A Comprehensive List of Trending Travel Terms
There are a lot of buzz words buzzing around out there about travel.
Even after deeply researching travel terminology, I’m still borderline convinced that Ethical Travel, Conscious Travel, Responsible Travel, and Sustainable Travel are all pretty much the same thing.
They aren’t, really, but they sure are used interchangeably a lot!
I won’t lie to you, building this resource of travel terminology was a labor of love. If I’m really going for honesty, it was a bit of a slog!
Sure, some definitions were easy to find and could be backed up by several reputable sources. But most definitions were super vague, opinion or marketing based, and inconsistent across multiple sources.
Perhaps that’s why there’s so much confusion out there about what we can and should be booking if we want to travel with integrity!
Because I have Ravenclaw standards when it comes to language integrity, there are words I couldn’t include in this post. I’ll keep hunting down suitable definitions for words that are missing and update this list from time to time as I find them.
Be sure to pin this post for later to check back for future updates!
If you think there’s a word missing from this list or find a definition you think could be improved, leave me a comment or shoot me a message. I hate mincing words, and appreciate your help unmincing them.
Let’s get on with cleaning up the travel terminology mess!
Glossary of Intentional Travel Terminology
Accessible Travel / Accessible Tourism
This is tourism that disabled people participate in. It is also an initiative to remove barriers in the environments, services, and products of the tourism industry for disabled people.
This definition sometimes extends to seniors, as they often have unique accessibility needs.
The important piece is that the tourism experience is able to be enjoyed to its fullest by the traveler.
Other similar travel terms are Inclusive Tourism, Adapted Tourism, Tourism for All, Barrier Free Tourism (BFT), Easy Access Tourism and Universal Tourism.
Adventure Travel / Adventure Tourism
A type of tourism that pushes travelers outside their comfort zones. This includes at least two of the three following activities: physical activities, natural environment, and cultural immersion.
This travel style often brings travelers to remote or exotic locations. Therefore, it provides an opportunity for remote communities to participate in the tourism industry in a meaningful way.
Agritourism / Agrotourism
A type of tourism that involves travel to a region to visit a farm or food-related business. Travelers visit for the purpose of education, entertainment, or participation in farm activities.
Farm stays and winery visits are two common forms of Agritourism, which are especially popular in Italy where it is called Agriturismo.
While this is a popular travel term, it is more of a vague travel concept than a travel style.
Because each traveler’s expectation of ‘authenticity’ can be completely different, it’s almost impossible to define the elusive authentic experience. Often, these ideals of authenticity are based on misinformation or stereotypes.
Travelers seeking authenticity are usually hoping for one of the following experiences:
A local experience (ie. eat where the locals eat).
To see the way a destination has traditionally done something (ie. eat where they use the original recipe).
A similar term is Experiential Travel / Experiential Tourism.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that make a positive impact across their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Striking a balance between purpose and profit is a requirement for all Certified B Corps. Their impact is not only a part of the assessment process but must also be disclosed publicly.
This is the amount of carbon dioxide that is produced to support the activities of a person, organization, or community. Carbon footprints are measured in weight, often in tons per year.
Factors that affect the size of a carbon footprint include transport methods, products used, energy use, and other types of consumption.
Businesses, communities, or individuals accomplish carbon neutrality by reducing their carbon footprint to zero. They do this by minimizing and/or offsetting their carbon emissions.
Offsets can be purchased in order to reduce the net carbon emissions (carbon footprint) of an individual, community, or business.
These offsets work by removing carbon and other greenhouse gasses from the environment. They do this through initiatives like investing in renewable energy sources or planting trees.
These are third party assessments of tourism services (ie hotels, tours, and destinations). The most popular types of certifications are for sustainable or eco-friendly tourism products.
There are nearly 300 sustainability certifications out there, which represent an immense range in quality.
In theory, these certifications assess the policies and practices of tourism partners in areas like wastage, energy, community-engagement, biodiversity, and heritage.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council has set a baseline for what sustainability certification programs should measure. While not a certifying body itself, it has its own accreditation program for eligible sustainability certifiers.
Travelers should always research the certifications they come across before booking tourism products. Just like any other stamp of approval, the stamp is only as meaningful as the organization that provides it.
There are also memberships that tourism providers may join in alignment with their ethics. One example is The Code. This is a membership for tourism partners that have made the 6-part commitment to protect children from the sex trade. You may see the Code logo on member websites, just like you would see a certification.
