A Dozen Disputed Tourist Destinations

Spain, c 1975The tourist paradise and the police state may very well go hand and hand. A flourishing tourist sector adds to the economy and the international prestige of a country, political prisoners, concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, murder, and disappearances, notwithstanding. The tourist usually remains unaware of the signs of violence and repression. In many cases this ignorance is a matter of choice. The adversaries of the police state are well aware of the impact of tourism and try to mobilize public opinion on this very point. They advocate international sanctions and boycotts, morally appeal to the individual traveler or organize bomb attacks to frighten tourists.
A dozen of these controversial tourist destinations are presented here. The viewpoint is always that of the opposition.

An international Jewish boycott movement against Nazi Germany was set off only two months after Hitler's ascent to power. In travelers' guides and flyers, it urged the tourist to keep away from Germany.
Amnesty International started operating in Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Morocco during the seventies. The Amnesty reports about the appalling human rights situation in these countries supported various tourist boycott actions.
The tourist boycott of Guatemala (1979-1986) is an example of the impact of international trade unionism in the hotel and catering industry. The actions against tourism in South Africa under apartheid were part of a broad economic and cultural boycott movement. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) recently accused of bombing tourist spots in Turkey, during the '90s initiated nonviolent holiday boycotts.
In Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) large segments of the local population suffer from western tourism that patronizes the sex industry, and (in Burma) it was forced to make way for tourists.
The Maldives, the paradise of the Indian Ocean, was a one-party state until 2008. The NGO Friends of the Maldives pleaded for a tourist boycott.

Text: Margreet Schrevel