THE BLOG

Sun, Sea, Sand and Dictators

02/09/2011 05:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Ben Colclough Adventure travel entrepreneur and occasional travel writer

One outcome of the troubles in Egypt and Tunisia has been the fascinating debate on the rights and wrongs of US support for corrupt dictators. But what happens if we apply the same debate to our travel choices? Should we as tourists visit and support the same nations beset by corruption and human rights abuses? In doing so are we prioritizing personal gain over political pain?

Take Egypt for example. When the storm passes, I suspect tourists will have very short memories. As soon as it is off the front pages, we'll flock back attracted by the low prices and guaranteed sunshine. The interesting question is, should we do so even if Mubarak miraculously prevails?

The central tenet of this debate lies on one point; that our visit supports the economy and therefore the status quo. As long as the economy is healthy and people have food on the table, then protests don't happen. So, on this rather simplistic basis it is easy to see a case for not visiting, because in visiting we prevent revolution.

But lets spin it around, are we to deliberately deprive people of our tourist dollar to maintain and sustain poverty and therefore hasten an uprising? It would seem wrong of us to deliberately perpetuate poverty by our tourist absence with the hope of forcing popular change through deprivation. Not just wrong, it would seem perverse.

If we do visit though, it is important it is done in the right way. As with the advice for Burma, we should strive to avoid passing money straight into the hands of the established powers, stay in smaller places, use small local businesses and avoid big companies (which invariably have lined the pockets of the government to get to where they are). That way more money will reach local families, meaning better education, broader horizons and ultimately more chance of change in the long run.

Tourist destinations with the worst human rights records