Controversial Destinations: To Boycott or Not?

Does boycotting tourism do more harm than good?

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Boycott or Not?

What do you do when you discover a destination on your list is an ethical nightmare?

If there are human rights abuses, oppression, dictatorship, denial of democracy, corruption, unethical practices (animal welfare, environmental issues) or enforcement of manifestly unjust laws, what should you do?

Boycott! Boycott!

The obvious answer, is to take the destination off your list. Why support an unethical regime or practice by traveling there?

Tourism is vital to the economy of many countries, contributing 10.2% of global GDP in 2016. That makes travelers very powerful people in economic terms.

What Happens When Tourism Money Goes Away

Let’s take a look at what happens when tourism dollars go away in the case of Egypt. Prior to the 2011 uprising, tourism contributed $13 billion to the Egyptian economy. In 2015 it was down to just $8 billion. While that’s because of fears about safety and terrorism, it shows the power of the tourist dollar when the entire world decides to “boycott” – whatever the reason.

And there are instances where a boycott based on ethical reasons has worked – South Africa for one, and the worldwide boycott of their products because of apartheid. The popular movement was backed by the political clout of the UN and foreign governments imposing sanctions, but it worked – eventually.

Then there’s your own internal moral compass. If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, then you’re lost. Visiting a country that conducts atrocities condones them, and does that make you complicit?

Is Boycotting Always the Best Practice? Perhaps Not

There’s an opposing school of thought, those who say you should go anyway. They’re not advocating ignorance or blindly venturing into countries that condone atrocities, but instead say to make an informed decision to go and make a difference.

Travel changes lives – not only of the traveler, but of the people they visit too.

Oppressors need secrecy and compliance to conduct their oppression. By turning the spotlight on them, by exposing their actions to the eyes of visitors, they are less likely to do their evil (this is also why media attention works). The oppressed desperately need someone to hear their story. They need their plight to be known.

Even if the unethical behaviour is supported by the majority of citizens, engaging with the wider populace and exposing them to thoughts, ideas, and beliefs of a wider audience may cause a change.

To not visit punishes the most vulnerable. Oppression, and abuse, by its nature, denies the victims the wherewithal to fight back. It robs them of their wealth and the power that allows them. They are always among the poorest people on Earth. If you stay away, you condemn them to that existence. If you visit, and spend wisely to encourage local businesses, you empower the powerless.

What Do the World’s Leading Travel Brands and Travel Luminaries Say?

We contacted our friends at like-minded travel businesses and asked them – in the most unbiased way possible – boycott or not? Here are some of their answers.

“As the former President of Geographic Expeditions, I can weigh in. My perspective was shaped when Amnesty International called for a boycott our company because we were operating trips to Myanmar/Burma.  At the time, Aung San Suu Kyi urged travelers to stay away. I managed to dig up our position paper, which I support to this day.

“We're not in the business of sheltering our travelers from reality, good or bad. (when they return) they know that they've had the paradoxical, and all too common, experience of traveling to magnificent destinations, seeing magnificent sights, meeting magnificent people, who are in trouble. And they almost invariably come home eager to help, not forget, those people.” – Jim Sano, Geographic Expeditions

"Traveling and immersing yourself in a culture is a far more impactful way to affect change in the world when compared to boycotting travel to a particular country in an effort to encourage it to change its ways. 

"Travel enables greater awareness of important issues such as human rights, species vulnerability or environmental degradation, and expands our understanding of the diverse perspectives that exist around a wide range of issues and challenges. Through visiting a country and engaging in immersive types of experiences such as volunteering, travellers are able to make a valuable hands-on contribution towards tackling important local challenges, while at the same time heightening global understanding and empathy, both in themselves and in the people they interact with. Abroad experiences influence the decisions that people make in life for the better and encourage us all to think more globally.

