Last Thursday, a group of tourists reportedly landed at Philadelphia International Airport with elections on the brain.
More than just the regular visit to Philly to tour the birthplace of U.S. democracy, it appears the crowd of Brits and Aussies were sold a guided trek through the Mid-Atlantic from a company called Political Tours.
It promised a trip that would “[take] the political temperature and look at the huge battles ongoing within both parties.”
The American election system is sometimes referred to as a “political circus,” but considering what has recently happened in the UK and Australia last year, these tourists could have been looking for an escape from their own set of governmental woes.
What were the politigawkers supposed to be doing while in town?
One Democratic committee person in Philly heard the group were disrupting key get-out-the-vote work during the crucial pre-Election Day weekend, they wrote in Jezebel, by peppering organizers with questions.
As of Tuesday, city officials “haven’t heard a word about this company,” spokesperson Kevin Feeley told Billy Penn — or any others that promise to showcase the U.S. election system through Philadelphia’s political scene.
There have been no complaints of tourists interfering with actual polling locations, Feely added, despite reports of irritated canvassers.
Political Tours is a travel company started by Nicholas Wood, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, according to its website, which adds that Wood and wife Karen Davey have led these political tours in 30+ countries.
Nations and geographic areas whose inner workings the company has offered customers a chance to explore include the Baltics amidst the war between Ukraine and Russia; South Africa to see the aftermath of apartheid; and conflicts among various countries in the Middle East, per the site.
The current offering, labeled the “U.S. Midterms Tour,” runs from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, wrapping up the morning after the election. (Is this really considered comparable to learning about an ongoing war or humanitarian crisis? Sigh.) The trip is advertised as starting with a few days in Philadelphia and Northeastern Pennsylvania, before decamping south to Washington DC to watch Election Day magic happen in the nation’s capital.
All that for the low price of £3950 ($4,555 USD) — not including airfare.
Historical tourism is certainly a large part of Philadelphia’s draw. From Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell, hordes of elementary school students and history-obsessed dads alike make their way around the city’s important landmarks to learn more about its role in national history.
But Political Tours advertises to UK and Australian audiences, who aren’t coming to learn about their heritage. Instead, they were promised a week of political rallies with candidate appearances and an election night spent with an unnamed national TV studio.
It’s hard to say what the tourists will have learned as they head back across the pond. We might not even know who won some of the key races — but at least we can make fun of the American political system on our own.