By Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Members: North American travel Journalists Association
American Society of Journalists and Authors.
There was a time when internal politics had no bearing on where cruise ships and the leisure industry would go in order to make a buck. Boy has that changed lately.
Travel columns and articles should normally be upbeat and talk about the wonderful destinations and activities available for vacationers. But there comes a time when other factors must be taken into consideration. The U.S. State Department routinely issues travel advisories when American citizens might face danger in a particular destination. Such places as North Korea and Syria come to mind.
With that thought it is incumbent on travel journalists not to gloss over potential trouble spots for readers. We have come to that juncture in the road with the Sultan of Brunai.
Recently Norwegian Cruise Lines pulled out of Tunisia because the anti-Semitic goon who run that nation refused permission for Israeli nationals to debark and enter the country. NCL said “Hell NO!” and dropped Tunisia from its itinerary.
That attitude is spreading throughout the leisure industry. And it is for the better.
Cruise Company UK (www.cruise.co.uk ), the biggest cruise agency in the United Kingdom, has launched a boycott of the Dorchester Collection hotel chain.
The chain, as well as others in the United States, is owned by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the leader of Brunai. That country has just changed its penal code aimed at gays, lesbians and women seeking abortions.
The penal code had called for 15 years imprisonment for gays and lesbians. Apparently that wasn’t enough for the religious Sultan and he moved in the direction of Islam’s Sharia Law, known as Islami Qanun, the legal framework to guide Muslims in their daily life, actions in public and dictating some aspects of private life.
Under the change in the law gays and lesbians will now be stoned to death and women seeking or having abortions will be subject to a public flogging. Talk about an enlightened nation.
Seamus Conlon, managing director of the Cruise Company said: “Nothing brngs people together more than travel. This is one of the core philosophies of our business and something like this is anathema to that principal. As soon as we heard this news there was only one course of action we could take.”
Conlon said that any potential clients seeking to book in any of the chain’s hotels would be politely told the company would be unable to fulfill their request and offered suitable alternative.
Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic, stepped into the controversy and announced that his airline and other properties would launch a boycott of the Brunei chain and said: “…(we) are proud to work in an industry that places morals of an issue like this over profit.”
Other Brits, including reality personality Sharon Osbourne and actor and comedian Richard Fry joined in the action. Fry, a friend of Prince Charles, came out several years ago.
In the United States reaction was just as swift from some quarters. Ellen DeGeneres, who came out as a lesbian years ago and while she and Fry have an oar in this water, their stances goes beyond their personal lives.
Hollywood, long a supporter of human rights, has moved swiftly as well. The famed Beverly Hills Hotel, a favorite haunt of show business glitterati, is the target of a boycott as well. It too is owned by the homophobic Sultan. DeGeneres and Branson have coupled with Jay Leno is asking for a boycott of the hotel.
The City of Beverly Hills council voted unanimously to pressure the government to divest the hotel. The council meeting played to a packed audience expressed opposition to Brunai’s action but expressed concern for the jobs and income of employees at the hostelry.