We’ve recently had Facebook comments over trips we’ve operated in Nagorno-Karabakh and most recently to Northern Cyprus. They came from those that had a pro-Azeri view in the former and a pro-Greek view in the later. We quite simply replied that there are always two sides to every story and that we practise political neutrality at Young Pioneer Tours.
These were of course not the first such accusations, or criticism that we have received, with getting opinionated responses about many of the places we visit, but not all…
The places we tend to get most severe responses are usually those that have the most fame, or the most nationalistic of defenders.
Is it ethical to go to the destinations that YPT sell?
We do though tend to summarise this as such, there are two sides to most stories and many places with which we travel to have their own story to tell, such as Syria and Turkmenistan to name but two.
Customers, or rather prospective customers, then have the choice to make about if they feel it is morally just, or not – freedom people do still enjoy, even in the era of cancel culture.
At no point does YPT taking someone to a country mean that we are “pro” that country, or its political system, nor most times does it mean that the traveller is pro about said country. By and large it means that they want to go themselves, see things first hand and come up with their own opinions.
Why do you travel to the countries that you do?
As an organisation we believe as previously mentioned that people should be offered the chance to see a destination for themselves, should they wish to.
We also try to make a firm stance that people and governments are different beasts. By bringing in guests, we get to offer people-to-people exchanges that break down barriers and create a better understanding between cultures.
And this is not just our opinion, but one which has been voiced from former citizens from the Eastern Bloc, and even North Korean defectors – foreign visitors are a good thing.
What does political neutrality at Young Pioneer Tours mean?
It means that officially we are politically neutral about everything. Were we to say ‘X leader is good and Y leader is bad’, or ‘X country is good, but Y country is bad’, not only could we not get an agreement within our office, but we would be hypocrites to the highest degree.
What we do is stay politically neutral at Young Pioneer Tours so that we can easily enter such countries, but also present the tour in a balanced way that is not washed down with our own propaganda.
Yes, of course we as individuals have our own opinions, but they are just that, personal opinions. They are though probably very different from what many people might think, with the range of views going from right-wing libertarianism, to environmentalism and of course at least one who is fairly left-wing.
Views on contemporary issues are also very split and it is also for this reason that we say politically ambivalent.
The hypocrisy of the criticism
Most of the criticism we get tends not to be about where the company travels to, but rather when we go somewhere that said person does not agree with. For years we were slated for going to Tibet, for example, despite the Dalai Lama himself being pro-tourism.
Nowadays this pops up even from people that previously had been firm fans of the company, or at the very least following us on social media. Much like how some people get offended by certain types of comedy, it is subjective.
An example of this might be by mentioning something like the World Press Freedom Index. This list ranks the nations of the world based on press freedom. In this respects it might be viewed as a “democracy” league table.
On the list, Bahrain is considered not only one of the least democratic countries in the world, but is for example below both Russia and Afghanistan on the list, yet you would see few people protesting were we to run a tour to see the Grand Prix there.
Also a country such as Turkey is below both Belarus, Venezuela and Laos on the list, but again you would see very few people up in arms about visiting this tourist Mecca.
Be aware, we are not personally saying anything bad about either Bahrain, or Turkey, but merely pointing out what is often self-serving hypocrisy.
So, to sum up if you do not like a tour that we run, exercise your democratic right of not visiting, rather than of trying to shout your opinion louder than anyone else.
We personally are open to travel to most places, if we feel it will promote people-to-people exchanges. And believe us, it is not about money, for if it were we would be taking people to many tourist traps that exist across this great green earth.
And yes, we do pretty much go everywhere, as you can see from our international tours.