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Tourism, Good Intentions, and the Road to Hell: Ecotourism and Volunteering

Tourism and International Relations
Harold Goodwin

Tourism is what we make of it—it is a socially constructed activity. Tourism happens when we travel to someone else’s place to spend a night or more. As Jost Krippendorf reminded us in his seminal text on the impacts of leisure and travel, The Holiday Makers, “Every individual tourist builds up or destroys human values while travelling.” The choices we make about how we travel and the way we behave and interact with local people and other travelers make travel what it is.

Too often, we take at face value claims made for the superiority of one form of travel over others. We should be more critical of the positive and negative impacts our travel choices have and of the claims made by the businesses and other organizations that sell us travel experiences. Ecotourism and volunteer- tourism carry strong, positive connotations, but we need to take responsibility and look beyond the labels.