Reality Tours and Travel, a well know and large operator in Mumbai, has joined up in partnership with researchers and tourism organisations from around the world, to take the initiave and create a slum tourism operators network. The purpose of the network is to share best practices, discuss the challenges slum tour operators face and to help each other problem solve these challenges. The ultimate goal is to ensure slum tour operators maximize the positive impact on the community and their guests while operating the tours as responsibly as possible. Pooling together the collective knowledge and experience on the matter of slum tourism can help achieve this goal.
In practice, the idea is to invite as many operators as possible into a dialog over their approaches and concepts, initially via an online networking process, but with the longer term aim of getting operators together in workshops, on regional and perhaps global level. For those interested in participating in this network, to share their knowledge and learn about slum tourism around the world, an online form has been created. We would like to ask practioners and researchers, who are willing to contribute or participate in this network, to fill in the form and share their knowledge about operators across different destinations. Although the initiative to set up the network comes from Reality Tours and Travel, we like to emphasises they have done this to learn and share information. Information from the network will be shared among participants.
Ko Koens and Rhodri Thomas recently published an article on the contribution of small businesses in township tourism to economic development. Their discussion highlights the complexity of slum touris as they reveal tensions between different actors involved in township tourism. While the involvement of small, locally owned, businesses is beneficial, it is limited by conflicts of interest, lack of trust, limited social networks and little attachment to the township locality.
Koens, K., & Thomas, R. (2015). Is small beautiful? Understanding the contribution of small businesses in township tourism to economic development. Development Southern Africa, 0(0), 1–13. http://doi.org/10.1080/0376835X.2015.1010715
The special issue is diveded in two parts. One part features papers that revisit the question how tourism can alleviate poverty, while the second part focusses in on poverty as an attraction in tourism. Papers from the conference include the contributions of Sarah Becklake, Julia Burgold and Jan-Erik Steinkrüger. In the introduction to special issue, Malte Steinbrink and Fabian Frenzel show the growing numbers of destinations and tourists in slum tourism. In 2013, an estimated one million tourists went on a slum tour globally.
Most of the papers are in German and the papers are not yet available online. The print issue can be ordered via the journal webpage.
We are deeply saddened by the untimely death of Douglas Ribeiro, a young Brazilian slum tourism researcher. Many people in this research network got to know Douglas at the second slum tourism network conference Destination Slum!2 in May in Potsdam. He presented his research on resident perceptions of favela tourism in his community Paraisopolis, Sao Paulo. Douglas, a researcher not just of the favela, but from the favela, deeply impressed the conference with his presentation and his personality. Remarkably, Douglas had crowd-funded his trip to Germany among friends and relatives. He died after a swimming pool accident in Mobile, Alabama, where he attended the World Leisure Congress.
Several members of the slum tourism network have expressed their sadness over Douglas’ death. We will post these condolences here to show our respect for this young man who inspired many in the network so deeply.
Emily LeBaron wrote
“Today, I am shocked and saddened to hear of the death of young, talented, and sweet Douglas Ribeiro. I met Douglas at Destination Slum! 2 in Berlin in May, and like many others, was inspired by his strength, intellect, tenacity, and absolute love for the world. Douglas came to present his research on perceptions of slum tourism from the residents’ perspective, something he knew a lot about as a resident of a favela in Sao Paolo himself. He crowdfunded his entire trip to Germany (his “first international experience,” as he repeated constantly with joy), as neither his school nor his family had the funds. Since we met, he wrote me energetically about how excited he was to travel to a conference in Alabama this month – his first trip to North America. Tragically, it was his last adventure, and his last chance to share his knowledge with the world. He was found unconscious in the hotel pool, and after fighting a coma for a week, he passed away yesterday, September 13. He was only twenty years old and had so much left to give to the world. I am thankful for the privilege of meeting him, and for his contributions to the field and his community. Douglas will live on through the lasting impressions he left for all those who knew him. My thoughts are with his vast network of friends and family who are feeling this immense loss.”
