Tourism is a major source of foreign exchange for Burma, despite the military regime’s brutal human rights record. The junta has been actively promoting tourism since 1995. Since then more than a million people have been displaced by ‘beautification’ schemes near tourist attractions while others have been pushed aside for resorts and golf courses. The use of forced labour, including children, on these developments, has also been documented.
That’s why a new campaign is targeting the celebrated Lonely Planet series of guidebooks. Lonely Planet is now 75-per-cent owned by BBC Worldwide but the company has so far refused to withdraw the Lonely Planet Guide to Myanmar (Burma).
Any Burma guidebook implicitly promotes and encourages travel to the country as well as signalling to tourists that such travel can be done in an ‘ethical’ way. It validates the brutal military regime, as do the tourists using the guide and visiting the country.
Tourism Concern, the New Internationalist, Burma Campaign UK and Britain’s Trades Union Congress are calling on BBC Worldwide to withdraw its Lonely Planet Guide to Burma in order to send an unambiguous message to the military junta, the tourism industry and the general public.
You can add your voice to these calls by telling BBC Worldwide that you will not buy any Lonely Planet guidebooks until the Burma edition is withdrawn. Sign the petition at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Burma-Campaign-Action
And watch out for a special focus on Burma in the May issue of the NI.
Leo Hickman’s The Final Call: in search of the true cost of our holidays (Eden Project Books 2007) is enthusiastically recommended as a follow-up to this magazine. Hickman visits key tourist destinations all over the world and asks all the right questions. He also includes a sensible chapter about flying.
If you want ideas for ethical holidays try Tourism Concern’s The Ethical Travel Guide (Earthscan 2006). If you’re after more on the case against mainstream tourism, look no further than Pamela Nowicka’s No-Nonsense Guide to Tourism (New Internationalist 2007). And if you want to delve deeper into the social and cultural impact of tourism, turn to An Introduction to Tourism & Anthropology, by Peter M Burns (Routledge 1999/2006).
The centrality of the battle against climate change is laid out in George Monbiot’s Heat: How We Can Stop the Planet Burning (Penguin 2007) and Mark Lynas’ Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (HarperPerennial 2008).
Alternative tourism groups
Tourism Concern is the campaigning organization closest to the content of this magazine. It has a long and honourable track record in confronting the travel and tourism industry about its abuses – and in advocating for ethical, alternative approaches. See www.tourismconcern.org.uk
Community Based Tourism Institute Excellent Thai organization that supports local communities hosting tourists. Can connect potential tourists with a suitable responsible tour operator. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Conservation International US environmental organization based in Washington DC promoting ecotourism. www.ecotour.org
Equations A non-profit organization aimed at promoting holistic tourism, based in Bangalore, India. www.equitabletourism.org
Global Connections Australian programme run by the Centre for Social Response offering travel experiences that give an insight into community development in the Majority World. www.socialresponse.org.au
International Ecotourism Society US-based group promoting travel that conserves the environment. www.ecotourism.org
Planeta A ‘global journal of practical ecotourism’; includes an online forum discussing key issues. www.planeta.com
Travel Foundation British-based charity that helps local communities, NGOs, governments and tour operators to develop and market sustainable tourism projects. www.thetravelfoundation.org.uk
Wilderness Society Australian NGO site that works with indigenous groups on sustainable tourism in Cape York, Queensland. www.wilderness.org.au
Airport Watch Umbrella movement uniting British groups opposed to unsustainable airport expansion. www.airportwatch.org.uk
Aviation Environment Foundation British pressure group focusing on environmental impact of flying. www.aef.org.uk
Camp for Climate Action (Australia) Inspired by last year’s UK and US camps (see below), this will take place in Newcastle, NSW, 11-16 July. www.climatecamp.org.au
Camp for Climate Action (Britain) This year’s camp will have a range of targets; campaigners will travel between them in a (non-fossil-fuel) convoy between 23 July and 5 August. www.climatecamp.org.uk
Convergence for Climate Action (US) Three separate locations this year. The Westcoast Convergence will be in Washington State 8-14 August, the Northeast Confluence in late July (location not yet decided), and the Southeast Convergence in Virginia in late July. www.climateconvergence.org
Low Fly Zone Website promoting alternatives to air travel. You can take a pledge to avoid or reduce flying. http://lowflyzone.org
Plane Stupid British campaign network taking action against airport expansion and aviation’s climate impact. www.planestupid.com
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