European Travel Companies Asked to Drop East Turkistan Tours, as UHRP Calls for an End to Organized Tourism Amid Crimes Against Humanity


For immediate release
March 21, 2024, 7:00 a.m. EDT
Contact: Omer Kanat, +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin, +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is calling on European travel companies to drop organized tours to East Turkistan, following the release of a UHRP briefing highlighting their risk of complicity in crimes against humanity.

“We alerted 18 European travel companies about the problems of doing business in East Turkistan when Uyghurs are in the middle of a genocide, but several companies are still offering a tourism ‘experience’ for paying customers,” said Omer Kanat, UHRP Executive Director.

“Travel companies claim that their tours serve as ‘a force for good,’ even amid ongoing crimes against humanity. Such broad claims require a thorough examination, particularly considering these assertions come with commercial motives. There are instances where organizing or promoting tours may be entirely inappropriate and this is one of those times,” said Henryk Szadziewski, UHRP Director of Research.

On January 17, 2024, UHRP published research exposing the troubling industry of organized travel to the Uyghur region. The briefing, Genocide Tours: European Travel Companies in East Turkistan, found 18 travel companies advertising tour itineraries that included sites in East Turkistan.

In anticipation of publication, on November 16, 2023, UHRP sent emails to the 18 European travel companies informing them that their company would be named in a forthcoming briefing. UHRP received no responses. After publication of the research, we sent follow up messages to the named companies on February 24, 2024. To date, we have received four responses from French companies Hasamélis and China Roads, Germany-based China Tours, as well as the Dutch travel company Dimsum Reizen

The UHRP briefing showed how sites in Kashgar, Turpan, Ürümchi, and other destinations on tour itineraries are connected to crimes against humanity through repression of religious belief and expression, destruction of cultural heritage, as well as large-scale racial profiling, surveillance, internment, imprisonment, torture, sexual assault, and deaths in custody. Tour advertising often repeats highly problematic state-driven narratives of Uyghurs as folkloric and pre-modern. The repression of Uyghurs is partially premised on a developmentalist Chinese state mission to “reform” Uyghurs.

On March 7, based on previous UHRP research, the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China wrote to travel companies Abercrombie & Kent, Geographic Expeditions, and Wild Frontiers raising concerns about advertised tours to East Turkistan. Following UHRP’s August 2023 briefing, Intrepid Travel and Goway Travel dropped their tours.

In defense of conducting business in the Uyghur region, two of the four European travel companies responding to UHRP’s November letter, stressed the role tourism plays in providing an income for local people. In addition, two of the four companies noted how their tours facilitate knowledge of Uyghur history and culture, as well as help prevent the erasure of distinct identities through this awareness. One company replied to our inquiries stating the importance of offering tours in a responsible way.

To date, UHRP has received no evidence from travel companies of how their tours directly benefit Uyghurs and assist the flourishing of a non-state defined version of Uyghur history or culture. 

When concerns regarding tours to the Uyghur region surfaced, travel companies in France claimed to the media that they had ceased conducting tours or hadn’t done so for several years. Yet, travel companies were shut out from visiting China from 2019 to 2023 due to Covid lockdowns, and the continuing promotion of tours on their websites tarnishes their commercial reputations. One company, Hasamélis, has since informed UHRP it has deleted tours from its website.  

On March 14, China Tours notified UHRP that the company has chosen to temporarily suspend offering trips to the region while conducting a review of supply and value chains.

UHRP urges European, and all international, travel companies to end tours to East Turkistan and the risk of complicity in an ongoing genocide.

The normalization of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region is deeply concerning. When international travelers visit sanitized landscapes, they are inadvertently supporting grave injustices. Travel companies should stop organizing tours through a region where genocide is taking place.

Read more:

Two Tourism Companies Drop East Turkistan Offerings, UHRP Calls for Zero Package Tours in a Genocide Zone, October 3, 2024