporation to develop indices for environmental protection, human rights and social welfare for each country.
The full report can be found here, but to spoil the surprise, the developing world’s Top 10 destinations include:
- South Africa
Eligibility for ranking was determined by economic data from the World Bank. For example, in 2009, Croatia and Estonia made the Top 10 but are now considered “high income economies” and therefore became ineligible for this year’s ranking.
Most interestingly, 40% of the list is occupied by African nations, with Ghana reaching as high as #4.
Ghana joins the list for the first time due to an “impressive commitment to genuine democracy, as well as a growing culture of sustainability, environmental consciousness and grassroots efforts towards responsibly improving Ghana for Ghanaians and tourists alike.”
Similarly, South Africa landed in the #9 spot for “supporting eco-friendly, community-based tourism ventures, as well as for sustainable coastal development and environmental management.” Disparity between the rich and the poor and high crime rates in certain areas prevented the country from reaching a loftier rank.
Conversely, “irresponsible development, human rights abuses, and lack of strong environmental [policies]” have prevented any Asian nations from making an appearance at all – a trend consistent in previous year’s rankings.
However, before African pride grows too much, the report also notes that none of the ranked countries are perfect. Notably, homosexuality in Namibia and Seychelles remains criminalized – generally a “deal-breaker” for the study. But as Greenwald and report co-author, Christy Hoover, note “the laws do not appear to be zealously enforced [and] we sincerely hope that our vote of confidence will persuade these country’s leaders to repeal these backward laws.”
With Ghana leading the African charge on this list and, as Erin Antcliffe notes in her post Water Complex, also being a “development darling due to its stability and support for [development] projects”, it appears development in Ghana is projected in the right direction. Hopefully it can act as an example for the other African nations in which EWB works and the continent as a whole.