"IVHQ research shows that 91% of volunteer travellers believe their experience challenged them to think differently about how they understand the world and other cultures, customs and norms." – Ben Brown, Head of Risk, Impact and People at International Volunteer HQ

“The ethics of visiting places like Myanmar and North Korea have previously been the subject of passionate company-wide debates at Intrepid. The majority decision has been that we don’t boycott, but that our trips include as much genuine real-life local interaction as we can, because it exposes both our travellers and locals to the reality that we are all human. We genuinely believe that travel connects people, it builds understanding, it makes us less prejudiced and more empathetic. We need more of that in the world right now.” – James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel

“Instead of boycotting a place outright, I make micro, person-to-person decisions in the moment that fall in line with my values. I’ll go to China but I won’t pay to pose for a picture (or pose at all) with a mistreated panda. I’ll get out of your taxi in Port of Spain if you talk smack about your minorities. I won’t even stay in your inn in Krakow if you’re mean to me. But we travelers have a unique chance to be something like the rivers of the world. We can gather little pieces of the lands we touch, carry them great distances and let them settle into something rich from which a higher perspective might arise. Cutting off that flow does more harm than good.” Tim Neville, travel writer and World Nomads travel writing scholarship mentor

“The arguments work both ways, for just as it is true that withdrawing and boycotting has an effect, so it is also true that striving to remain in contact may also have beneficial results, and certainly help to limit the suffering of broader communities in the countries concerned. It may be that only by maintaining some kind of contact that we can hope to have influence for the good.” –  Helen Jennings, The Ethical Travel Guide

“In the face of an ethical dilemma, it is better to contribute to the solution rather than turn your back on the problem.  All cases need to be considered for their individual set of circumstances, but at World Expeditions we will always think of how we can assist in finding a solution.  While we do choose to boycott businesses whose practices do not adhere to our Responsible Travel code of conduct, we would look to find ways to support those individuals trying to do the right thing.

"In short, we believe that travel and tourism can make the world a better place.  Our goal is to support ethical operators and practices across our entire product range to ensure our travellers are doing just that.­– Sarah Hunt, marketing manager for World Expeditions

So, Where Does World Nomads Stand?

We believe travel has the power to change lives and challenge mindsets. Making local connections and sharing experiences and ideologies not only breeds understanding and fellowship, but also broadens perspectives and breaks down barriers. We see this as the ultimate purpose of travel.

As World Nomads, we feel that there is a greater positive impact to be made by traveling, than staying at home and avoiding the world’s problems. By going, spending travel dollars locally, choosing experiences responsibly and engaging in meaningful dialogue with others, we believe that travelers can be incredible ambassadors for change.

That is not to say that we condone putting yourself at risk (obviously, we’re a travel insurance company). We do not encourage you to travel if the circumstances are unsafe – or take part in activities that will land you in trouble. Always make sure you are informed and up-to-date on the latest developments and heed “do not travel” warnings.

In the end, the choice is yours – you are the only one who can set your own moral compass. We only ask that when you decide, you do so from a position of knowledge, awareness and sensitivity.

What’s your stance, do you boycott or not? We’d love to know your thoughts.

39 Comments

  • Dean said

    I'm a solo traveler I take calculated risks , i do my research .

    I'm not put off by issues internally in country I make common sence decisions about travel.

    I like being out of my comfort zone .

    30 years of Military Service in parts of the world has helped me go places with both eyes open .

    If it sound to good to be true ,it generally is.

  • Ruia Veronica Brown said

    I would love to travel to different countries would be an eye opener and a good experience

  • Marian F. T. Ledesma said

    Similar to Tim Neville's way of thinking, I boycott certain experiences or activities, but not entire countries. For example, I don't go to places that hold animals captive for entertainment. I will go to an ethical wildlife refuge but not a Sea World or Ocean Park. I don't buy any souvenirs made of corals or rock that was probably ripped out of the natural habitat it came from.

    I think dictatorships or nation-wide maltreatment of a minority are ultimately crushed by universal action and public outcry, but before it gets to that level of action, people had to have been exposed to it They had to have seen it first, spread the word and spoken out against it. If we boycott, we lessen the chances of finding more evidence of crimes/exploitation and we deprive locals of getting a chance to voice their opinion on a matter that affects them the most.

  • Annie said

    I've imposed my own boycott and will not be visiting the United States of America because of the current political situation. The President's views of women, people of colour, immigrants is not a view I wish to be supporting by contributing to the economy. Sorry, not sorry.

