What is Fair Travel?

By Martha Robbins, Tracey Mitchell, and Dave Oswald Mitchell

November 2006

Fair travel [fair travel] is a nascent movement of tourism providers, tourism-reliant communities, social justice advocates, and concerned tourists that is seeking to apply “fair trade” principles to the tourism industry.

Fair travel promotes equitable standards and fair practices in tourism and encourages local, community-based alternatives to the more exploitative and environmentally devastating elements of the industry. It focuses in particular on travel to the Third World from the First World.

Implicit (and often explicit) in fair travel literature is a criticism of the current models of international travel as being unfair and unsustainable. Advocates of fair travel practices argue that conventional tourism unfairly subverts the interests of communities and the environment to the desires of tourists themselves, and that too often, tourism-based economies exploit workers and harm the environment while enriching only a small segment of the population.

Fair travel is an attempt to redress this balance. It promotes alternative methods of travel that work in cooperation with and in the best interest of destination communities, and strives for equity between travellers and hosts in terms of power, finances, and voice.

Fair Travel Case Study #1: Responsible Ecological Social Tours (REST) Project

REST Project in Thailand is founded on the idea of Community-Based Tourism—-tourism planned and managed by the local community and built on the principle of respect for the physical environment, the host communities and the guests. The project began as a way to counter the harmful effects of mass tourism on rural Thailand. According to REST’s website, Thailand receives ten million visitors per year. These visitors have an enormous impact by consuming resources, producing large quantities of waste, prompting rapid tourism development, and objectifying and exploiting (often unknowingly) Thai culture and people.

Community-Based Tourism begins with the local community exploring and analyzing the positive and negative outcomes of tourism. The community can then determine which types of tourist activity they will allow and promote in their community.

Based on the skills and knowledge present in the community, community members then organize “Tourism Activity Groups,” which offer, on the local community’s terms, unique opportunities for a traveller to experience an authentic part of Thailand (for example, jungle-trekking, rice wine making and tapestry weaving). According to REST, “Community Tourism communities choose how they wish to present themselves to the world.”

REST Project won the 2002 World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship and has published a guide entitled the Community-Based Tourism Handbook.

For more information, visit www.rest.or.th

Fair Travel Case Study #2: WWOOF International

Willing Workers On Organic Farms/World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)

WWOOF has a network of organizations around the world devoted to connecting travellers with hosts on organic farms. The workers are responsible for their transportation to the farm and for contributing work to the farm for the length of their stay. Host farm families are responsible for providing accommodation, food, and opportunities for the traveller to learn about organic agriculture.

WWOOF allows conscientious travellers to make a contribution on the host’s terms. It also offers travellers the opportunity for day-to-day, reciprocal interactions with locals beyond those available on the typical tourist track. WWOOF also serves to educate travellers about the importance of environmentally sustainable food production for farmers’ livelihoods and for ecosystems.

For more information, visit www.wwoofinternational.org or www.wwoof.ca

Fair Travel digital destinations:

True Travellers Society

A Canadian organization offering non-industry-sponsored information about experiences abroad.

Tourism Concern

A UK-based NGO with great resources and campaigns on ethical tourism and fair travel.

The Travel Foundation

A UK-based charity that endeavors to make positive contributions to tourist destination communities.


An online travel agency that specializes in marketing responsible holidays.

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