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A new responsible travel index has ranked every country – here’s how it can help you plan a holiday

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A traveller sits in by a lake with his reusable coffee cup
A traveller sits in by a lake with his reusable coffee cup   -   Copyright  Canva
By Hannah Brown

How do you choose where you want to go on holiday? Price usually comes into it, and date availability. But increasingly the travel sector is also seeing visitors who want to choose a destination that aligns with their values.

According to a recent survey by Holiday Extras, 10 per cent of its customers said that responsible travel was their most significant consideration when planning a holiday.

Two thirds of its customers said it was a key consideration.

‘Responsible travel’ can mean a lot of different things to people, so Holiday Extras has created the Good Trip Index to help holidaymakers make the right choice for them. It collates already existing information across seven key topics for almost every country in the world,

How does the Good Trip Index work?

The list gives every country an overall score depending on how it performs on sustainability, human freedom, women’s rights, LGBTQI+ rights, freedom of press, quality of life and animal welfare.

The lower a country’s overall score, the higher it ranks on the list.

Unsurprisingly, the top 5 is dominated by Nordic countries and Switzerland, which aren’t exactly known to be budget friendly or your typical summer holiday destination.

However, Holiday Extras stress that the list isn’t about telling people where to go and where to avoid. And responsible travel isn’t just for the wealthy.

“What it's trying to do is say the lower down the list you go, the harder you need to start thinking about your trip,” explains Ben Lynam, a responsible travel expert from the Travel Foundation.

“If you're going to Sweden, which tops the list, chances are you're going to stay in a hotel that ticks all the right boxes from a sustainability perspective. You're going to go on a trip that's with a responsible business and be in a place that recycles well and all those sorts of things.”

How to travel responsibly

The information gathered by the Good Trip Index aims to help travellers book a holiday that fits with their values.

That doesn’t mean certain destinations are totally off the cards if they’ve scored badly, you just need to put a bit more time into planning your trip.

Of course, some factors, like LGBTQI+ rights in a country, you can’t do anything about - but others you can.

For example, if you care deeply about animal welfare it’s maybe best to avoid activities involving animals unless you can find places with particular international accreditations for their animal care.

The same applies for sustainability. You can’t make a whole country be better at recycling, but you can take some steps to make your impact smaller. Or do research to find an eco-hotel.

“I'd like to hope that people are taking their responsible behaviours that they have at home with them and they're not just going to completely disregard the need to recycle or to switch things off,” says Ben.

Ben suggests things like taking a reusable cup with you and reusing a plastic shopping bag multiple times - actions that most of us do everyday at home anyway.

Are there any destinations I should avoid?

That decision is completely up to you. Every country has its strengths and weaknesses and even the countries towards the top of list have things to improve upon.

For example, Portugal, which is a popular summer destination, ranks 12th on the list. It’s the second best scoring place on the planet for LGBTQI+ rights, according to the Good Trip Index, but its sustainability and animal welfare scores definitely could be improved.

Meanwhile at the very bottom of the overall list is Egypt. It’s perhaps no surprise it hasn’t scored highly, but it might not be the country you expected to place last.

Despite this, Egypt is a popular destination where with a bit of planning you can still have a responsible holiday.

“You can absolutely have a good trip in a country that is further towards the bottom of the list,” says Ant Clark Cowell, Associate Brand Director at Holiday Extras.

Travellers just need to be mindful of the issues and act responsibly while abroad, he says.

“If you avoid certain attractions that perhaps are not appealing to the things that matter to you, if you support sustainable businesses wherever possible, if you try and input into the local economy, you can have a positive impact wherever you go.”

Watch the video above to learn more about the Good Trip Index.

Video editor • Hannah Brown