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BBC News article – Slum tourism: Patronising or social enlightenment?

BBC News has published an article on slum tourism highlighting the ethical debate on slum tourism. While the article holds little new information, it contains a decent summary of the debates. Furthemore it is another example that slum tourism incresasingly gets attention in the mainstream media after a similar article appeared in the UK “Metro” free newspape.


Journal article: Responsible Slum Tourism, Egyptian Experiences

A new article on slum tourism has been published in ‘Annals of Tourism Research‘. It is titled ‘Responsible slum tourism: Egyptian Experience‘ and was written by dr. Moustafa A. Mekawy. This is one of the first publications dealing with the concept of slum tourism in an Egyptian context and therefore should prove an interesting read.


This paper aims to evaluate stakeholders’ views on the potential role that slum tourism and its associated products can play in enhancing living conditions in slums in Egypt. Empirical results were obtained using two quantitative surveys: one to investigate dwellers’ perceptions and a second to select appropriate pro-poor products based on stakeholders’ preferences. Findings show that inhabitants have positive attitudes toward the possibility of benefiting from slum tourism, but they differed in their ranking of the appropriateness of related pro-poor products. Based on findings, authorities should develop appropriate slum tourism products and typologies, as a planning threshold, to enhance living conditions of dwellers. A useful planning way of drawing ties between slum types and typologies is presented.

The article can be found at the website of Annals of Tourism Research

Discount Code for Slum Tourism Book

As mentioned in the previous post a new book slum tourism has recently been published with Routledge Pubilications. We are happy to announce that we can offer a 20% discount* on the  book to followers of

To order the copy with the discount code, simply quote SLUMTOUR12 when placing your order online.

Alternatively, you can print the Slum Tourism flyer (pdf, 1mb in size) and order the book by post.

*Discount code valid till 31/07/2012


New Book on Slum Tourism

Last week a new book on slum tourism was published by Routledge Publications. Edited by Fabian Frenzel, Ko Koens and Malte Steinbrink, it contains both theoretically oriented papers papers as well as more practical case study examples of slum tourism of seven different countries on four continent. In combination with the special issue of Tourism Geographies on slum tourism that was discussed earlier on , the book provides a comprehensive overview of the current empirical, practical and theoretical knowledge on the subject.

Within the book a critical review of issues associated with slum tourism is provided, asking why slums are visited, whether they should be visited, how they are represented, who benefits and in what way? As such the work promises to offers new insights to tourism’s role in poverty alleviation and urban regeneration, power relations in contact zones and tourism’s cultural and political implications.





1. Slum Tourism – A New Trend in Tourism?

Part 1: Situating Slum Tourism

2. Wanting to Live with Common People? The Literary Evolution of Slumming

3. Beyond ‘Othering’ the Political Roots of Slum-Tourism

4. Slum Tourism: For the Poor by the Poor

5. Competition, Cooperation and Collaboration: Business Relations and Power in Township Tourism

Part 2: Representation of Poverty

6. ‘A Forgotten Place to Remember: Reflections on the Attempt to Turn a Favela into a Museum’

7. Tourism of Poverty: The Value of Being Poor in the Non-Governmental Order

8. Negotiating Poverty: The Interplay Between Dharavi’s Production and Consumption as a Tourist Destination

9. Reading the Bangkok Slum

Part 3: Slum Tourism and Empowerment

10. Favela Tourism: Listening to Local Voices

11. Slum Tourism and Inclusive Urban Development: Reflections on China

12. Poverty Tourism as Advocacy: A Case in Bangkok

13. Curatorial Interventions in Township Tours: Two Trajectories Conclusion

14. Keep on Slumming?


Special Issue “Tourism Geographies” on Slum Tourism

The first ever special issue on Slum Tourism in an Academic Journal will soon be out. Volume 14  issue 2 of  “Tourism Geographies” will be titled “Global Perspectives on Slum Tourism” and is completely dedicated to the subject. It contains journal articles on the history of slum tourism, the current state of research in the field, the way it is represented and consumed as well as the ethical debates that continue to surround it. As a whole this is a very welcome addition to the little academic literature that is currently available and we would like to thank “Tourism Geographies” for taking this step to increase the knowledge on the subject.

