That was always one of our main concern. How do we ensure the organisations featured in this e-guide are truly, sincerely committed and not just pretending to have adopted the now very trendy marketable ‘responsible tourism’ principles? How to fairly select the entries according to each country’s specificities and stage of advancement of the concept of responsible tourism?

Handspan in Sapa, Northern Viet Nam

Handspan in Sapa, Northern Viet Nam

But first of all many of you are asking ‘What is responsible tourism?

Am I not responsible? Are you trying to make us feel guilty?

Our teasing answer would be ‘Do you think you have a reason to feel guilty?” Certainly not! Life is a learning experience.

The benchmark used was the ‘Cape Town Declaration’ (2002) on responsible tourism principles, which describes precisely each principle and covers all of them.

Responsible tourism supports cultural and environmental protection, equitable benefit sharing and the alleviation of poverty.

Specifically, responsible tourism:

  • Minimizes negative economic, environmental and social impacts;
  • Generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry;
  • Involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
  • Makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s biodiversity;
  • Provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • Provides access for physically challenged people; and
  • Is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.

(Read the complete Cape Town Declaration here)

If you are willing to know more about responsible tourism, we have developed a knowledge resource centre on sustainable tourism (Click here to visit the website).

The selection methodology

The choice of the authors was key. Experts in sustainable tourism in their respective country of residence, they are all well aware of how complex it is to engage in an approach to responsible tourism, how much easier it is not to do so, and in each particular context they can evaluate how much commitment, dedication and sacrifice it requires.

A questionnaire based on Cape Town Declaration’ (2002) on responsible tourism principles was sent to all the organisations we could identify. As our limited budget did not allow us to visit every applicant, we asked them to demonstrate and provide us with evidence of their declarations.

If you wish to apply please return the following Application-form-E-Guide-to-MRT.

This is not a trial!; our goal is to foster more responsible tourism practices, not to act as judges or to go through a certification process. The intention is to shine the light on those organisations working hard, doing well, showing that change is possible, and that tourism can contribute to poverty alleviation, make destinations better places to live in while still becoming one of the best and most inspiring experiences of traveller’s life.


An internal scoring system was designed to rate how each applicant complies with the three main pillars of sustainability: social, cultural and, environmental. We also rated their contribution in increasing tourists’ awareness on how they can optimise their contribution to the local communities and minimise their negative impacts.

The scoring was done in coordination between each author and the project leader, sometimes with additional advice from other experts. Each applicant selected had to comply with a minimum of two criteria in a significant way. Some upmarket hotels showing an excellent environmental record but not engaging significantly into social responsibility activities, or those who don’t need a site like ours to get promotion were not included. There are many other generalists websites such as dedicated to the promotion of upmarket offer in the sub-region.

Some are our “Mekong Heroes”, committed to each aspect of responsibility and achieving an impressive work. They are the agents of change, often behind the scenes; some have never even applied for an award when they would definitely deserve it, but they do not have the time or the skills to apply for these, and they prefer to keep working with the local communities, content with the simple and profound satisfaction of doing good work. Those that we have called our Mekong Heroes are highlighted on the home page.

As Ken Scott, the editor of the former printed version, said:

We believe tourism operators should be rewarded for good intentions – and motivated to enhance the ‘responsible’ element of their services. Readers should remember that many of the operators listed started their responsible tourism business without the benefit of large amounts of investment, education, training or institutional support. They are doing it because they feel it’s the right way to do it. And they’re right. The least we can do is forgive them their lapses and encourage them to make amends and grow.”

To this day 95% of applicants who answered have been included.

If you have any complaints or suggestions for new entries, please inform us but, in case of dissatisfaction we invite you to write directly to the service provider. We will publish both questions & answers you wish to share with us. If we do receive repeated complaints about a provider we will inquire on our side and may decide to delete it from our selection.

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