Three African nations: Benin, Cabo Verde and The Gambia, along with African Diasporan countries such as Belize and Jamaica have made the list of the World’s Best Ten Ethical Destinations 2021 (Special COVID-19 Edition).
The annual World Best 10 Ethical Destination list is created by Ethical Traveler, an all-volunteer non-profit organization, and a project of the Earth Island Institute.
It is to be noted that no money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaus, or individuals in the creation of the annual list.
Other countries which made the list include, the Latin American trio of: Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay, while Mongolia and Nepal complete the list.
There’s a sad but wonderful irony in these words from author David Mitchell, whose books, such as Cloud Atlas, have transported us through time and across the globe. During the past year, many of us have not been able to travel at all—yet somehow, in the midst of our isolation, we have come to meet ourselves, and know ourselves, in ways that we never anticipated.
While in the Introduction to last year’s report, we suggested that “the only authentic way to experience the world is with boots (or flip-flops) on the ground,” the wing-clipping pandemic has reminded us that there are many legitimate ways to explore our planet.
Despite the devastation wrought by COVID-19—and all of 2020’s madness, from the Australian wildfires to home-brewed attacks on American democracy—we enter 2021 seeing rays of hope. Vaccines against the virus have been developed in miraculous time, and though their distribution has been a huge challenge, there’s reason to believe they will save millions of lives.
A desperately needed change in U.S. leadership may signal a renewed commitment to fighting climate change, supporting human rights, and combatting institutional sexism and racism. And as we prepare this report in early 2021, we see a new awareness of how fragile democratic institutions are, and how imperative it is to defend them.
But things won’t recover overnight. This is especially true for the international travel industry—which employs one out of 10 people worldwide. The free fall in travel and tourism has inspired a rethinking of the ways that we travel.
Two important, if paradoxical, discoveries were made during the pandemic. First, when carbon emissions and the human impact on the environment are reduced, the results are almost immediate. We saw this in Beijing, where many people saw the stars for the first time; and in Nepal, where the Himalaya were once again visible from the Kathmandu Valley. But the flip side of this reduction in travel is that millions of people in scores of countries, from taxi drivers to safari guides—have no safety net.
During the past year, industry leaders have made strong statements about “sustainable” and “regenerative” travel. It’s absolutely true that we need new models of travel—models that empower local people and help them steward and grow their environs. Our 2021 Ethical Destinations is an attempt to inspire this process.
Though the suggestions in this report may seem wishful, they are actually aspirational, because this much is certain: Travel will return. And as it does, we hope our international community will support the initiatives in the countries listed here. Though all our winners have suffered badly during the pandemic, they have managed to keep their priorities straight and offer a smarter, more sustainable path forward. By “voting with your wings” (once you are vaccinated, of course!), you can reward these nations for their efforts and motivate others to do the same.
It’s all part of the Big Picture. As the pandemic is defeated and 2021 begins, we must cultivate our sense of global citizenry—an obligation to the whole of humanity. If COVID-19 taught us one thing, it’s that our borders are imaginary.
We are the inhabitants of a small planet, stunning in both its beauty and fragility. We can move forward, and survive as a species, only by taking care of each other. This begins with knowing each other. Travel and exploration—whether to the reefs of Belize, the steppes of Mongolia, or the volcanoes of Cabo Verde—brings more than a new awareness of ourselves. It shows us what it means to be human.