Sustainable travel writing? Exploring the ethical dilemmas of twenty-first-century travel writers

Madelene McWha, Warwick Frost, Jennifer Laing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


There is a paucity of academic literature on travel writing that examines travel writers and their perceived influence on sustainability. This article addresses this lacuna by exploring how travel writers understand their responsibilities and reflects on ethics in their profession, particularly in how foreign destinations and cultures are portrayed. This is significant because some travel writers have been accused of contributing to what interviewees called the “Lonely Planet Syndrome”, the notion that writing about a place will introduce and encourage mass tourism, changing the original state of the place for the worse. In this qualitative, phenomenological study, data were collected from 23 in-depth interviews with twenty-first-century travel writers and analysed using an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Findings suggest that while some interviewees expressed anxiety about their perceived accountability to mediate foreign cultures responsibly, others embraced their role as a cultural mediator. They cared about local cultures and wanted to write in responsible ways by supporting more sustainable outcomes, reflected in the themes of cross-cultural understanding, socio-cultural and environmental advocacy and promoting benefits of tourism to communities. Future studies could include exploring the role of travel editors, travel writers’ professional knowledge and the growing role of travel blogs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1401-1417
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cross-cultural
  • cultural mediation
  • ethics
  • sustainability
  • Travel writer
  • travel writing

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