Travel Agents Should Stand Up for 'S-Holes'

This month, we’ve seen how ignorance can taint people’s perceptions of a destination By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West

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Those of you who have read this column regularly over the years know that I see travel as a way to combat ignorance and promote a greater understanding and appreciation of people and places around the world. And I think many travel agents agree with my views on the power of travel.

Recently, when President Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa a derogatory term that I prefer not to use here, he provided a clear example of the misconceptions that travel — and travel agents — need to combat.

Not only is it unacceptable for the president to describe any country by such a term, but it also perpetuates negative stereotypes that are harmful to travel and counterproductive to world relations in general. In fact, one of the most upsetting aspects of this incident is the willingness of some to agree with the president’s characterization — even though, undoubtedly, many of these people have not visited these places.

As the Caribbean Community, an organization of Caribbean countries, said in a statement: “The Caribbean Community is deeply disturbed by reports about the use of derogatory and repulsive language by the president of the United States in respect to our member state, Haiti, and other developing countries. Of additional concern, is this pattern of denigrating Haiti and its citizens in what seems to be a concerted attempt to perpetuate a negative narrative of the country.”

Meanwhile, according to CNN.com, the African Union emphasized its “shock, dismay and outrage” over the president’s remarks and said it strongly believes the Trump administration has a “huge misunderstanding of the African continent.”

Our industry has many passionate defenders of Africa, El Salvador and Haiti, and those who have been fortunate enough to have visited these places can attest that they offer visitors the opportunity to have the trip of a lifetime. Agents need to remind clients of this fact, despite the “negative narrative” and “huge misunderstanding” perpetuated by the president.

Perhaps, one day, President Trump will be welcomed back to these countries, so he can see their beauty for himself.

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