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A Defence of Travel in the Age of the ‘Ethical Tourist’

Commentary Beneath Saigon’s simmering sun, amid the din and clangour of its estimated 7.3 million motorbikes, a murmur ran through the city’s streets, a whispered directive: that for travel to be truly moral, one must fundamentally “transform themselves” to “enact change” and to “manifest impact.” This was almost 10 years ago, during my time there

Commentary
Beneath Saigon’s simmering sun, amid the din and clangour of its estimated 7.3 million motorbikes, a murmur ran through the city’s streets, a whispered directive: that for travel to be truly moral, one must fundamentally “transform themselves” to “enact change” and to “manifest impact.” This was almost 10 years ago, during my time there as an overseas language teacher, a time when the previous, friendlier doctrine of “new tourism” was at its height.
It turned out that “new tourism” already held the nascent ethos of the “ethical” or “sustainable tourism” that has swept the public parlance of travel. It’s a concept that threatens to reshape not only our itineraries but the very spirit of our travel. Today, in this post-COVID-19 “new normal”—the world’s scars laid bare on screens, Russia and Ukraine at loggerheads, Israel fighting for its life, the propaganda onslaught on “climate boiling”—has the lustre of travel simply worn thin?… 

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