This economic system is an alternative to the mainstream linear economy of take-make-waste.
In a circular system, products are designed to be long-lasting. Once they have reached the end of their service life, their materials are reused in new products.
The goal is to make the economy regenerative. This is done by keeping waste out of landfills and reducing the extraction of virgin resources.
Community Based Tourism
This is a tourism style that offers travelers a closer interaction with local people and experiences, often in rural or developing locations.
Decision making, management, ownership, and involvement with the tourism service includes or is driven by the community.
The community also benefits economically, culturally, socially, or environmentally from hosting tourists.
Conscious Travel / Conscious Tourism
This tourism style is similar to sustainable and responsible travel in goals of tourism output (see definitions). Conscious Tourism does, however, include an added element of accountability and spirituality.
Conscious travelers go beyond focusing on tourism impact through their inner investigation of spiritual fulfillment, thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.
Conservation / Nature Conservation
This movement is about the protection of natural resources like air, minerals, water, and wildlife.
The goal is to preserve these resources so they can be enjoyed by future generations.
This is an adoption of another culture’s identity markers without permission.
Cultural appropriation reinforces the dynamics of historical exploitation, especially when appropriators use cultural material for profit.
Appropriation can also include co-opting elements of another culture without acknowledging or understanding their cultural significance. This is particularly harmful when these elements are sacred.
Cultural Travel / Cultural Tourism
A type of tourism with the main goal of experiencing the tangible and intangible elements of another’s culture.
A type of tourism that exposes tourists to places that are historically associated with death or tragedy.
This includes visiting locations that experienced natural disasters, political oppression, genocide, war, crime, and terrorism.
Similar terms are Grief Tourism and Disaster Tourism.
A contrived transformation of local areas, customs or historical places for the entertainment of tourists.
At a minimum, this is a hotel that avoids harming the environment. Eco-hotels accomplish this by regulating water and energy use, managing waste systems, and through conservation efforts.
Many eco-travelers and most eco-hotel certifications expect that eco-hotels also make a positive impact on the environment and the local community.
Similar terms are Eco-Friendly Hotel, Ecolodge, and Eco-Resort.
A type of sustainable tourism focused on nature-based travel.
Ecotourism conserves the environment and wildlife, supports the local people, and involves education for all stakeholders.
Similar terms are Eco-Friendly Travel / Tourism and Eco-Conscious Travel / Tourism.
Ethical Travel / Ethical Tourism
This is a less stringently-defined form of tourism. It generally involves travelers that consider the ethics and the impact of their travel decisions.
A similar term is Responsible Tourism.
Short for expatriate, this is someone who is living in a country outside their own, usually by choice.
This is a popular term for long-term travelers that are working abroad or are digital nomads.
In addition to the definition, there is a fair bit of thoughtful commentary about the connotation of the term.
Similar terms in meaning (but not in connotation) include Immigrant and Migrant.
Experiential Travel / Experiential Tourism
A travel style that meaningfully explores the culture, history, traditions, and activities of a local environment.
A similar term is Immersion Travel / Tourism.
This is a trading partnership with the goal of creating greater justice, equity, and sustainability in international trade.
Products that are labeled as fair trade have undergone review by one of the multiple fair trade certifying organizations. They have to meet a set of minimum standards, most notably paying workers and producers a liveable wage.
This Swedish term means “flight shame,” and has grown in popularity as environmentalism has become a larger topic.
Flight shame is the feeling of embarrassment or shame when boarding a plane because of the CO2 emissions that will result.
Travelers who want to avoid feeling shame and don’t have the time for a train may opt att smygflyga (to fly in secret).
Gastronomy Tourism / Culinary Tourism / Food Tourism
This is a branch of tourism that is food-focused.
Part of the authentic and experiential travel trends, travelers get a deeper view into local cultures through food products and activities.
This term is an umbrella for more niche tour styles.
Geo-Travel / Geotourism
There are two definitions of Geotourism in the world of travel terminology.
- Tourism that encourages a traveler to engage with and learn from the geological and landscape elements of a destination.
- A travel style that encompasses both eco-travel and sustainable travel in a super-term. Geotourism sustains and enhances the environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture, and well-being of a destination’s residents.
Global Code of Ethics for Tourism
This is a set of principles addressed to governments, the travel industry, communities, and tourists.