  • Luca said

    As annie wrote above i boycott the Usa completely(since 2013) i don't even overfly the country anymore, avoid transit stops even if airline ticket is cheaper. It s a police state , completely overrated. I also boycott other places in the world. I ve travelled a lot in my life but these days it has become a serious hassle. Airport security paranoia (theirs not mine) imprisonment for very light "crimes" , laws and laws , bureucracy, wars, dictators have reduced humanity to rubble in some places. Europe is "sort " of still safe in that respect. Never lose humanity insode of you and freedom. These are the most important things

  • Chris said

    Ditto Annie but you forgot the Handicapped and whole vast regions of our Country in current jeopardy by Natural Disasters made appallingly obvious as Climate Change deniers pulled out of the Paris Accords. Like Milions from many Countries I am afraid to cross our Border - Tourism is Way Down and even the Spectre of Nuclear War is apparently not a distant memory anymore.

  • Markus said

    If I go to Russia I must pay a visa. The state of Russia use that money to kill Europeans in Ukraine. I cannot pay for killing my people and therefore I'm not going to Russia.

  • Rachel Heller said

    I didn't travel to apartheid South Africa in the 1980s when I could have. That boycott, though, was not just about individual travelers; it was whole countries boycotting South Africa. That made it easy to go along with. I think, though, that it's really easy to rationalize going to a country that's an oppressive dictatorship for all the reasons your article lists above. The people you interviewed all have a vested interest in continued tourism to out-of-the-way places that might have terrible human rights records. At the same time, I see their/your argument that contact with tourists can help people who might otherwise not have a voice. But does the typical tourist really give them a voice? We're not reporters, after all. I think what our tourist dollars mostly do is help powerless people economically, not in terms of human rights. And that might be a good argument to go ahead to these countries. However, in that case, we have to pay particular attention to who we do business with: locally-owned hotels instead of chains, for example.

  • Bahuleya Minyakka said

    I suppose the places to boycott would be places that actively fund and support Islamic jihadist terrorism. So Iran would be off the list, considering Hezbollah has attacked in countries as far away as Argentina. On the Sunni side of things, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been revealed to secretly funding not only Isis, but jihadist mosques around the world, causing trouble as far as Australia and Europe. We also know that the leaders of Hamas and other similar organisations reside in the UAE. So one can only hope to boycott rogue nations such as this.

  • Stephen Rohan said

    How strange, I've literally just penned an article about this very same question and then discovered this in my inbox. I'm travelling to North Korea in 3 weeks so my answer is obviously no to a boycott. You can red why here:
    https://www.thetripgoeson.com/single-post/Is-it-ok-to-visit-North-Korea

  • I boycott said

    Scanning this article and comments I saw nothing about the biggest Human violation and the longest running conflict of all...that is the state of israel/israhell and how it treats the native Palestinians. It is an outright Apartheid and racism, not to mention Genocide.

    I do NOT buy any israeli products or anything connected to it, nor do I go to Starbucks since the owner gives money to the Israeli army which kills and humiliates the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

    So if people would stop visiting the Apartheid state of israhell maybe things will start to change. As one person made a comment about Hammas....Hammas is not a terror organization as defending oneself and people against an occupation army is legal and permitted under the Geneva convention. So all people's struggle against an occupying army/entity is legal. It is the pariah and Apartheid state of israhell who is the biggest terrorist aided with unconditional support by the other terror state the USA.

  • Cyn said

    When I was 17I traveled to Morocco for the first time. I had a lovely guide that said he had 2 jobs because he was trying to save money for a second wife. I was so put off I retorted if he could have multiple wives then women could have more than one husband. I was just plain rude. Just because I don't believe in men being able to have multiple wives doesn't mean it shouldn't be acceptable in other cultures. I am older and wiser and through travel have learned that different cultures and experiences formulate a person's beliefs and if I did not grow up in that country with those experiences how can I judge. We must be more tolerate of others and their way of life. That is one of the reasons travel is so important; to gain tolerance. Based on the comments of this article I am saddened that people are so closed minded as to boycott any place based on an independent cause. If you only travel to locations that believe in 100% of what you do you are going to have very few places to see and very few experiences. You won't even be able to go outside your own home. There is no place, culture, or person that is going to exactly believe in what you believe in or be just like you. Travel is supposed to make us more tolerarant of other humans. I for one want to see the world and all of its beauty and know all of its people.

  • Rodrigo said

    Contrary to Bahuleya, Iran is actually the first country in my list to visit. They make billions every day from oil so it's not going to be my few hundred dollars which will make a difference.

