An open letter to Lonely Planet

This is copy of a letter I emailed this morning to Lonely Planet, the travel guide company…

Dear Tony and Maureen

As a long time consumer of your publications, I discovered to my horror today that you tacitly support the military junta in Burma. By producing such a publication you are effectively endorsing the actions of a government with one of the world’s worst records on human rights.

Turning a blind eye to murder, rape and torture is one thing, but almost as offensive is the following statement on your website:

“Lonely Planet is passionate about bringing people together, about understanding our world, and about people sharing experiences that enrich everyone’s lives … Travel can be a powerful force for tolerance and understanding. As part of a worldwide community of travellers, we want to enable everyone to travel with awareness, respect and care.”

I think the very least you can do is remove this statement until you actually mean it!

The Introduction to the ‘Myanmar’ Guide is also a nauseating cop-out — pity the people of Burma don’t have the luxury of making such choices! If you are seriously concerned about the plight of these people, you would simply not publish the book and issue a statement on your website saying why. Many forward-thinking, and commercially-successful companies are now publishing reports detailing the actions they have taken aimed at greater corporate social responsibility (CSR). These companies are doing this because they realise that people ‘vote with their wallets’. I think you would be well advised to wake up to this. Indeed, I predict that you will actually increase your company’s overall sales by withdrawing the book, and making a public statement in support of Aung San Suu Kyi and the pro-democracy movement.

In the meantime, until you withdraw this publication, when I teach about CSR and competitive advantage in MBA courses I will use Lonely Planet as an example, and rather like your Introduction in the Myanmar Guide, I will let the students draw their own conclusions!

Also note that I will be publishing a copy of this letter on my web site.

Yours sincerely

Dr Jeremy Williams (former Lonely Planet Guide consumer)