Why tourists should think twice before boycotting travel destinations
Should theme park fans avoid certain destinations? Do you have any social responsibility as a travel consumer? And if you do, are travel boycotts even effective?
These questions bubble into the conversation every time I write about the development of new theme parks in the United Arab Emirates and sometimes when I write about China. But they emerge from time to time over theme parks in Florida and other destinations, too. Within the past week, some people have started talking on Twitter about boycotting travel to Florida over the state's lax approach to gun control.
So what should you do? Are there places you should not consider traveling to visit theme parks, or for any other purpose?
Here's my take: Let's start with what ought to be obvious. You should not plan to visit any destination that you are not legally allowed to visit. For international visitors, there are very few countries completely closed to certain visitors. But there are many countries that you cannot legally enter without a visa or proper documentation. So get a passport, do your research and get the necessary visas before traveling to a specific destination. Never try to sneak your way into a vacation.
Okay, that was obvious. Let's dive into the stickier ethical issues.
In my view, it's your money. If you don't want to spend it somewhere, then don't. Outside of paying taxes and settling debts, you are not under any obligation to hand over your money to anyone you don't wish to support. If you don't want to spend your money in Dubai, or China, or Florida, or going to SeaWorld or Disney, then don't. Go somewhere else, where you do want to spend your money.
But what if you do kinda want to go somewhere, but other people are saying that is socially irresponsible?
Again, it's your money, so it's your choice. But I believe that consumer boycotts are typically ineffective unless they cost a business or a community a measurably significant share of its income — something far more than the seasonal variance in the amount of money it makes in any given period. But to do that, a boycott must be (1) well organized, (2) sharply targeted and (3) widely communicated. Unless you are a free-spending billionaire who alone counts of a significant share of someone's income, your individual business means nothing to anyone's bottom line. You must organize with others to have an effect. And the target of your boycott must know who's costing them money, and why.
This is why I think the "boycott Florida over gun control" argument is silly. It's not sharply targeted enough. Boycotting specific businesses that support the gun industry or supporting campaigns against pro-gun politicians are more sharply targeted efforts. Disney and Universal are not players in the gun debate, so why drag them into this?
I believe that travel does much more social good in this world than having everyone stay at home and never getting to meet or experience people from other regions, countries, or cultures. I think it is better for people in the Middle East, or Russia, or anywhere else in the world to see and meet and interact with a respectful and curious American tourist than to never see an American IRL and have their opinion of my country shaped by people with an anti-American agenda.
Feel free to flip or substitute the names of other counties in that statement, too. We Americans could stand to meet a lot more of the world, as well.
There's a reason why totalitarian regimes close their borders and why cults work to keep their people from straying too far from the flock. You can't control a narrative if people are free to meet others from outside the bubble. In general, I believe that travel is an inherently socially responsible act.
Yes, there are places where tourists are collectively now doing more harm than good. I have written before how I dislike how some massive cruise ships distort communities by belching ten times the local population into them for shore excursions. And some destinations simply can't handle the environmental impact of all their visitors. (I have a fantasy that we pay for the maintenance of our national parks by magically fining $100 anytime someone cuts a switchback on a trail and $1,000 anytime someone guns a motorboat through a shallow channel. And it's jail time if you don't pack out or responsibly dispose of your trash. Yeah, I'm a dreamer.)
But it would be the height of irony to withdraw from the world around us in the name of "social" responsibility. So go. Engage. Interact. Learn. Grow. And let's pop some more of the social bubbles that keep us from working together to make ours a better world. Travel is good for us.
Good article. I'd like to add though, that before you boycott a place on principle because of some perceived social injustice /issue, educate yourself.
Great article and I think it best explains what a real boycott needs to be real and happening.
>>>Here's my take: Let's start with what ought to be obvious. You should not plan to visit any destination that you are not legally allowed to visit.
THIS!!!!: "I believe that travel does much more social good in this world than having everyone stay at home and never getting to meet or experience people from other regions, countries, or cultures. I think it is better for people in the Middle East, or Russia, or anywhere else in the world to see and meet and interact with a respectful and curious American tourist than to never see an American IRL and have their opinion of my country shaped by people with an anti-American agenda."
I don't understand why people allow politics to guide their vacation decisions. Not visiting a place is not going to change that region/culture's political stance, and you only end up depriving yourself from seeing what might be a unique part of our planet.
International travel to the US already took a hit last year. It's in the billions becuse of plane fares, hotels, food, rental cars, etc. The same costs can be added to Florida, so it's not just the theme parks being affected. I guess you can thank the internet for letting people know not only about Pulse, Vegas, Parkland but all the other shootings we get.
Unfortunately, this form of direct action, proliferated by distorted social media on the ill-informed masses has had dire business consequences on SeaWorld which it may never recover from. This is the example as people boycotted it in their hundreds of thousands without knowing, or researching the facts, simply going along and being swept up by what a handful of animal socialists were telling them. The power of social media outweights the power of facts, balanced analysis and reasoning if done right.
Let's turn it around. Are businesses are allowed to boycott your business if they don't like your political stance? Should the NBA be allowed to boycott North Carolina for it's politics? Should United and Delta be allowed to boycott the NRA because of politics? Should Google be allowed to fire employees because of politics? These all happened.
Anton, each of the instances of "boycotting" you mention are actually just instances of businesses severing relations with other entities. Big difference between boycotting something and choosing not to partner with something. An airline choosing not to continue an NRA membership program due to their controversial nature is not a boycott, not even a statement of disagreement with the NRA. Are people who decide not to travel to Chinese theme parks (where The gov actually owns and directly benefits from the parks) boycotting or attempting to change the Chinese gov? No, they're just choosing who to give their own money to.
You're saying a business cannot boycott? That's not how it happens. It's part of the boycott movement that includes businesses. The NRA has many businesses boycotting. It added up. The NRA members are noticing the boycott and are responding by boycotting the businesses.
I don't support or care about a boycott or anything like that, but us Floridians know that anything involving a boycott of tourism will get the attention of Rick Scott and the Florida Legislator real quick. Although historically he has been pro-gun, trust me, if less money is coming into the state Tallahassee will act on gun laws.
Great article, one of the best on this site recently. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to visit a destination is your decision, and yours alone. It is very important to do proper research and understand both sides of any issue before deciding how to respond on it, and by making decisions based on only the most vocal view you're essentially letting the public run your personal life. As long as there isn't a safety issue related to your intended destination, if you want to visit then do it even if many say you shouldn't. If friends will stop being your friends solely because they disagree with how you spend your money, they probably aren't very good friends to start with.
I'm boycotting Tokyo Disney Resort for not being close enough to my house.
I visited Luxor, Egypt just a month after the Luxor massacre. In the whole country there where military men with guns, I didn't feel safe to me. I visited London and Paris months after terrorist attacks, I didn't see much guns, I felt safe. I go to Florida and know everyone could have a gun, I don't feel safe. It's my perspective from my country and what I'm used to, I'm not used to guns.
For what its worth, Indiana took a tourism hit when their Governor Pence signed his "Defense of Religion" act.
Don't worry, I have plenty other good reasons to avoid Dubai.
A lot of friends are boycotting the States due to the current admin. In addition to this meaning I couldn't visit my favourite parks and escape the Canadian winter I do not do this as it punishes thecwrong people plus I would rather people see my personality as a good will unofficial ambassador.
Ultimately I agree it is your decision whether or not you wish to visit any country. There is ignorance everywhere and people tend to believe one point of view without any validation of the facts.
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