The owner of a Rogers Park-based tour company with a mostly gay clientele said Tuesday that he’s canceled an upcoming trip to Ethiopia after death threats from some in the East African country.
“You work really hard to put a trip together — it’s like giving birth to a baby,” said Dan Ware, the owner of Toto Tours, which has been in operation since 1990. “When you see something like this ripped from you — and really leave you no option — it’s really sad.”
The “Treasures of Ethiopia” trip, planned for late October, had been in doubt since May, when an anti-gay Ethiopian blogger posted a comment about Toto and the trip. Dozens of emails to Toto followed, including one that read: “Forget your planning to visit Ethiopia as a group of gays!!! You will never get back in ONE piece!!!”
Earlier this month, Ware reached out to the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, where a diplomat told him he’d never heard of American LGBTQ tourists being attacked. The diplomat told Ware to take the online threats with “a grain of salt.”
But a number of recent killings in Ethiopia and a coup attempt convinced Ware that things were too unstable to risk a trip.
“It’s more like mob rule, the wild wild West,” he said.
Money has been refunded or applied to other vacations for the five people who’d been booked for the trip to Ethiopia, Ware said.
“We would never publicly come now,” Ware said. “I don’t think we can, at least not until some societal change. I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.”
The Lonely Planet online guide warns LGBTQ tourists to be careful in Ethiopia, where “homosexuality is severely condemned.”
Ware said he still plans to travel there at some point, but not under the Toto name.