    On the other hand, by visiting a country full of young people eager to be open to the world and progress, I can tell a different story about Iran on my travel blog from the usually "terrorist" state perpetrated by the international media.

    I've been to North Korea, and that's what I've done: http://www.outofyourcomfortzone.net/how-to-visit-north-korea-on-a-budget/

  • Facts not Propaganda said

    The earlier comment about Israel really demonstrates the need for understanding of objective facts rather than propaganda. Before you boycott, read both sides of the issue. This commenter is clearly one-sided. Israel is an amazing country where Arabs have the right to vote, attend university, serve in parliament (the Knesset), etc. Please don't use a term like apartheid if you don't know what it actually means. It's incredibly insulting to the South Africans who lived through the actual hell of apartheid.

  • Ally said

    As another commenter has said, it's unfortunate that all of the interviewed people in this post are quite biased in that they run or are part of companies that make their money off promoting travel. Of course they are not going to say to boycott a place. While I don't agree that boycotting is a good solution, I came to this article looking for a range of considered and unbiased opinions on the ethical dilemma of traveling to problematic countries, that's not really what this post is.

  • george varner said

    As a citizen of the United States, I support our president in enforcing our laws of immigration. If some hypocrites do not want to visit because of the current "political climate", most Americans don't care. They choose to believe what they see and hear on CNN and other politically slanted newsites to determine what to believe about our country. I travel internationally 3 months a year and enjoy other cultures but enter legally with a visa and passport as I should.

  • Jillanne David said

    For me personally I believe you have to experience things for yourself. How can we trust the media to show a true and honest perspective. I also think there are always ways in which you can directly benefit the local people, even if only by spreading the word.

  • Jim Long said

    Annie and Luca are just basing their views of the USA on biased news reports. The United State is a great country to visit. Most of the people are friendly and the country is beautiful with so many incredible national parks and spectacular cities. BTW. I have never seen soldiers and police walking airports with automatic weapons like I have seen in other countries. Just remember that airport security is a result of 9/11. we're over 3000 people were murdered.

  • Sanjiv Chandalia said

    Good, nice knowledge able article.
    Thanks

  • Randall P Cherry said

    I have traveled to the Philippines three times in the past 2 years (I plan to move there permanently in the next few years). I avoid areas, like in the southern Philippines, that are terrorist strongholds. I also take the advice of my friends in the areas I visit and do my best not to stand out as a tourist/foreigner. I also try to avoid areas where there are a high concentration of foreign tourists. To me, the most important thing is to use common sense when traveling. And make sure that your friends and family always know where you are and how to reach you in case of an emergency.

  • AmyG said

    It's not always about human rights violations; I'm surprised the article didn't mention things like countries that still participate in whaling (whether for food use or entertainment), or violent, inhumane seal hunts.

  • FA said

    The problem with the main article, which also generated problematic posts, is that is conflates "travel" with "tourism." Tourism may involve travel, but travel is not necessarily touristic travel. You can be a tourist to have fun, or you can be a traveler to learn. You may be able to do both, but not in problematic areas of conflict where human rights abuses are serious.

    - I think we have a moral and ethical responsibility not to be "tourists" in a place that is a major violator of human rights. I also think we have a moral and ethical responsibility to go to places of conflict in order to learn the truth of what's going on and not rely on CNN or FOX News for our understanding of the world.

    - In the case of Israel and Palestine, if you just go to visit "the Holy Land" and ignore that just over the wall (the many walls actually) people are suffering just because they're not Jewish, then please don't,. boycott boycott boycott.

    - There are political tours you can take that are educational and show you what is going on: here are two examples; http://www.politicaltours.com/tours/israel-palestine-tour/ and
    also this one: http://alternativetours-jerusalem.com ... and several more. All it took is a quick internet search. Eco-Tours are a huge business now by the way, and ecologically sound and educational.

    When you travel, travel consciously, and ethically.

  • peegee said

    It used to really upset me when I heard people spout such horrible, false, anti-Israel propaganda. Now I just have to laugh at how ridiculous they sound. This article and some of the commenters have offered some very interesting, very real conundrums about traveling to some seriously horrible places where the governments - and sometimes citizens - are participating in some gruesome, terrible things.