Although the printed version of the special issue will not be out until May  2012, the articles can already be found and downloaded online. Although all articles will receive a separate post at a later time, below an overview and links to all the articles can be found below.

Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research
Fabian Frenzel & Ko Koens
Pages: 1-18
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2012.633222

‘We did the Slum!’ – Urban Poverty Tourism in Historical Perspective
Malte Steinbrink
Pages: 1-22
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2012.633216

Poor but Happy: Volunteer Tourists’ Encounters with Poverty
Émilie Crossley
Pages: 1-19
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2011.611165

Slum Tourism: Representing and Interpreting ‘Reality’ in Dharavi, Mumbai
Peter Dyson
Pages: 1-21
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2011.609900

Informal Urbanism and the Taste for Slums
Kim Dovey & Ross King
Pages: 1-19
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2011.613944

Mobile Imaginaries, Portable Signs: Global Consumption and Representations of Slum Life
Uli Linke
Pages: 1-26
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2012.633218

Glimpses of Another World: The Favela as a Tourist Attraction
Thomas Frisch
Pages: 1-19
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2011.609999

Encounters over Garbage: Tourists and Lifestyle Migrants in Mexico
Eveline Dürr
Pages: 1-17
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2012.633217

A review of “Tourism and Poverty”
Cristina Jönsson
Pages: 1-3
DOI: 10.1080/14616688.2012.633221

Update: The printed version of the special issue is out now.

Collection of essays (a.o. on slum tourism) wins price and will be released in 2013

Leslie Jameson has won the 2011  Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize for her collection of essays “The Empathy  Exams: Essays on Pain”.  

The press release quotes Robert Polito as he says: “The Empathy Exams explores subjects as diverse as slum tourism, parasites, medical acting, sentimentality, ultra-running, and drug wars through the lens of pain. These essays swirl around the physicality of the body and churn through cultural expectations to find a way to represent pain—and the accompanying impulse of empathy—without distorting them through narrative expression.”

It will be interesting to read how she deals with the subject of slum tourism in her final book. Given that her PhD research deals with poverty and degradation in twentieth century American writing, it could be that this is going to be the focus in her essay on slum tourism as well. Should anyone know more about this, please get in touch!

Sockmob Event/Unseen Tours win Responsible Tourism Awards 2011

Sockmob Events/Unseen Tours have won the Responsible Tourism Awards 2011. Their product is an interesting one that in first instance may not be perceived as slum tourism, but certainly overlaps with it. It involves homeless people showing tourists their vision of the city. As such it appeals to tourists seeking a more ‘real’, ‘authentic’ or ‘exotic’ view of London. Seen in this way it is not too dissimilar from other slum tours. The win of Sockmob Events/UnseenTours shows that slum tours also can be perceived as a form of responsible tourism.

You can find the award ceremony for the Responsible tourism awards at this link: RT awards 2011


Visiting the French Banlieue

The global nature of slum tourism is yet again observed in a French newspaper article and accompanying film about tourists visiting the Banlieue (impoverished suburbs) around the big cities in France. Unfortunately both publications are in French, so may be sometimes somewhat difficult to follow (google translation).  As a short summary, the article discusses how so called ‘Greeters’ assist people in visiting the impoverished suburbs in Paris, Lyon, Nantes and Marseilles or in the Pas-de-Calais. They seem to be from the area and argue they want to promote the area and dispel the prejudices that many tourists and French people may have. Tourists going on the tours say they are seeking the ‘real’ France. Both such arguments to organise to visit the Banlieue are very similar to slum tours elsewhere.

These free walks have existed in Paris for the last 4 years and have met a certain success: 240 ‘Greeters’ have joined the ‘Parisien for a Day’ association, which organised more than 4,500 tours in 2010. It seems the (tourism) department of Seine-Saint-Denis is one of the first official bodies of government that shows interest, although other initiatives are also developing in les Yvelines and Seine-et-Marne. It appears that the tours have originated to a certain extent in the community, although I cannot really grasp from the article how the ‘Parisien for a Day’ organisation works, so if anyone knows more about this, please let us know!

