Lonely Planet Says Uganda is World’s Top Tourist Destination

Lonely Planet, one of the biggest and oldest guidebooks for travellers, has surprised many by picking Uganda as its top world destination for 2012. Burma is its second choice.

Lonely Planet’s story notes Burma’s repression but says:

“We want people to come to Burma. the words of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition party that has urged foreigners to stay away since 1996.

For Uganda it does say that “human rights abuses aren’t uncommon” and “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.” It fails to mention that for lesbian and gay tourists, the country may be unsafe.

When a gay BBC Radio DJ did a report from the country earlier this year, he ended up being threatened after he disclosed his sexuality to the chief promoter of the Anti-Homosexuality (‘Kill gays’) bill. Ugandan lesbian activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, recent winner of one of the world’s top human rights prizes, says she has to constantly move because of threats.

Speaking toswissinfo.ch about receiving the award, she said:

Harassment occurs almost on a daily basis, verbal attacks in public or more sinister repression. The simple suspicion of being a homosexual has serious consequences: being evicted from your home or losing your job is quite common; many homosexuals commit suicide.

After the publisher’s website was flooded with criticism of their choice of Uganda, an Editor explained in the comments:

We chose Uganda for the experiences that it can offer to travelers, separate from its current political situation. To be very clear: we are aware of, and condemn, Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. We hope that travellers do not judge the country in general, and most of its people, by the sentiments of its government. Many destinations across the world have political and human rights issues and travel often can raise awareness of these issues.

Unlike Burma, the publishers don’t seem to have asked if the locals suffering human rights abuses want tourists or not. It’s also unclear whether or not they would support the call by some for the publisher to rescind their choice of Uganda as a top tourist destination and apologise.

Related stories:

Major Human Rights Award Goes to Ugandan Lesbian

Activist David Kato LGBT History Month Day 18

Kill the Gays Bill Back in Uganda’s Parliament

Photo credit thaths


Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Obviously they have after those tourist dollars and euros. I would never go there with their track record.

Reagan Dayberry
Reagan D6 years ago


Allan Yorkowitz
.6 years ago

The Lonely Planet? I think you just lost your credibility as a guide book. Or, at least I hope so.

Robin O.
Robin Opperman6 years ago

Living in Africa, I find it very first world chic when hell holes like Burma and Uganda are recommended for little Tarquin and 'The Gap Year Gang' to have their holsies. Wake up people. You walk over the bones of people, who's rights have been violated, and lives taken from them, so you can have a third world adventure. Shame on you, and your lack of respect.

Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang6 years ago

Uganda--Burma? You couldn't pay me to go to those countries.

TERRY R6 years ago


Carolyn B.
Carolyn R6 years ago

We are talking about gay human beings here - if gay humans are not safe from attack, no humans are safe. Do they recommend people try to "pass" for straight, or wear "straight signifiers, like some USA backpackers wear a maple leaf to try to pass for Canadian? These are cultures in turmoil, still recovering from having foreign powers strip them of natural resources, and modern big business STILL profits from instability in Africa. I fail to see how tourism can help the situation for the residents of Uganda, this makes me doubt the good sense of Lonely Planet - I think some people think it's "cool" to go someplace "exotic" and they don't rally think the choices they make through in terms of whether their fun & games add something positive or negative to the situation. To some a cheap holiday in other people's misery sounds like fun.

Bob P.

thanks for the info

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

jerry coleman
jerry coleman6 years ago

thanks for the heads up