Newsweek published its first issue under the new editor-in-chief, Tina Brown, this week, featuring a travel piece headlined “Five places to See Before the Revolution.” How sweet, travel tips in light of democratization movements!
I believe that the acient stone city of Petra or Morocco’s bazaars are amazing sights to see and experience. How lucky that Newsweek advises readers to go there now before people in those countries demand political freedom, because that would really inconvenience your sightseeing.
Remember, the pyramids in Egypt were closed for days — while Egyptians were desperately trying to oust their decade-long dictator, true — but you can’t let that keep you from getting a picture of yourself flashing a peace sign in front of the Sphinx! Planning is key here, folks. Better get there now before it’s too late. Or not?
“Popular uprisings are basically treated as nuisances in the piece, not only because they reveal the oppressive structures behind the tourist-poster versions of favoured nations, but because they cause trip-cancellations,” write Sean Jacobs and Neelika Jayawardane.
Countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where tourism revenue is an important part of the economy, are already trying to encourage tourists to return to see “the place it all happened.” This is actually a great way to acknowledge the dramatic changes while promoting tourism, unlike Newsweek’s approach.
However, a cruise organizer told the AFP that “It’s too early to get tourists back” for security reasons. Obviously, the situation differs from country to country, so advising research into local developments would be more helpful than a blanket “get there now!” attitude.
Also, it would be nice to see a magazine encourage its readers to travel with their eyes open, not closed. Newsweek apparently decided it’d be more fun to use a headline straight out of the Onion, as Mediabistro remarked, so I guess interest in local conditions didn’t fit the piece. (The writers, on the other hand, might have benefitted from more in-depth knowledge: Jacobs and Jayawardane point out that “there’s no real threat of a ‘revolution’ in Ecuador,” despite the presence of its Galapagos islands on the list.)
Maybe I’ll just stick with Yale assistant professor Chris Blattman’s advice: “The revolution will not be touristed.”
P.S.: Newsweek isn’t the only magazine to completely miss the mark regarding the uprisings across North Africa. Vogue, for example, published a gushing piece about the Syrian first lady, who apparently has “energetic grace,” wears designer clothes (tastefully, we’re informed) and lets her family decide issues by popular vote. Her people, not so much.