Belfast’s secure place in global political tourism

“This list is neither “hot” nor “on-the-verge” or anything like that. It’s a mix of value picks that’ll still wow you, cities that are sprucing up for big events, smart alternatives to overrun spots nearby, and destinations that are justifiably hyped.”

Thus does Frommers’ explain Belfast’s place in a category of top destinations. I’m as fond of the place as anybody, I nit-pick about all the changes and mourn the loss of heritage (although compared to many Sluggerities I’m just an amateur). But would you seriously recommend Belfast as a break destination, assuming you could still spare the money? Look more closely, and you find that the memory of recent political violence or oppression is a common factor with some of the other eleven centres. Do we applaud a shrewd piece of marketing or do we groan at the prospect of being stuck with terror tours indefinitely?

*Istanbul. After the splendors of Ottoman mosques and frescoes in the Byzantine churches, the Jewish Museum showcases the significant role that the city has played over the centuries for European Jews fleeing persecution.

* Berlin. And almost 20 years since the fall of the Wall, Berlin is still riding the waves of Ostalgia (nostalgia for former East Germany). Tour Karl-Marx-Allee in a bone-shaking Trabant, walk the remaining stretch of the Wall

* Cape Town (No mention of a visit to a nearby township, like Alexandra)

* Saqqara, Egypt (No mention of years of attacks on tourists)

* Washington DC

* Cambodia. Though the city’s population was decimated during the brutal genocide and repression of the Khmer Rouge, it slowly rebounds, with a disarming, and sometimes troubling, frankness about confronting the horrors of the recent past. No one leaves the Tour Sleng Genocide Museum — housed in a former Khmer Rouge prison and interrogation center — unaffected.

* Waiheke Island, New Zealand

* Cartagena, Colombia. After years of strife and violence owing to the drug cartel wars, Colombia has begun to emerge as a safe and vibrant travel destination (Crime rates in major cities are now no higher than what you’d find in an average large American city like Philadelphia or Milwaukee).

* Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

* Civil Rights Trail from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, US. What happened forty years ago between Selma and Montgomery — the antecedent for the Voting Rights Act — is why the U.S. will welcome Barack Obama into the White House this year. I

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London