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Travelers' Aid

Socially Responsible Travel
July 1, 2000

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Every so often you read news stories about political groups calling for travel boycotts in certain areas. Usually they're places like Myanmar and Cuba, but just last spring, we had one here in the U.S. The NAACP asked tourists not to visit South Carolina because the Confederate flag still flew at the state capitol. We received some emails wanting to know more about the boycott and the larger issue of socially responsible travel. What is it and should you travel to places that aren't "politically correct"?

Well, for this week's Travelers' Aid segment, I got in touch with photojournalist Richard I'Anson. He's a photographer based in the Lonely Planet guidebook's Australia office. Richard's work often takes him to places demanding a certain social and political sensitivity. There are two countries within arm's reach of Australia, Myanmar and Tibet, that are very controversial for travelers. Many groups strongly object to the military dictatorship in Myanmar, as well as to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. They say traveling to those places supports the people in power. Richard, however, says he disagrees with the concept of boycotting a specific destination.

There are also socially responsible tour companies out there. These groups create trips aimed at understanding situations and problems around the world and, they hope, bridge the gulf between traveler and the local community. One of the biggest is Global Exchange, based in San Francisco. Malia Everette plans many of their trips, which they've dubbed "reality tours."

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