Trust & Tourism

One of the major concepts in sustainability is trust. It plays an important role in our lives and in tourism as well. I experienced that during my own travels. Should I visit that country? Should I travel by myself? What are this person´s intentions? I realise these questions also connect to safety. Some countries or places are in general less safe to travel to, because of crime or political instability for example. The fact that I am a woman adds to the safety question as well. But a large part depends on trust. I notice that another environment, with a different culture than my own, makes me distrusful.

I think it is an interesting and important subject to give more attention to. Because what does trust mean? And what is its role in tourism and sustainability? Luckily I know someone with more knowledge about this. Meet Eveliina. An amazing, humble Finnish woman, with fast travel experience. She studied the concept of trust for a while now, so I believe she is the right person to ask some questions.

Hi Eveliina! Great that you want to share your visions on and knowledge of trust. Let me start with the following. What do you define as trust?

Well hello there! Thank you for showing me trust and letting me share my vision and the knowledge I have gained until this day. Let me start by referring to Socrates that “I know, that I know nothing”.

Personally I like the way Hall (2010) describes the term “trust”. According to him, trust is a glue that holds communities and societies together. He states that collaboration will be achievable only if trust is present. Trust is a reliance on someone’s character, ability or strength to do something. To get an anticipated outcome. It is the confidence within a community that everyone has a joint agenda. And all the participants aim towards it by contributing evenly or as agreed.

Trust is of importance on a daily basis, even in situations that we do not even pay attention to. Such as taking a flight, driving in traffic, at work between colleagues and between an employee and employer. Oh, I almost forgot, in friendships and in romantic relationships as well. Trust in general is essential to make us feel physically and emotionally safe. I am a strong trust advocator and believer when creating meaningful and lasting encounters and relationships. Let me set an example for you

During my time working now and then as a waitress, I have found different ways to build trust with my customers. One way is as follows: If my customers are about to order a meal which will not be a worth of their money, I will suggest them to have another meal. Even if it was much cheaper. In this way, the customers see that I am on their side as I am willing to “sacrifice my own good”. And admit that the meal they want to order at the first place is overpriced. They see that I am not “driving a hard bargain”. I am on their side. After this experience, they most likely trust my suggestions on other things too.

The way I see it, preconceptions and a lack of empathy and patience play a big role on causing mistrust

Interesting that you mention the importance of trust for collaboration. Collaboration (working together towards a common goal by using each other’s strength and knowledge) is seen as an important part of sustainable development. Could you explain why you think trust is important in sustainable (tourism) development?

Everything starts and ends with people. No matter if it is a big or a small organization, an enterprise, or government. You name it. All of these are comprised of and managed by people. Trust as an emotion is strongly associated with loyalty. It is the foundation of creating a commitment. Like you mention, collaboration is seen as an important factor in achieving the targets of the sustainable development goals. In order to create a world in which we effectively collaborate and practice sustainable development, we need people to commit. To be able to create long-term committed relationships or “collaborationships”, we need trust. Trust in that I do my share and you do yours.

I advocate for building up instead of tearing down. Preconceptions, which often derive from reputation and a lack of empathy and patience, play a big role on causing mistrust. I believe that trust is a counterbalance to mistrust, the cause of tearing down.

Tourism can be a tool for building up trust. Since as a whole it comprises many different levels of human encounters. Jaffe (2018) for example says that organizations or societies that trust their leaders thrive, whereas those that suffer from mistrust have conflicts and even wars. Societies with higher trust are often strongly associated with safety, well-being and social cohesion within a community. Since tourism is visible to people on a local governance level, it can in fact contribute and improve the public trust towards the entire government (if managed properly on a local level). And in this way work towards more safety, well-being and social cohesion. Exactly that what sustainable development is aiming for.

It sounds quite easy. Implement some tourism and the level of trust will increase. I am sure it is not that easy at all. How do you think trust can be enhanced ánd sustained?

According to the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015; Scott et al., 2016), the key to build trust is transparency. If we think about this agreement and the sustainable development goals, we need all the countries to commit. To make them commit, we need to trust that everyone is doing their best. And we need these countries to be trustworthy, by delivering their promises. This is when transparency comes in. Transparency is a tool to monitor whether all parties are true to their words.

