Responsible product development

When developing new products, make sure human rights are considered from the outset. As a first step, the salient human rights risks for the company’s operations and its value chain should be kept in mind (see value chain assessment).

As a basic rule, it is about applying common sense judgment in which the best and most responsible choice needs to be determined. Questions product developers can ask when developing new products and tours include:

  • Would I be proud to take my family, friends and colleagues on this excursion?
  • Have I adequately considered alternatives?
  • Could my company lose customers or shareholders if they found out we offer/source this product?

The two following examples provide general reflections on sustainable excursion planning:

The following tabs provide information on tools and considerations which can help improve responsible product development.

⇒ Click here to identify your value chain-related human rights risks


When choosing service providers while developing new products, look out for third-party certifications that confirm a potential business partner is respecting human rights. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) provides a list of certifications that meet high standards.

Some tour operators decide to develop their own company “label” for responsible tourism (second party audit) based on their own criteria. To ensure credibility, such criteria should be made publicly available and take human rights issues into account.

Transat promotes sustainable hotels with “certifications that meet the GSTC requirements" (May 20th, 2018)



For some local initiatives, receiving international certification is not possible (size, price, know-how etc.). Working with certified providers is therefore not the only way to promote responsible tourism.

In some destinations, community-driven tourism initiatives can be found already. Some are well developed and can be contracted immediately. Others, however, are lacking know-how and skills about the quality standards expected by international tour operators. Some direct engagement and training might be needed to bring them up to speed and for them to become an adequate partner.

If no established community-driven tourism initiative can be found in a specific destination, engagement with local communities is needed before taking up operations. They should be consulted on their opinions about tourism development in their region, on their ideas and on how they could best benefit from tourism development in their area.

Find local artisanal cooperatives who work for the benefit of the local community (e.g. with women, children etc.). Develop partnerships with those institutions, including integrating visits to shops where those products can be bought in tours, and encourage tourists to buy from those local initiatives directly.


Examples of community-based tourism initiatives: 

  • Co’ox Mayab brings together various social enterprises committed to the promotion of responsible tourism in Yucatan, Mexico. It promotes the commercialization and training of initiatives dedicated to alternative community-based tourism in the Mayan region. 
  • The Bulungula Lodge in South Africa sustains local culture and the planet, and is 100% owned and managed by the traditional Nqileni village, a Xhosa community.
Video on the Co'ox Mayab initiative in Yucatan, Mexico (see examples below)


  • Lokal Travel: The website can be consulted to find interesting partners in specific countries: “We seek out travel providers that support local livelihoods, celebrate cultural traditions, preserve historical sites and love to share their passion and local knowledge with travellers."

When developing touristic offers to areas where indigenous people live, take specific care to make sure your product is respectful of local traditions.


Prior to developing new volunteering offers, carefully carry out due diligence in terms of the partner organisation on the ground. Only offer specific assignments that are based on the needs articulated by the local community (e.g. specific expertise requested by local population) and which do not compete with the local job market. Enable transfer of knowledge and expertise to empower the local community and enter solid partnerships with local organisations. Define a minimal duration of stay for volunteers and avoid short-term placements, especially when children are involved. Exclude day visits to schools in your itineraries.



  • Responsible travel: Various volunteering guides outlining related issues by volunteering type and destination.


In post-conflict situations, tourism is often one of the first sectors to experience a new boom. For instance, in Sri Lanka after 26 years of civil war, or in Burma when the dictatorship came to an end. When operating in destinations that are politically fragile, particular due diligence is needed for the development of touristic products. Learn about the conflict that has affected the country, ask questions about ownership and land acquisition, find out about the composition of staff working in tourism and the participation of community members in the development of this industry.

Consult the guidance developed by the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism on tourism in fragile contexts to learn more (see link below).




Many dedicated people and (civil society) organisations are open to providing information on the situation in a specific country.

Contact them directly – that’s how you most effectively get the most important information. Contact the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism for help. 

Plan tours in a way that allows drivers to have the necessary rest periods and consult the guidance developed by the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism on the implementation of labor and social standards for driving personnel in the tourism sector (see link below).

Develop products that specifically take into account the needs of people with disabilities (including accessible hotels, accessible rental cars, etc.).



Guidance on driving personnel:

Guidance on accessible travel: 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.