The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)


Mission Statement

CREST's mission is to promote responsible tourism policies and practices so that local communities may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity.


Travel is the world's largest economic sector. How big? Today, tourism generates over $1.6 trillion in export earnings a year. It ranks third worldwide in exports and is the top export category in many countries. The number of people traveling overseas has jumped exponentially: 53-fold since 1950. In 2012, for the first time in history, international tourist arrivals topped 1 billion, and that figure is expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030.
Travel has the power to do enormous harm to the most beautiful and culturally rich parts of our planet, degrading even its most remote areas quickly and irreparably. But, properly managed, it can do just the opposite.
And yet, there is a dearth of insightful research to assist travelers and decision makers in the responsible development of this huge, widely-scattered industry. When tourism development is responsibly managed to incorporate sustainable best practices, it has the power to bring employment and conservation to areas that otherwise fall prey to clear-cut logging, mining, industrial agriculture, and illegal trade and traffic.
Founded in 2003, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) was created to counter this deficiency in meaningful analysis and data and to steward responsible tourism with innovative research, field projects, consultancies, conferences, courses, publications, and documentary films. CREST is a leading expert on the full range of tourism models, from small-scale community-based and indigenous tourism to large coastal resort and cruise tourism.
A one-of-a-kind nonprofit organization, CREST assists governments, development agencies, local communities, policy makers, tourism businesses, and international agencies in finding solutions to critical issues confronting tourism.
CREST believes travel, done right, should be a force for preserving environments and cultures and building sustainable communities. Specifically, responsible tourism can:
  • Alleviate Poverty – Supporting self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship in communities through tourism;
  • Conserve Bio-Diversity – Promoting positive environmental footprints through travel;
  • Protect Cultures – Directly engaging tourists in preserving and experiencing authentic peoples and places.
In this era of climate change, overtourism, and growing economic disparity, responsible travel is not a choice; it’s an imperative. To learn more about CREST’s work to transform the way the world travels, visit

Program Details

CREST’s research demonstrates that different types of tourism have very different economic, social, and environmental impacts on host destinations. Here are some of CREST’s core program areas:
  • Ecotourism: In 1987, ecotourism in Costa Rica took off and by 2015 tourism arrivals had grown ninefold while tourism earnings had grown 20-fold – meaning Costa Rica was earning over two times more per tourist than before the ecotourism boom started. Average monthly income of those working in ecotourism lodges in the Osa Peninsula is nearly twice as high as those not working in tourism.
  • Cruise tourism: In Central America (Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica), CREST’s studies for the Belize Tourism Board and the InterAmerican Development Bank found that the land-based stayover tourism sector generates 14-23 times more money than the cruise tourism sector. In these countries, the average stayover tourist spends 10-18 times more than the typical cruise passenger.
  • Community-based tourism: Through multiple projects in Cuba, CREST is working to strengthen small-scale household-based tourism businesses and compare their economic, social, and environmental impacts to large-scale cruise tourism. In 2018, CREST released a book highlighting 50 years of lessons learned from the Caribbean as Cuba’s ports are opening to an American audience.
  • Impact Tourism: CREST is a recognized leader in impact tourism, which has generated tens of millions of dollars each year from tourists and tourism businesses for development projects in host communities. Originally referred to as “travelers’ philanthropy,” impact tourism today represents a broad array of travel giving programs that are recognized as a core component of responsible travel.
  • Overtourism: High on CREST’s list of current priorities is the issue of “overtourism,” affecting such destinations as Barcelona, Venice, Machu Picchu, and Acadia National Park, among others. A September 2018 World Tourism Day Forum titled Overtourism: Seeking Solutions, which focused on the impact of unregulated or mismanaged tourism on a destination (often referred to as “overtourism”), is an example of the important advocacy role CREST plays.
  • Tourism master planning: CREST is working to develop sustainable tourism master plans for the South Al Sharqiyah Governorate in Oman. This is a region with a recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Site and three national parks with world class turtle nesting beaches and Oman’s famed maritime culture and dhow shipbuilding tradition. CREST’s role is to ensure that tourism development positively impacts local communities and the sensitive natural and cultural heritage of Oman.
  • GSTC destination assessments: As a qualified destination assessor, CREST conducts Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) assessments in destinations such as Cozumel island and southern Sinaloa state in Mexico. The aim is to enhance their sustainability and competitiveness and prepare the groundwork for full destination certification by a GSTC recognized program.
  • Indigenous tourism: In Chihuahua, Mexico, CREST is assisting rural Rarámuri communities in developing indigenous and experiential tourism together with local NGO partners. These “tourism experiences” showcase Rarámuri cooking and handicrafts with opportunities for guided hiking in the Copper Canyon. In increasing the quality and sustainability of these tours, CREST has helped to brand the experiences and has built a website with the communities.
Primary Issue
Secondary Issue
Climate Change
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Washington, DC 20005
United States
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