An interesting finding of the Destination Slum! conference for me was just how many different shapes and forms slum tourism has across the world. The term slum tourism may act as an overencompassing term, but it does hold certain negative connotations and can lead to generalisations that do not fit in certain contexts. Not only may the term be unable to fully accommodate the great differences between “slum areas” around the world, it also suggests “slums” are homogenous entities. Of course this is not the case. While nearly all areas that are visited under the name of slum tourism include people living in shacks, other parts of these areas often are indistinguishable from other (richer) suburbs that would never be represented as slums.
In different countries other terms have become more common to better describe the localised forms of slum tourism. The most famous terms are of course favela tourism in Brazil and township tourism in South Africa. At the Destination Slum! conference however we were also told that a more appropriate term for slums in Egypt would be “Ashwa’iyyatt”, which may lead to the term Ashwa’iyyatt tourism. We were also informed that in China “slum areas” are not necessarily completely urbanised and slum tourism instead may be named “tourism to villages in the city“.
While these terms are undoubtedly better descriptives of the local forms of tourism, I do believe there is a place for the name slum tourism to describe the worldwide phenomenon. Although by no means perfect, it does appear to be able to bring together and combine these differerent outings of tourism around the world in one way or the other. Others may disagree and believe the term is actually hindering our understanding of the concept of slum tourism.
Feel free to comment with your opinion or to share your thoughts on other related questions such as: What other terms are used to describe slum tourism around the world and why are they more accurate than the general name slum tourism or how would we actually define slum tourism?