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Environmental ethics for tourism- the state of the art

Andrew Holden (Institute for Tourism Research (INTOUR), University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 29 May 2018

Issue publication date: 19 June 2019




Environmental ethics has become an established subject of philosophy in recent decades in response to the contemporary environmental crisis. This paper aims to provide an overview of the key theories and concepts and critically evaluate the extent of their application in tourism studies.


The paper is based on a systematic literature review of published academic papers that link environmental ethics to tourism. It subsequently attempts to provide a comprehensive review of what is currently a nascent field of research enquiry to comprehend and evaluate the relevance and implications of environmental ethics for tourism. Using a theoretical ethical framework of libertarian extensionism, eco-holism and the conservation ethic, moral debates that arise from their use in tourism are analysed. As a field of academic study that presently lacks research enquiry areas for future research investigation are subsequently identified.


The paper forms a part of the “State of the Art” series and subsequently does not present empirical findings. However, through critical evaluation, it demonstrates the complexity of the application of environmental ethics to tourism through differing perspectives within the subject and when nature’s interests are juxtaposed to concerns of anthropic ethics. To develop a stronger environmental ethics amongst tourism stakeholders that recognises the intrinsic value of nature, it is recommended that ecological virtue and literacy are key elements in this process.


The originality of the paper rests in providing a comprehensive overview of the existing level of application of the theories of environmental ethics to tourism; the appliance of theory to debates of tourism’s environmental challenges; and identifying research directions to help fill knowledge gaps.



Holden, A. (2019), "Environmental ethics for tourism- the state of the art", Tourism Review, Vol. 74 No. 3, pp. 694-703.



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