The Trouble with Tourism in Southeast Asia

Travel website founder Stuart McDonald talks about the opportunities and challenges in the tourism industry in the region.

The Trouble with Tourism in Southeast Asia
Credit: Luke Hunt

In 2004, journalists Stuart McDonald and Samantha Brown established Travelfish, an independent online guide for travelers in Southeast Asia that has earned a reputation for not pulling its punches in an industry too often dominated by slick advertising and hype.

From its inception, Travelfish has operated on a “no freebies” policy, snubbing free rides in return for positive reviews, and always paying its own way. Its focus on travel ranges from digital nomads and backpackers to family-friendly tourist spots and up-market destinations for the rich.

McDonald, originally from Australia, spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt in Denpasar about politics, economics and tourism with a social conscience, in a region fraught with dictators, juntas and insurgencies, and traders desperate for foreign dollars. He also gave away his top three exotic destinations on roads rarely travelled in Southeast Asia.

 Luke Hunt can be followed on twitter @lukeanthonyhunt