Someone in Bournemouth will take offence

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The Independent Travel
While British airports teem with millions travelling to exotic parts of the world, Mr Dennis Isaacs of King's Lynn, Norfolk, will be holidaying in Bournemouth this summer.

This new hero of the British travel industry is the gentleman who - having won pounds 10,000 in a Barclay's Bank competition, to be spent on a holiday of his choice - has elected to head for Dorset to do some fishing. On the grounds, presumably, that it does not cost pounds 10,000 to go fishing in Dorset, he is planning to follow this up with a coach tour of Scotland.

His comment was that he preferred "not to get into the hassle of travelling abroad". Although Mr Isaacs has in fact previously been as far as France one can only guess that he ran into the linguistic and cultural barriers which afflict some visitors to that country. Did France put him off foreign travel for life?

Personally I would find it unfortunate to go to my grave not having reached the Spanish or Italian borders. But - out of all the unlikely advantages of condemning oneself to a lifetime of local tourism - at least there would be less chance of running into political controversy.

I say this because I'm having trouble keeping holidays out of politics at the moment. Last weekend for example we published an article extolling the delights - from the tourist's point of view - of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, that part of Cyprus which was taken over by Turkey in 1974 as a means of protecting Turk communities living in the area.

The Greek Cypriot community in the UK have subsequently accused me of condoning ethnic cleansing by encouraging people to take holidays in northern Cyprus. How, they ask, can anyone enjoy a cheap beer by the almost deserted swimming pools of glorious Kyrenia, in the knowledge that there was a war here less than 25 years ago, during which the local Greek population was put to flight?

So one person's holiday is another person's private disaster. Perhaps that very holiday villa where you are hanging your swimming costume out to dry used to belong to an innocent family who were subsequently forced to abandon it without compensation.

Perhaps it was. But then perhaps your hotel in southern Cyprus was built on the ruins of a house that used to belong to a Turk. And if the whole of Cyprus is to be avoided by tourists on the grounds of its dubious history, where does that leave us? How about "occupied" Northern Ireland? Or Corsica? Or the Basque Country? Or Israel, formerly inhabited by Arabs? Or swathes of eastern Europe, formerly occupied by Jews? Come to think of it, what about the whole of modern Turkey, which in the ancient world was essentially Greek?

And these are just the places said to be occupied by foreign powers. Never mind all the other reasons why we are not supposed to visit this or that part of the world: Burma because its tourist infrastructure was built by slave labour; Tibet because its monks are being persecuted; Nigeria because they hang eco-warriors there. These are not trivial ills, but if we boycotted all the countries with dodgy regimes perhaps we shouldn't go anywhere at all.

Even Mr Isaacs of Kings Lynn might be running into trouble when he gets to Scotland. Did the first English tourists win a warm welcome in the Highlands when they arrived three hundred years ago? Shouldn't Englanders stick to Dorset?

Except that this is missing the point, which is that people cause trouble in the world not by where they go, but by how they behave when they go there. It is hard to condone tourists who go to oppressed or occupied countries only to ignore the local populace, while lapping up the regime's propaganda.

People on the other hand who make an honest effort to learn about the world as they travel through it should not be condemned. Mr Isaacs may not be the world's most adventurous traveller but no Scot should bear a grudge against him as long as he swots up in advance on what really happened to Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Letters, main section, p20