It is designed to maximize the benefits and minimize the harmful effects of tourism on a destination.
Green Travel / Green Tourism
Green Tourism is a travel and marketing trend that is used to describe sustainable travel or ecotourism, or at least to imply sustainable tourism practices.
For those traveling green with integrity, this travel style seems to emphasize a reduction in a traveler’s carbon footprint.
The more vague an ethical travel term is, the more likely it is to be used in greenwashing efforts. When you come across a green tourism product, ask what makes it “green” before booking.
This is when a business has sustainability measures in place but doesn’t communicate them effectively.
Businesses may do this because they fear a negative backlash from consumers if they highlight themselves as a sustainable product.
This backlash may come from consumers who don’t align with the principles of sustainable tourism. Conversely, the backlash can come from sustainable travelers who criticize the company for not being sustainable enough.
Other businesses under-communicate their sustainable practices simply because they assume the consumer knows about their ethics.
Greenwashing / Green Sheen
This is a business practice that unethically capitalizes on the growing trend of sustainability.
Brands greenwash either by claiming their sustainability efforts are more substantial than they really are or by using their green initiatives to distract from their other harming practices.
Greenwashing can be very convincing. This makes it challenging for the eco-friendly consumer to identify businesses that genuinely prioritize sustainability.
This is an immersive accommodation style, often a part of Community Based Tourism.
In a homestay, foreigners stay in the home of locals. They sometimes share space and meals with the host family.
In its most impactful form, this type of accommodation provides unprecedented economic opportunities to local communities.
Similar terms are WWOOFing, Farm Stays, Couch Surfing, and Vacation Rentals.
Medical Tourism / Medical Travel
Visiting a place for the purpose of seeking medical care.
There are many reasons people may seek medical services away from home. These can include a difference in cost, faster access to necessary procedures, seeking an expert, a lack of adequate services at home, to trying an alternative or experimental treatment not yet available at home, and seeking medical services that aren’t legal at home.
While often a perfectly valid form of travel, medical tourism can also easily cross ethical and safety boundaries (see organ trafficking). All risks and implications should carefully considered before deciding to travel for medical care.
This is a lifestyle that rejects access to public services like electricity, water supply, gas, sewage, and phone/internet connection.
Off-grid travel can include off-grid accommodation, camping, or sometimes even a simple digital-detox from devices and wifi.
This type of tourism encompasses orphanage visits, volunteer trips to orphanages, and orphanage donations.
Orphanage Tourism is directly linked to sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.
Only a traveler who is highly qualified and is confidently working with a legitimate organization in a long-term, high impact project should be working with orphans.
Orphanage tourism under any other circumstance puts children at risk.
This is the unsustainable the growth of tourism that causes overcrowding in a destination.
The negative effects of overtourism can alienate local residents, degrade the tourist experience, damage nature and infrastructure, and threaten culture and heritage.
This is a type of religious travel that involves a journey to a sacred destination. For some religions, the journey itself is also part of the spiritual practice.
Businesses, communities, or individuals accomplish plastic neutrality by reducing their plastic footprint to zero. They do this by minimizing and/or offsetting their plastic use.
This tourism style goes beyond focusing on the sustainable impact of travel on land, people, and culture. It also weaves in the opportunity to revitalize the health of the environment through tourism.
This energy source harnesses the power of the natural elements that are constantly being replenished, such as wind or sunlight. This energy can be used to fuel electricity, heating/cooling air and water, and transportation.
A similar term is Clean Energy.
Responsible Tourism / Responsible Travel
As a travel style, the goal of responsible travel is to make better places to live in and better places to visit.
It is also a travel mindset that can be applied to all types of travel, from backpacking to business trips and beyond. Responsible tourism endows travelers with an individual sense of responsibility for their impact on sustainability.
This is a tourism style that involves travel to non-urban areas. These trips usually include nature-based and cultural activities.
- Have low population density
- Use their land mostly for agriculture and forestry
- Feature traditional culture and lifestyle
A similar term is Regional Tourism.
This a type of tourism undertaken for the specific goal of having sex with prostitutes in a country where prostitution is legal.
It is important to remember that even if prostitution is legal in a destination, human trafficking and sex with a child are illegal activities and are often integrated into the prostitution industry.
