Lonely Planet Names Uganda Best Travel Destination for 2012

Jim Burroway

November 1st, 2011

The writeup hardly speaks well of Uganda’s tourist attractions, but that doesn’t keep it from landing at the top of Lonely Planet’s top ten destinations for 2012:

1. Uganda

It’s taken nasty dictatorships and a brutal civil war to keep Uganda off the tourist radar, but stability is returning and it won’t be long before visitors come flocking back. After all, this is the source of the river Nile – that mythical place explorers sought since Roman times. It’s also where savannah meets the vast lakes of East Africa, and where snow-capped mountains bear down on sprawling jungles. Not so long ago, the tyrannical dictator and ‘Last King of Scotland’ Idi Amin helped hunt Uganda’s big game to the brink of extinction, but today the wildlife is returning with a vengeance. This year Uganda also celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence; Kampala, one of Africa’s safest capital cities, is bound to see off the event with a bang. Still, Uganda still isn’t without its problems. Human rights abuses aren’t uncommon, and the country breathes a collective sigh whenever President Museveni thinks of another ruse to stay in power for a few more years. But now, as ever, explorers in search of the source of the Nile won’t leave disappointed.

Lonely Planet does append, almost as an afterthought, a snippet of a travel advisory from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office noting that Uganda has “very little social tolerance of homosexuality,” as evidence by “reactionary legislation that would further criminalise homosexuality and introduce the death penalty for some activity.”

Oh yeah, that. But hey, what do I know? I’m fifty, and my idea of roughing it is staying at a Best Western. Maybe reactionary legislation to kill off an entire class of people is the kind of “topicality, excitement, value and that special X-factor” that Lonely Planet writers look for. I remember that Cambodia in 1975 was also pretty exciting and topical — and there were no pesky lines of tour buses clogging the roads to Angkor Wat. You know how hipsters really hate that.

Lonely Planet readers, however, aren’t buying that line of thinking if the comments to the article are any indication. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the socially conscientious Lonely Planet we remember from our past. In 2007, the BBC bought a 75% stake in Lonely Planet and purchased the final 25% earlier this year, making Lonely Planet just one more property of BBC Wordlwide. And you may remember the Beeb getting into a terrible row in 2009 after posting an online question asking, “Should Homosexuals Face Execution?” An editor responded that he had thought long and hard about posing the question. Well, at least he thought about it. Unfortunately, genocidal blind spots seem to be their stock and trade.

Ron

November 1st, 2011

Their number 2 choice is Myanmar. I think I see a pattern.

mikeksf

November 1st, 2011

Thanks for the posts. It makes buying my next travel guide easier with one less company to choose from.

Thom Watson

November 1st, 2011

Jim, the advisory /was/ an afterthought. It didn’t appear in the original post and was only added in the last day, apparently as LP’s response to the largely negative reaction engendered by their original post. I was one of the commenters pointing out their lack of responsibility in choosing Uganda in the first place and, having done so, for not warning LGBT people that they risk imprisonment, violence and death if they go there.

Their choice to add the UK travel advisory, then, makes me even angrier, as it shows they are digging their heels in on their choice and have no understanding of just how vile this is. As other commenters have noted, they would never gloss over another country’s ongoing pogrom against any other group in favor of the beautiful countryside and wildlife, so LP’s editors now have made it painstakingly clear how little they really value their LGBT readers’ safety and lives. I had been a long-time purchaser of their books and travel guides, but from here on I will value them as little as they value me and spend my travel dollars with their competitors.

Gary

November 1st, 2011

The BBC and Lonely Planet need a flood of mail asking if they have lost their collective minds – Uganda not only is one of the most homophobic countries on earth; it has a nasty war with the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army going on; it has a de facto President for life; rampant corruption and an in your face holier-than-thou fundamentalist Christianity that many find nauseating!

AlexH

November 1st, 2011

Ha! Uganda better get all its tourist dollars from those crazy missionaries who go there and talk to them about gay sex!

Oh, I forgot, they’re the ones who pay a months salary to watch gay porn, according to Current TV’s “Vanguard,” while they sit there retching and crying.

Who would want to go there anyway?

TampaZeke

November 2nd, 2011

Did Lonely Planet make South Africa their number one destination in the early 80’s?

Allen

November 2nd, 2011

At least they admit that “Human rights abuses aren’t uncommon”.

And I have to admit that for both the gorgeous scenery and some of the fascinating history I’d consider going to Uganda. For the same reason I’d consider going to Myanmar. Heck, I’d consider going to Jamaica for the beautiful beaches and warm climate.

I’d consider going to those places, but I’m not going to. Even if I could be assured of my own safety (at least as much as any traveler can) I feel that these are places that, through their policies, have put up a big “KEEP OUT” sign. I don’t like their policies, and I won’t even say I respect their right to set policies that violate the human rights of some of their own citizens. There may not be much I can do to prevent such abuses but at least they won’t be getting any of my tourist dollars, and I’d prefer that they not get any of my tax dollars in aid either.

Andrew

November 2nd, 2011

Myanmar (Burma) showed up as #2, and that’s also one of the most repressive regimes around.

This is appalling — essentially, they are steering foreign money into countries with shaky dictatorships and horrible records of human rights abuses — infusing them with the very foreign capital they need in order to remain in power.

And yep, one has to wonder why it is that so many of them are former British colonies… BBC.. hmm…

Richie

November 21st, 2012

You guys just go to Uganda and see it all for yourselves.
Am not Ugandan or African but i have been there 3 times.

Even the words here speak less about its goodness.
Uganda deserves to be in that position for this year.

The political reforms are what have made it to rise these heights.

I coincide with LP on this….

Timothy Kincaid

November 21st, 2012

Richie,

We do not appreciate dishonesty. Your email was posted using a Ugandan IP address.

And I won’t be going to Uganda to “see it for myself”. You are proposing a law to execute me should I visit your country.

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