Ethical Tourism

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed."

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), Indian anti-colonial activist
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This free ESL lesson plan on ethical tourism has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

The rise of the ethical consumer has also started to have an effect on the travel industry. It is hard to escape the reality that tourism is one of the major contributing factors of climate change, and therefore, tourists are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact their own actions are having. As well as contributing to environmental problems, tourism also impacts on local communities. But tourism can also benefit these communities, and with ecotourism, your trip could actually help to protect the environment. Ethical tourism allows those who want to see the world and experience new cultures the opportunity to combine what they love with what they care about. In this ESL lesson plan on ethical tourism, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as why ethical tourism has become popular, what it actually means and whether or not it is actually possible..

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Tourism Day, which takes place in September. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Jetset Times | The Importance Of Ethical Tourism

The article gives a background on what ethical tourism is, along with some advice on how to be an ethical tourist, including supporting the local economy, being wary of volunteering, and avoiding plastic when possible. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Can eco-tourism help save the ocean?” by The Economist which looks at a couple’s ecotourism project in Indonesia that helps to protect marine life from excessive fishing and illegal poaching.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the environmental impact of tourism, how tourists can act responsibly, and how tourists can provide the most benefit to the local economies of where they visit.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with ethical tourism such as overdevelopment, economic leakage and ecotourism. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about ethical tourism. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as unethical practices encouraged by tourism, whether travel agents describe trips as ethical just for marketing purposes, and whether we should just stay home if we really wanted to be ethical tourists.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of ethical tourism. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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