Those famous philosophers The Clash inadvertently put a modern moral dilemma in a punk nutshell - should we really travel to countries ruled by dubious regimes? Well, in some cases the answer is a categoric and resounding no (who'd want to go to France, anyway?), but for most of these destinations the situation is a little less black and white. Consider the following new destinations you could experience.
Persia's charming people
Firstly there's Iran - a country with a serious image problem, and one that is hugely misleading. Personally we think it's important for people here to know that the average Iranian on the street is about the most hospitable, well-educated and charming person you're likely to meet, and a far cry from the sabre-rattling unpleasantness of their government.
Money into the right pockets
Next up there's Burma and the obviously repressive and corrupt ruling junta. Dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi was once convinced that tourism was only helping to prop up the regime but has since changed her mind. The odd hotel is owned by businessmen with potentially murky connections, but we avoid these, and besides, the money you inevitably pay in markets for the wonderful lacquerware and textiles will go straight into the right pockets.
Helping the man on the street
Zimbabwe may still be run by a particularly loathsome individual, but the simple fact remains that without tourists it is the man on the street and the animals that will suffer the most. The reason that the areas frequented by tourists have not suffered from poaching is because people are still travelling and maintaining a presence. Tourism also provides jobs for the local people who are then in a position to feed and educate their children. On a more nitty-gritty level, about 10% of our spend in country is labelled government fees - but even this is for park fees which are used to pay salaries for maintaining the National Parks.
A country on the comeback trail
Finally, Sri Lanka. In the aftermath of a brutal 16-year civil war there were bound to be accusations on all sides of war crimes, but what this country needs now is visitors, as tourism is a huge part of the economy. There are lovely boutique hotels popping up all over the place, and few countries have such a wonderful combination of cultural attractions and deliciously alluring beaches. As seems to be the case with all these destinations the people you will meet are also completely charming.
So, Clash singer Mick Jones, the answer is 'go now!'
For more information on unusual holiday destinations, contact Original Travel.