    Putting a land dispute in Israel into that same category and using language that not only isn't even close to accurate, but insults people who have actually lived through such things, makes you sound so outrageously silly and a little crazed. Or maybe just anti-Semitic, who knows? At any rate, I hope you look back on comments like this one day and realize how dumb you sounded, and I hope you get well soon.

  • Dan said

    The BDS movement likely has helped initiate this conversation at WorldNomad. I'm sorry, but the person who offered that Israel treats Israeli Arabs as equals is offering the standard fantasy about Israel as the only democracy in the region. It's untrue. Though treatment of Arabs within the current and ever extending bounds of Israeli proper is not comparable to the crushing inhumanity exercised administratively and physically on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are currently experiencing electricity cuts by the Israeli government that at times has them down to two hours a day with it, it is not an offer of equal participation and rights such as those afforded to Israeli Jews.

    Were it possible to fly into an airport in the Gaza Strip, spend money there, have it untaxed by the Israeli government and spent as the Palestinians see fit, rather than taxes collected from Palestinians then withheld as a form of collective punishment whenever Israel deems it just, I might fly to the region. I might use a Palestinian tourist agency to visit Israel and show me the sights, driving from Gaza through the checkpoints that the IDF uses to frustrate, taunt, and humiliate Palestinians. No such airport exists, no ease of movement exists, there is a years-long blockade restricting building materials, fuel, medicines, and anything else the Israeli government might use to crush the development of a functioning infrastructure.

    Read any number of reports on the IDF's brutal treatment of Palestinians, from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International, refer to any number of U.N. votes to condemn the policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza, for whom, as an occupying military force, they are legally responsible to administer - not destroy - and, if you believe any of them to be sufficiently unbiased, which is often difficult for Americans, then you will be in a position to better decide if benefiting the government there with your travel monies will contribute to or obstruct their ability to continue their damnable policies against the Palestinians.

    Thank you for initiating an important question.

  • Amir W said

    Boycott is part of the government's control over people. not people control over governments. when you spend a small amount of money you are not affecting the economy of the country but you can effect opinions and learn more.
    Using Capitalism as a system to fight opinion is a western follow the herd approach. as a nomad or a traveller i believe your responsibility to be affected by your own believes and not what they tell you. so go travel and explore.

  • Barbara said

    By reading these comments are the just the reasons I travel. All people are human beings. All countries have their own customs, relics, habits and traditions that have nothing to do with their governments.
    All countries have beautiful and not so beautiful things to see.
    I go where I want to learn about this....and yes, although I may not accept their governmental practice, I go anyway. It's about their people.

  • David said

    Wow, what a quagmire of bias on all sides.

    First, the article surveyed the most bias possible people: "travel brands," i.e. tour operators/travel agents, people whose livelihood depends on people continuing to travel. Boycott a country, and a whole slew of their agents go out of business. Try asking somebody with a little more geopolitical savvy and a little less economic bias. While the article does a good job of presenting a balanced argument in the beginning, it then surveys only the most biased possible group, which is completely one-sided.

    Second, the comments are ironic. Most of those who are proudly screaming "boycott!" are basically parroting their favorite political slogans, which ironically suggests that they need to open their world view and go to those places so that they can realize the one-sidedness of their political perspective. When I was in Egypt, the locals all said "the Israelis don't know what's really happening, they're just indoctrinated with government propaganda." When I went to Israel, the locals all said "the Egyptians don't know what's really happening, they're just indoctrinated with government propaganda."

    Personally, I see both sides of the argument, and I agree that it's a personal decision. As an American who is not happy with our current government, I'd frankly love to see the entire world show its disapproval with a massive boycott, though that's obviously not going to happen. Perhaps it would be better to encourage foreign tourists to visit the Red heartland of America in order to force their minds open a bit.

    I have traveled to a number of countries that have good reasons to boycott them, and I feel that both I and the people I met have benefitted from it. That being said, I have also seen some unfortunate side effects of that tourism, including unsustainable and poorly organized overdevelopment, substantial cultural contamination and gross environmental damage, and that's only what I clearly see in the open. The deeper political and economic effects aren't as easy to evaluate on the ground.

    What's at the bottom of the balance sheet? I'm honestly not sure, but it's definitely not a simple question.

