Do Travel Boycotts Really Work?
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Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen recently boycotted North Carolina because of its anti-LGBT laws. Esquire magazine is even keeping a running list of the companies and individuals who have taken a stance against the state so far. Celebrities recently returned to the Beverly Hills Hotel after boycotting since 2014 when the owner, the Sultan of Brunei, called for homosexuality and adultery to be punished by stoning.
Do these boycotts really affect the travel industry? When major events, such as concerts, basketball tournaments and expos are canceled, it can create a ripple effect because out-of-state travelers cancel plans. However, a blogger recently posted that boycotting the area itself really doesn’t make a difference in the long run.
READ MORE: What are The Most Gay-Friendly Destinations?
“There have been two instances where I’ve had someone say they didn’t want to go somewhere because of what was happening in the country,” said Elizabeth Loftus, travel agent with LuxuryTrips.com. “One was Kenya, because of the unrest with the mall bombing and one was Cuba because they had recently found a missile.”
In both instances, Loftus said that the clients were more concerned for their safety than they were about making any kind of political statement. “Travel creates change, boycotting — meaning sitting at home — doesn’t accomplish anything for the good,” she said. “I’ve personally seen the impact travel can have in the local communities. Initiatives like Children in the Wilderness really do change lives, so I’d be remiss to say that boycotting an area that benefits from that, like Namibia for example, wouldn’t hurt.
Loftus says that in many cases, boycotting does have an impact, but she doesn’t believe it’s the kind of impact the boycotters are looking for. “It hurts the wrong people,” she said.
“Making a negative dent in a community’s growth isn’t exactly the magic button that’s going to move government toward change. It’s because the government officials aren’t the ones receiving the immediate blow, it’s the people involved — the business owners and organizations who use those tourism dollars to dig wells and house the underprivileged. I think if travelers really want to support a cause, they should be proactive, go to the destination, and volunteer their time doing whatever necessary to support the community rather than sit at home, picking on what the government is doing.”
Eric Grayson, founder of Discover 7, said that he has a large gay client base and many were turned off by what happened with the Dorchester Collection (which owns the Beverly Hills Hotel). “I don’t know if it had any effect on the actual travel plans. However, certain clients now choose to stay elsewhere in the city. Obviously, I follow my clients' lead. At some point, the situation may change and those clients may return to the property. But that decision is entirely up to them."
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