Slow Tourism / Slow Travel
This is a leisurely travel style that is often referred to as “living like a local.” By spending more time in a destination, slow travelers are able to connect more with the culture and community.
This can also be considered a sustainable tourism travel style. As slow travelers are using fewer modes of transportation by staying in place longer, they can reduce their carbon footprint.
Many slow travelers embrace busses and trains over planes for transit. They support homestays and local grocery stores.
Longer-term stays spread the benefit of tourism beyond the commercial hot spots that short-term travelers tend to exclusively hit when they are in town.
This is a controversial form of tourism that involves tours in extremely poor areas, or slums.
Proponents argue that this form of tourism gives travelers more perspective and a realistic sense of the area they are visiting. They argue that slum tourism has the opportunity to provide tourism jobs to slum residents and to change the narrative and stereotypes around poverty through local stories.
Objectors claim that it is exploitation and voyeurism.
It is always worth considering who is running the tour and how it impacts the community before booking this type of experience.
Similar terms include Reality tours, Poverty Tourism, and Ghetto Tourism.
These are businesses that solve problems through enterprise.
They use their businesses to tackle social issues, promote environmentalism, provide access to training and meaningful work, or to improve communities.
Purpose before profit is the name of the game, but social enterprises do still generate profits for stakeholders. In this way, these are different from non-profit organizations.
These are destinations that continuously undergo intentional sustainability efforts, many of which have been certified.
While there are many lists out there that compile sustainable destinations, there are specific guidelines that truly sustainable destinations should be working toward.
This is worldwide development in which everyone’s needs are met without preventing the needs of future generations from being met.
Sustainable Development initiatives focus on the intersection of society, environment, culture, and economy.
The United Nations has created a vision for sustainability worldwide by 2030, which has been outlined in their 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
You may also like: Responsible Tourism Ideas that Support Sustainable Development
As the most evergreen buzzword of intentional travel terminology, this definition comes straight from the horse’s mouth:
“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” (UNWTO).
While a slight shade of difference from Responsible Tourism, there are two main distinctions to note.
- Sustainable Tourism specifically addresses the impact on the future, and even offers measurable goals to assess impact. Responsible Tourism definitely focuses on impact, but not specifically on future impact.
- Sustainable Tourism involves all tourism stakeholders: travelers, businesses, governments, communities, and beyond. Responsible Tourism is generally the responsibility of the traveler.
The other side of the flygskam coin, this is the Swedish term for “train bragging.” Usually, tågskryt takes place on social media.
The phenomenon of travelers proudly sharing their train trips is a result of growing environmentalism concerns.
Transformational Tourism / Transformational Travel
This is a tourism style that is mainly on the life-changing experience of the traveler, although most transformational travelers also prioritize the experience of the local community and environment as well.
There are 3 components of Transformational Travel:
- Traveling mindfully
- Post-trip reflection
Voluntourism / Volunteer Travel
This is a controversial type of travel with the goal of donating time to make a difference.
Voluntourism can be beneficial when the volunteer has skills that cannot be locally sourced, during long-term and mutually beneficial collaborations between a volunteer and a community, and in low-risk conservation efforts.
Often times, well-meaning and unskilled volunteers can cause harm, promote inefficient and dangerous charities with their fees, take jobs from locals, and perpetuate false narratives that interfere with meaningful change.
Voluntourism in itself isn’t good or bad, but not all experiences are created equal. It is important to carefully consider the impact and ethics of any international volunteering opportunity before taking part.
Similar terms are Disaster Relief Trips, Mission Trips, and International Volunteering.
Wellness Tourism / Wellness Travel
This is a type of travel that contains an element of focus on the improvement of a tourist’s wellbeing.
These vacations can include spa trips, yoga retreats, bleisure trips at a wellness-focused hotel, detox programs, and more.
Wellness Tourism is one of the fastest-growing trends in tourism worldwide.
This is a sustainable travel style that involves leaving as little waste behind as you explore.
Zero-waste travelers pack and plan to avoid generating trash along their way.
Planning involves choosing hotels, airlines, and other tourism providers who actively minimize waste.
Packing for zero-waste includes bringing reusable goods that can replace single-use plastics and other disposable goods.
What did I miss?
Please let me know in the comments if I missed any important travel terminology.
It is my goal to make this the most comprehensive and useful tool on the internet for travelers interested in learning more about how to wander the world with integrity!
Thanks in advance for helping that goal along 🙂