Along with the 10 countries selected for their commitment to social justice and sustainable environmental practices, Ethical Traveler suggests three additional “Destinations of Interest”. According to them, though these countries are not yet considered ethical destinations, open-minded travelers can learn much by visiting them. They believe it s sometimes essential to step behind the media curtain and inform oneself about controversial places through direct contact with local people. Nothing compares to witnessing firsthand the dynamic processes of social and political change.
The first is Burma. After 1988, when a military junta took power in a brutal coup, Burma (controversially renamed Myanmar) was a place ethical travelers tended to avoid. Human rights violations were rampant, and the long house imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s democratically elected leader and a Nobel laureate, made the act of supporting the regime with our travel dollars unconscionable. During the past 18 months, however, Burma’s new leadership has demonstrated a stunning and apparently genuine desire to move forward. Many political prisoners have been released, and economic reforms are being introduced. In December 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma and met freely with Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been released from house arrest. Recently, Aung San Suu Kyi traveled around the world as a spokesperson for Burma s future progress, and met with President Obama in Washington, D.C. In November, President Obama reciprocated by visiting Aung San Suu Kyi at her home on Rangoon. Decades of U.S. economic sanctions on Burma have at last been suspended, and diplomatic relations restored.
The second Destination of Interest is Cuba. More than 50 years after the Revolution, the extraordinary Socialist experiment launched by Fidel Castro and Ernesto Ché Guevara is facing major forces of change many of these instigated by President Raul Castro. In 2011 and 2012 Jeff Greenwald, Ethical Traveler’s Executive Director, visited the country with person-to-person delegations. The experiences were transformative. As Cuba evolves internally and in relation to its neighbors, we encourage ethical travelers to deepen their understanding of what has enabled this much-maligned country to endure and to witness personally the struggles, successes and aspirations of the Cuban people.
Another Destination of Interest is Namibia, often cited as one of the most environmentally progressive African nations. Ethical Traveler is watching Namibia’s progress with great interest. Unfortunately, ongoing issues involving violence against women and children, as well as the brutal annual cull of some 85,000 cape fur seals, prevents us from welcoming Namibia onto their 2013 list. Again, the foundation of ethical travel is mindful travel.