Responsible Travel

We are trying to change the way in which people travel by developing affordable, attractive travel opportunities that happen to be ethical and responsible, to influence systemic change.

If we are genuine about trying to make a difference to the lives of others, then others will benefit more than we do.

Our vision of travel is as a pilgrimage.  What we see, encounter, experience, and eventually integrate is more important than arriving at a particular destination. A traveller becomes a pilgrim when their experiences start to shape the inner landscape of their spiritual lives. Every intentional journey, when accompanied by knowledge and passion, can become a pilgrimage.

To get this right, we needed to travel and in the process learn, gain experience, and make mistakes.

Cambodian Example:

Our traveller’s spends $200+ per day on ‘ground content’ (food, transport, accommodation, entry fees, etc.) and usually another $100 per day on ‘shopping’.

Analysis of this spending suggests less than 10% ends up in the hands of locals (98% of souvenirs sold in Cambodia are imported and sold by foreign entrepreneurs) and almost none of that ‘spend’ gets to the disadvantaged in the destination communities.

By carefully planning the content of the tour, we can usually ensure that much more of our expenditure gets into local hands.

If we are 50% successful – results look like this:

  • Average spend per day = $300
  • 50% stays in local hands = $150
  • The tour lasts 10 days = $1,500
  • 10 people travel = $15,000
  • 10 tours travelled this year  = $150,000

In Cambodia the average wages are less than $2 per day.  Hence 10 tours per year is equivalent to 75,000 days’ wages.

That’s our objective – to change the travel market completely! However, to change it we needed to be in it.




Uniting Journeys believes that with the privilege of travel comes commensurate responsibility – especially when travelling in less developed countries.

People who join a Uniting Journeys tour usually already have a ‘responsible travel’ mindset, and seek to travel with as little negative impact as possible on either the environment or the communities they visit in the destination country.

To make sure everyone is ‘on the same page’, however, it is important to be clear about what ‘responsible travel’ means from a Uniting Journeys perspective.

For this reason, we ask that everyone embarking on a Uniting Journeys tour reads and agrees to abide by the following principles of practice (wherever possible, and to the best of their ability):

  • We will not support actions which allow the ‘commodification’ of culture, where a set of beliefs or actions of significance are reduced to a product for sale, unless essential for cultural preservation.

  • We will encourage respect for local cultures by modifying our own behaviour where appropriate, for example in terms of dress, language, eating, drinking, photography, public displays of affection, or religion.

  • We respect that the people being visited as hosts have the sole right to make the decisions about how their culture is to be shared with others. We also believe in the importance of cross cultural sharing, when invited, and that when doing so every effort should be made to understand and respect local mores and customs. (An adequate understanding of the relevant history in the host country also maximises the benefits of cultural sharing.)

  • Where possible we will support local initiatives aimed at the preservation of culture, skills and knowledge.

  • We will take steps to minimise the ‘carbon footprint’ of each journey by reducing waste and other forms of pollution wherever possible, and be mindful about the usage of precious or scarce local resources such as water, food, building materials, equipment, and services.

  • We recognise that staying the maximum time possible at each destination reduces damage and waste, and maximises constructive interaction.

  • We will not knowingly contribute to habitat destruction, or to the cruel or improper treatment of animals, wild or domesticated.

  • Where possible, we will:

    1. direct our money into the hands of those operators and people who need it most by sourcing goods and services as far down the production chain as practicable, even when the goods and services may not be exactly what we prefer
    2. source food, accommodation, services, travel in country and general retail items from locally or community based enterprises or individuals.
  • To extend the benefits of our expenditure we will ‘buy local’ while travelling, and spread our spending among various vendors. We will barter with care and respect, and with due consideration for the disparity between our wealth and power and that of our hosts.

  •  When purchasing goods and services we will consider fair work practices, and will consider carefully our reaction to begging, child hawkers and other social disadvantage, which may be systemic, before travelling.

  •  We accept that our responsibilities to fellow travellers are fundamental to this process, and cannot be meaningfully separated from our other obligations.

As travellers we look with fresh eyes, and see opportunity locals may not. We have a responsibility to honour these insights by acting on them to the degree to which each of us is able. It is important, however, to recognise that:

  • We believe that it is essential to have an understanding of the unique needs and contributions of family and community structures before engaging in any capacity building exercise.

  •  We consider that capacity building is best done at the request of communities, and by walking alongside and working with them, not doing things to or for them.


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