Transparency is defined as something that can be seen-through and lucid. In terms of this context, transparency strongly relates to data. It is about accessibility, reliability and liability of information. The key words for understanding transparency in-depth are as follows: accuracy, accessibility, disclosure, clarity, openness, accountability, trustworthiness, reliability and inclusiveness (Schnackenberg & Tomlinson, 2014).

Transparency as a term sounds fancy but very abstract. To make it more tangible and to implement it into actions, it requires a new technology. For example a joint platform like Block Chain that enables a transparent data exchange and reporting. As we know, it is much easier to believe that someone is not trustworthy than another way round. With the help of the transparent joint platform it could reduce barriers to create trust and commitment.

When you want people to trust you, you should start from trusting them and show it.

How would you link this transparency to tourism?

I think that transparency is or at least should be linked to tourism on different levels. Just to name a few bottom-up approaches: being open-minded as a tourist, sharing openly your experiences through platforms and supporting organizations in a tourism sector that contribute to openness and disclosure about their taken actions.

I want to point out that tourism cannot be seen separately from governance, business and society as a whole. So transparency in tourism means disclosure on many levels. It is a very complex subject, about which I can talk hours longer.

So to put it all together. In order to have a sustainable world, we need people, organizations and countries to collaborate. For collaboration to work, we need commitment of these people, organizations and countries. And for this commitment, we need trust. In order to enhance trust, transparency as a monitoring tool is needed. So it seems like trust and transparency are at the core of sustainable development. And tourism can play a role in this. It is quite a lot to grasp. Do you have any tips how we as individuals (and as tourists) can built trust?

  1. Ask someone to watch your jacket while you go to the toilet. That person feels directly connected and committed to you. And will take the task seriously (Ariely, 2017). Being trusted makes us people feel good about ourselves. Human brain inherently rewards us for being trustworthy. It is ingrained in us that we want to trust and also be trustworthy (Böckler-Raettig 2017).
  2. Show respect and appreciation, gain knowledge about the culture beforehand and be curious. Be unprejudiced and open-minded. Think about travelling as a host and guest relationship. How would you behave if you were a guest in someone’s home?
  3. Try to hitch hike in a safe country. You will get rid of preconceptions and barriers (us people tend to categorize people) and will start to believe in humanity again. This is not only for hitch hiking but also for travelling in general. When you start knowing people outside your own bubble, you will realize that everyone’s core is the same. We are only humans after all. “We are one”.
  4. When you want people to trust you, you should start from trusting them and show it.
  5. Be authentic, in other words, genuine, kind and humble
  6. Empathize. Try to step into other people’s shoes and see where they come from and why they behave, act and think in a way they do.
  7. Be and stay patient and consistent in order to create trust. People are complex and difficult. Do not give up. Creating trust takes time. Listen to the wise words of Coldplay: “Nobody said it was easy”. Trust needs to be earned. I can tell you, it is worth every penny. “When trust is intact, we will willingly contribute what is needed, not just by offering our presence, but also by sharing our dedication, talent, energy and honest thoughts on how the relationship or group is working “ (Jaffe 2018).

To conclude, trust, empathy and patience are the key components to goodness. And in this context to sustainable (tourism) development. Whether it is doing and showing these acts while travelling, or when talking about the management of governance or organizations. Everything leads to people as these organizations are led by people. The same components and the ingredients that make tourism, sustainable development and societies successful make a love relationship great. The key to greatness is trust. And trust is created by and between people.


Sources used in this article:

Ariely 2017. Why trust is so important and how we can get more of it? URL: Accessed: 3 May 2019.

Böckler-Raettig 2017. The Psychology of Trust. URL: Accessed: 3 May 2019.

Hall, M., 2010. Setting Empowering Frames for the “Trust” and Trustworthiness. URL: Accessed: 4 May 2019.

Jaffe 2018. The Essential Importance Of Trust: How To Build It Or Restore It. URL: Accessed: 4 May 2019.

Schnackenberg, A., K. & Tomlinson, E., C. 2014. Organizational Transparency: A New Perspective on Managing Trust in Organization-Stakeholder Relationships. Journal of Management, 42, 7, pp. 1784-1810.

Scott, D., Hall, M., C. & Gössling, S. 2016. A Report on the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Its Implications for Tourism: Why We Will Always Have Paris. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 24, 7, pp. 933-948.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 2015. The Paris Agreement. URL: Accessed: 3 May 2019.