Under the headline “Take a different trek”, The Adelaide Advertiser advises that “If your passport is full of the usual travel suspects it may be time for some new stamps”. They prescribe Mongolia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Peru and Burma as countries offering such new tourist experiences.
As I have highlighted in the past, the self-censorship of tourism writing on Burma must give the generals reason to smile. This most recent example shows, as if we needed any reminding, that de-historicised and de-politicised commercial descriptions can give a misleading perspective on local conditions. It’s an obvious point but it sometimes needs repeating.
The Adelaide Advertiser implores us to:
Explore the timeless beauty of Burma, one of the last remaining places where you can catch a glimpse of old Asia. Marvel as elders in traditional longyis walk beside golden pagodas and dilapidated colonial buildings. Hidden from the outside world for many years, Burma is home to special travel experiences – from mystical Bagan to the floating villages of Inle Lake.
I wouldn’t bother highlighting this example of the genre except that the author of this little feature, the Advertiser‘s Travel Editor Jessica Hurt, has just pasted the copy of an Australian tour provider, Bunnik Tours, added a bit of “journalistic” finesse and put it under her own byline.
Underneath this description of “different treks” to Burma, Hurt goes on to make the commercial connection explicit:
Bunnik Tours has an 18-day tour from $3599 plus air taxes. It includes pre-departure information on Burma, return flights, three domestic flights within Burma, hotel accommodation for 13 nights, a two-night Irrawaddy Princess cruise, 15 breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners.
For details, phone Bunnik Tours on 1300 664 170 (free call) or visit www.bunniktours.com.au
I guess this is standard practice in the world of newspaper travel sections and advertorials. Is anybody at all surprised that only a few weeks ago “Jessica Hurt visited Egypt as a guest of Bunnik Tours”?
I am, however, mildly surprised that Bunnik Tours doesn’t demonstrate any understanding of Burma’s economy. According to the overview on their website, “the local currency Kyat (pronounced “Chat”) is equal to the US Dollar (1 = 1)”.
Anyway, this is all just a digression before I get to the real point of this commentary.
The point is I do hope that Jessica Hurt takes one of these Bunnik Tours to Burma. To my mind, more journalists and better informed visitors are the only antidote to the disinformation that prevails around the world. Wasn’t it only this week that we learned, once again, just how strictly some people hope to control information about Burma! Under these conditions journalists who do make it to Burma (on a tour or by themselves) need to really think about what they are seeing and being told. If Jessica Hurt takes a Bunnik Tour to Burma I hope that she keeps an eye out for the many people who aren’t meekly accepting their smiling role in “Happyland“. And I hope she then writes about it.
Although if anybody (following the advice of Bunnik Tours) did ever change 500 US Dollars for 500 Kyat the Burmese vendor would have every reason to grin from ear to ear!