TUI ‘hangs head in shame’ after backlash against ‘stupid’ and ‘offensive’ advert

By Staff

TUI has apologised after an advertising campaign invited Dutch tourists to follow their “brave ancestors” who enslaved people in the former colony of Suriname, prompting a large amount of outraged backlash

TUI has apologised for an “embarrassing” ad campaign which seems to make a flippant reference to slave owning colonisers.

The holiday company invited Dutch tourists to follow the footsteps of their “brave ancestors” who enslaved people in the former colony of Suriname. The South American country was colonised by the Netherlands in the 17th century and quickly garnered a reputation as a place where particularly brutal and inhumane practices were carried out. The historian C.R. Boxer wrote that “man’s inhumanity to man just about reached its limits in Suriname”.

TUI posted its ad ahead of the holidays taking place this spring and summer in which Dutch tourists were urged to follow in the footsteps of their “brave ancestors”.

The post said: “Step into the shoes of our brave ancestors and follow their tracks in green and adventurous Suriname. You cannot escape Dutch influences in Suriname. Our colonial ancestors founded hundreds of plantations that determined the image of the Commewijne district.”

A group that campaigns against racism in the Netherlands, Kick Out Zwarte Piet, criticised the ad, questioned if the “brave ancestors” referenced were the same “raping, violent, robbing colonisers” who populated the land for so long.

TUI has apologised for the ad, saying in a statement: “We read this message with our heads bowed deep in the dust. No doubt the copywriter did not mean it in a bad way, but we completely understand that it is hurtful and just stupid of us not to have noticed it.”

The travel group says it is “proud of the fact that we can introduce people to the beauty of Suriname, with respect for the country, its people and history”, but that it should not have made reference to “brave ancestors”, NOS reported.

Influencer Chanel Matil Lodik, among others, responded to the ad. “This is like spitting on my ancestors,” Lodik wrote on Instagram. Mitchell Esajas, co-founder of the historical archive Black Archives, also criticised the promotional text, labelling it ‘problematic’ and questioning whether the cost of the deal was a veiled reference.

“It shows a lack of respect and a lack of knowledge about the history of slavery. I find it scandalous, especially because it seems as if the amount refers to the commemoration year,” Mitchell added, Birmingham Mail reported.

Suriname is a small South American nation of just 600,000 people which is known for its vast swaths of tropical rainforest and Dutch colonial architecture such as the Saint-Peter-and-Paul Basilica of Paramaribo – the largest wooden structure in the Western hemisphere.

One particularly popular attraction among tourists is Peperpot Nature Forest, which is a former coffee and cocoa plantation 820 hectares big that houses a unique ecosystem with a large variety of animals and plants.

Some people head to the country solely with the intention of spotting the incredibly bright and vibrant scarlet ibis.

TUI has been contacted for additional comment.

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