  • Jeremy said

    @Dan "I'm sorry, but the person who offered that Israel treats Israeli Arabs as equals is offering the standard fantasy about Israel as the only democracy in the region. It's untrue."

    Exactly how is it untrue? All citizens of Israel are equal under the law - indeed there is discrimination, but that is not exactly absent in our own countries (but neither is that an excuse). Your reference to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip shows your ignorance on the issue - they are not Israeli citizens. Neither are most of those who live in the West Bank. Israeli Arabs (as well as other non-Jewish Israelis) are integral parts of Israeli society (High Court judges, members of the Knesset, media personalities, etc.), some of whom have better living standard outcomes than Jewish Israelis! But, good luck being Jewish in many of the surrounding Arab states. There's a reason their respective Jewish communities are near non-existent.

  • Linda said

    I am presently in Myanmar for three months as a volunteer. Please do not mark this country off of your places to visit. It is so important to get to know the culture and people. I highly encourage anyone that travels to include a piece of time in those countries as a volunteer, the Third World countries. It is important for the people to know that you are interested in their situation and want to understand the individual's perspective. Boycotting is not going to help if you are truly interested in understanding and affecting change on a personal level.

  • Ann said

    Why would you seek the opinion of travel brands for this article? Obviously, they have a conflict of interest. Their source of income is tourism, so I can't see how their opinion could possibly be objective. Instead, why didn't you seek the opinion of NGOs and humanitarian aid groups who might have hard evidence about the effects of previous travel boycotts.

    It's hard to justify not boycotting travel to Myanmar. The anti-muslim sentiment there is pervasive accross the population as well as the government, so the people, as well as the government, should be held accountable for the current ethnic cleansing. Ironically, I only know that because I've already been there, but that doesn't undermine the truth of the matter.

    It's also hard to justify not boycotting travel to USA. Whilst tour operators will suffer slightly, they are not a developing country where they might literally starve to death from loss of income, and the loss of tourist income will hurt the 1 percenters the most, so the gains outweigh the cost.

  • john said

    For the scenario where one state is commitment human rights violations against another people then boycotting is the way to go. The same applies to apartheid states a la south africa:

    1) boycotting the aggressor state does not impact the persecuted state.

    2) where a state is victimising a local group - Myanmar, Israel, Indonesia, Australia etc. - boycotting is essential. The locals are already aware of the situation and are either in support of the abuses and / or government control is such that dissent against the persecution is being - physically - attacked by the government.

  • ptommynyc said

    Here's the deal: most of us travel the world to truly experience change. But if you travel because you are simply ticking off a bucket list, or traveling as a kind of badge -- sure, you are not going to give the idea of a boycott a second thought. But for the rest of us—whose deep, intimate and personal travel experiences have changed us into global citizens—we know the importance of our travel dollars. We know that the lack of money coming in through tourism channels is far more powerful than a handful of tourists making Facebook posts on their trip and returning to their home country, sharing pictures of a country that few people know, and not having any impact in the least. If you care, stay home and make a donation to a reputable organization that supports the country in question, to make a real change.

  • Bonnie said

    I agree with the comments which have pointed out the obvious, that there is a clear conflict of interest in interviewing businesses who profit from travel. It's also elitist to say that it's tourists who can make a difference in poor countries. Certainly their dollar is a powerful influence, but most people have no idea how to shop ethically, we need more education on that.

  • Rizwan Bhiriya said

    Boycotting is not a solution to issues , as a photographer id say go and shoot and tell the stories of the actual ground reality positive or negative , as a traveller well 'The world has never been a safe place since it came into existence and human beings are alive today cause they dared to explore
    Rizwan Bhiriya

  • Charlene Suchy said

    I would never visit Japan. The constant disregard for wildlife, especially aquatic, is appalling. There is no way I would ever support a place that thinks it is OK to butcher whales, dolphins, or whatever else they like. I feel the same of the Danish islands that hold death hunts for whales and dolphins every year. I'm not sorry that they won't be getting my money. We need to protect our environment from ignorance. Simply writing the words research vessel on the side of your boat doesn't give you the right to break the law. I chose to spend my money in places that deserve it.

  • Sarah said

    I think the article has raised some serious questions, but also it is our personal opinion and our own moral codes that we have to follow.