Difficulties in promoting tourism to the Tenderloin area in San Francisco

Although most news on slum tourism still focuses on developing countries, slum  tourism is becoming more and more visible in Western Europe and the USA too, as do the ethical discussions surrounding such tourism. A recent example of this is so called tourism to the area of  “Tenderloin” in San Francisco.  Proponents who want to develop this kind of tourism are backed by the city’s mayor who wants to use tourism to promote “a positive identity for the Tenderloin” by posting plaques on buildings to “create great visual interest for those walking down the community’s street”.

I found two points particularly interesting about this article. Firstly it mentions it may be easier to encourage local San Franciscans to visit the area, rather than foreign tourists, given that there are so many things to do in the city. If it will be mainly local people that visit the area, tourism here will be very different from for example township tourism or favela tourism that are mainly visited by foreign visitors. It would be interesting to see if these areas will be represented in different ways because of this, particularly as domestic slum tourism receives very little popular and academic attention.

Another, slightly related point that intrigued me has been the reception of the idea of tourism. One blogger was fairly moderate in his comments and discussed how the area may simply not be suitable for tourism and media-hungry public figures use it for some free publicity. I do not know the area, but this could very well be the case. Others have been less moderate and show the underlying tensions that are so significant with slum tourism. One blogger decided to criticise the idea of tourism to Tenderloin by making fun of it, stereotyping the neighborhood and the people who live there. It would seem articles like this do more to misrepresent and stigmatise impoverished neighborhoods than tourism could ever do. As an author from the Tenderloin area notes, the article is full of banal and overblown generalizations and simply bad taste. Interestingly (s)he then turns to discuss tourism to the Tenderloin and argues that while seeming decent, tourism may actually to turn out very negative:

“Tours of poverty (rephrased as “grittiness” in some attempt at being politically correct) are scummy. There’s a reason that aspects of them are big in South Africa and Germany as it seems that in places where white supremacists were/are big, they love that shit. It’s like going to a human zoo for them. This of course fits in line with how they view anyone not white. Rather shocking that it’d be tried in San Francisco”.

An example of a vehicle that should not be used to visit a slum.

Here the prejudice and stereotype is reserved for those that are interested and take part in such tours. To be fair to this latter blogger in another post (s)he writes about how tourists visit Tenderloin in the vehicle that can be seen on the picture on the right. Even though the tour apparently also visited other parts of the city, using a vehicle like this to visit an area like Tenderloin is seriously distasteful and makes a  negative perspective on slum tourism more understandable.

The example of tourism to this neighborhood and the strong reactions it provokes  show the inherent difficulty involved with slum tourism. The idea of supporting tourism to an impoverished area and posting plaques on buildings seems a useful way of promoting awareness particularly among local people and potentially bring some additional money to poorer communities. However, it is very easy for slum tourism to be vulgarized and this makes it likely to be dismissed out of hand. On the other hand, hiding impoverished areas does not make them go away and provides visitors with only a partial picture of a place.

Again, it seems that one cannot really discuss slum tourism in terms of good and bad. It can be both, depending on the way areas are represented and the extent to which it is done with a respectful attitude to the community.


Poverty Tourism and the Problem of Consent

In an earlier post I discussed a paper written by Evan Selinger, Kevin Outterson and Kyle Powys Whyte that was published by the Boston University of Law. The authors have published another paper on pvoerty tourism, this time focusing on the ethical question of poverty tourism and the difficulties surrounding consent.

They discuss whether it is morally permissible for financially privileged tourists to visit places for the purpose of experiencing where poor people live, work, and play? They discuss some of the pros and cons of poverty and slum tourism and conclude that tourists should only participate in poverty tours if there is a well-established collaborative and consensual process in place, akin to a “fair trade” process.  The findings are commendable and provide an opportunity for discussing how to establish what is fair and how often divided communities can benefit. Unfortunately they do not enter this discussion nor how tourists should be able to identify such fair trade processes beyond the establishment of fair-trade poverty tours.

The paper can be downloaded from the homepage of the school of law at Boston University

Selinger, E., Outterson, K. & Powys Whyte, K. (2011) Poverty Tourism and the Problem of Consent. Boston, Boston University School of Law.