With so many developing destinations competing for tourists, many travellers have narrowed down their choices by avoiding the ones with weak human rights and environmental records, and opting for those more deserving of their dollars.

Assisting in this regard is non-profit group Ethical Traveler, a project of the Berkeley, California-based Earth Island Institute, which has just released its annual list of the 10 most forward-thinking countries in the developing world.

Every year the group reviews each country for its performance in the areas of human rights, social welfare, animal welfare and environmental protection – all while offering plenty of appeal as a travel destination.

“By spending travel dollars in forward-thinking countries, explorers can reward the good guys and encourage humane practices worldwide,” says Ethical Traveler’s report.

Flying the flag for the Caribbean were “the nature island” Dominica and Grenada, the latter of which was one of five first-timers on the 2016 list, joining Micronesia, Mongolia, Panama and Tuvalu.

According to Ethical Traveler, Dominica has made progress in the area of LGBT rights and “continues to lead the Caribbean islands in healthcare, education and the development of geothermal electricity.”

Grenada has also made cautious progress in the area of LGBT rights, the report says. The island is also commended for taking action to protect and regenerate its reefs by creating coral nurseries.

The report points out that there are seven island nations on the 2016 list, “marking a continuing trend in the winners’ circle.

“Climate change affects islands dramatically, so island nations tend to put extra effort toward effective environmental policies,” it added.

“While we acknowledge that no country is perfect, we honour those that strive to build a better, more sustainable society,” says Ethical Traveler co-founder and travel author Jeff Greenwald.

“Their neighbours can learn and benefit from their example — and so can we.”

Ethical Traveler’s information sources include Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Reporters Without Borders, UNICEF, LGBT resources and the World Bank.

The inclusion of Mongolia on this year’s list is considered significant as the first developing mainland Asian country to be selected. In the past, developing Asian countries were thought to have shown too little movement towards sustainability and been guilty of human rights abuses.

Five countries from the 2015 list were removed this year: Lithuania, Chile, Mauritius, Palau and Vanuatu.

“Like Latvia in 2014, Lithuania is no longer considered a ‘developing country,’ having earned the IMF status of ‘mature economy’ and making it ineligible for our list,” the report says.

As for Vanuatu, the destruction from Cyclone Pam last March devastated the country’s infrastructure and tourism industry.

“We fully support Vanuatu’s citizens in their rebuilding efforts but do not believe their infrastructure can handle an influx of tourists at this time,” says the report.

“Palau, another small Pacific island that has been a fixture on our list, was omitted this year. In order to reclaim their long-held spot they must show clear and verified progress in the fight to end human trafficking, for both domestic labour and sex purposes.”

As for Chile’s removal from the list, it “failed to amend its archaic law barring abortions under any circumstances, causing many women to terminate their pregnancies via the dangerous black-market and underscoring a disregard for women’s reproductive rights.

“Because of this, they are not in line with our Human Rights requirements.”

The 2016 top 10 Ethical Travel destinations (in alphabetical order) are: Cape Verde, Dominica, Grenada, Micronesia (Federated States), Mongolia, Panama, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Uruguay.

CALIFORNIA, United States, Thursday January 14, 2016 – Read more: Caribbean360