In the Financial Times today, I read something that got me really excited. It was a full page article about Political Tours, a company run by a former Balkans correspondent for the New York Times who runs tours to former and current conflict zones such as North Korea, Bosnia and Libya. What also got my attention was the fact that the Bosnian tour described in the article was led by Kate Adie. For those of you unfamiliar with her career, she was the BBC’s premier correspondent in conflict zones such as Rwanda and Saravejo. British soldiers used to say that they knew they were in big trouble when she arrived on the scene. In short, she is about as serious and knowledgeable as it gets.
In the FT article War Stories, the author Catherine Nixey makes the point that No Crowds has been making for years. She writes, “Travel may broaden the mind, but so homogenized is the international tourist experience, so perfectly do the high-end hotels and galleries replicate one another, that often all I learn is that I can be as bored in a museum in Istanbul as I can in London.” She goes on to ask the question: Political Tours is offering a different kind of travel experience, but is war tourism the right way to go?
And then she answers the question by describing the group’s visit to the war crimes section of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina where one of the judges insists that this kind of travel is valuable and makes a difference. “If it’s not on the front page of the newspaper, people don’t see it”, he says. “People should know.”
When I took a course on Peacekeeping Operations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 2009, I was amazed by how much I didn’t know about Bosnia and Sierra Leone and the Congo and Kosovo and East Timor and Afghanistan. How so much could go on for so long with my only having a vague awareness, So I’m excited to know that there is a serious travel company doing these kinds of tours to parts of the world we should know more about. Conflict tourism may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but what Political Tours is offering sure impressed me.
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