    I have been to problematic countries before. China twice, USA twice and Russia once. From my trips to China and Russia, I've been able to speak to my tour guides about the situations in their countries, even when speaking about it could get them in trouble (my Chinese tour guide took us to Tiananmen Square, where he had to quietly and quickly point out where the "tank incident" happened before any officials saw, because we'd asked to know about it). From this, I've learned that China is coming further in same sex acceptance, at least in the bigger cities, we spoke about Tibet and the oppression happening to those people (there was another tour, exactly the same as ours, running at the same time, whose tour guide was a Tibetan woman, so they were able to learn more from her), that the people in major Russian cities dislike Putin, or at least disagree with him fundamentally, and know that their elections are rigged. My Russian tour guide told us that the people in the countryside don't have the same access to news that the people in the city do, so they believe more in what their biased news tells them.

    I would go back to both of these countries again before going back to the USA. I have a personal boycott against them. I refuse to travel there, or to use their currency, even when it could get me a better exchange rate. I cannot abide by a first world country with unobstructed internet/book access deliberately not educating themselves and staying ignorant. I cannot abide by their President and the support he has in their country.

    The US can also support themselves without my tourist dollar. It's not a place where it's going to completely affect them.

    But I do believe in visiting places to hear from the people themselves. I know that the media in Australia plays a huge role in painting certain places as dangerous or criminal over and above what is actually happening.

    I think it's something you'll have to judge on a case-by-case basis rather than having a blanket rule for everywhere.

  • Hope Anderson said

    While I disagree with Japan's position on whale and dolphin hunting, Charlene Suchy is missing out on a great country full of wonderful people by not visiting Japan. It's the country I feel safest and happiest in, which is no small thing for a woman traveling alone. While there's no such thing as a perfect place, I do feel one has to take the bad with the good. In Japan I never worry about getting robbed, assaulted or even having a bad meal, and I'm always amazed at the value I get for my money.

  • Susan said

    I am currently considering boycotting Myanmar. I avoided visiting during time of the military dictatorship but considered going when it seemed that the situation was getting better. Apparently, I waited too long. In recent months the treatment of the Rohingya minority, which has always been questionable, has worsened beyond the point where it can be ignored...or thought of as merely a small civil problem. I am disappointed in the government's response, especially Aung San Suu Kyi, to this situation. Visiting would not give me a better understanding of the country or people, it would be condoning the current behavior of the government.

  • Sherry said

    I do not boycott...period. When I decided that I didn't want to live my life through a 29 inch screen (t.v.) and started travelling. Yes, that does date me. I was 50 and am now 69. Last year I was on an overland trip with Madventure and spent time in Iran and Myanmar...among other countries on this 7 month trip. I did spend a month off the truck and visited North Korea....because i wanted to see for myself what it is like. Of course it is heavily scripted and you are completely controlled but you can still get a sense of what is going on. We were in Iran for 2 weeks and i got to meet many people who spoke English and wanted to visit with me and even got into a conversation with a local judge about the Nuclear agreement. He knew much more about it than I did. I discovered overland travel in my 50's and have been completely around Africa, most of South America and this last trip was London to Oz.....of course it involved some flights. Travelling this way you definitely are up close and personal because you are camping and staying in a few hostels....so you get to talk to locals and know what is going on so much better. In 2008 I was on a truck that went Egypt to Istanbul and we went through Syria where I got to meet so many people who I know worry about and don't even know who is safe and who is gone. That is the downside of travel to so many places you make friends ....briefly but still friends and when their country falls apart you are left wondering. The upside is actually getting to witness what is going on. When I traveled before I started this intense travel I thought I could save everyone if only they would listen...or do yoga or get water projects or? From my overland experience I have had many fellow travelers go back and build schools in Africa, teach at schools in Africa, get suppplies and work in clinics in Africa as nurses....go back and teach yoga in Africa ( I got to do this). I realize that teaching in Africa and other countries is also open to opinions of whether we do more harm than good when we do our 'feel good" volunteering. There is a group in Uganda called soft power that was started by former overland drivers and they work closely with local people to provide services and schools for villages. They are really dedicated to doing the right thing. So, I might not agree with the countries policies but to go and see it for myself is something I believe is the right thing to do. I do believe the ability to see for yourself out weighs the negative. I have enjoyed reading the comments from others because these are certainly individual decisions.

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