Sarah Becklake wrote
“Today I am terribly sad to hear of the passing of a wonderful young man, Douglas Ribeiro. I met Douglas at the Potsdam Slum Tourism Conference in May this year. A resident of one of São Paulo’s favelas, he was at the conference to tell the world about what it is like to have tourism in favelas from the perspective of people who live there. He explained that he had only managed to get to the conference because of the people back home who believed in him and had, thus, started an online crowd fund sourcing appeal. I was so impressed and inspired by his bravery and tenacity. One night after dinner we walked home together. He told me how happy he was to be in Germany. He fell in love with the country, he said, and loved the architecture and museums. He also told me about all the plans he had for this life and his wonderful family and how much hard work his mother did. He gave me a Brazilian real so I could always remember him – it is in my office where I see it every day. I only knew Douglas for 3 days, but in those three days he entered my heart. He was truly one of the sweetest most genuine people I have ever come across. Any help towards his family at this difficult time would be most appreciated. Rest in peace Douglas and thank you for inspiring me.”
Moustafa Mekawy wrote:
Dear slum tourism network friends,
I feel deeply sad to hear about Douglas and want to share my sorrow with you and Douglas’s family.
We will miss Douglas’s deep, warm, social and enthusiasm commitment that we met at the second slum tourism network conference Destination Slum! 2 in Potsdam– and especially will remember from the conference tours in Berlin, in which I got the attached pictures of Douglas.
I give my deepest condolences to Douglas’s family.
I would like to express my sympathy after such big loss.
With all my regards.
Tony Seaton wrote
I am very sad to hear of Douglas’s death…
I met him only briefly on a walk during the conference, and we talked about the nerves of giving presentations. I did not realise he was so young and came from a poor background. I took him to be a postgrad from quite a prosperous family because, I remember him immaculate in a suit. He was, as Emily says, a personable and enthusiastic young man who was an admirable addition to your Slum Tourism network. Please add my name to any message of tribute and condolence sent to his parents and family.
Lisa Tegtmeier wrote
I cannot believe what you are telling us – I really would like to
completely be able to refuse to acknowledge this truth so it could not be true.
Linda Bouifrou-Shah wrote
I’m sick of this new,
but I am grateful you told us, despite the pain it drains and the indelible traces of sadness.
My Douglas died. He has been “kidnapped” by water, confused by his purity.
Premature absence to which we will have to learn to endure.
Only few days ago, he asked me when I was coming to visit him in Brazil,
I promised him it would be in my priorities for 2015 …
I am shocked.
Desperately sad and revolted against this misguided destiny …
The Prince of favelas
The one who has touched us so much.
First by its history of crowfunding ,
And by his shyness, which he opposed to his will to success.
He was very tall, by size and soul.
It’s a few of us which disapear, a little of the innocence of this world.
He probably had the potential to be a leadeur of the South in few years,
The voice of the people, of the « people of few» who can change the world.
I’ll never forget you, my child, our hope.
Malte Steinbrink wrote
I also met Douglas at the conference in Potsdam, and I had the honor to chair the session in which he presented his paper on the residents’ perception of Favela Tourism in Paraisopolis.
It was the first time he was outside Brazil, and the first time he presented in front of an academic audience. I can remember well his introductory words of his presentation:
“My name is Douglas Ribeiro, I live in São Paulo, I am a favelado … and I’m happy to be here. [..]”
Ribero, it was wonderful that you were there! Thank you.
Babara Vodopivec wrote
I am very sad and shocked to hear of Douglas’s death. We met at the Postdam conference and I think he left a huge impression on all of us. We had some very interesting conversations and I was really impressed by his passion, enthusiasm and positive outlook of the world. Doulgas, you will be missed. Rest in peace. My condolences to all of his family and friends.
Shareen Elnaschie wrote
I am deeply saddened by the news of Douglas’ untimely passing. We met only briefly during the Destination Slum2! conference in Potsdam but it did not take long to realise he was a truly wonderful and inspiring individual. We spoke about how he had managed to raise funds to attend the conference and share his knowledge and perspectives on slum tourism in the favelas. We spoke of his dreams to continue his research and to experience more of the world. His enthusiasm and excitement were almost tangible, and certainly contagious.
My heart goes out to his family and friends.
Thomas Frisch wrote
I’m terribly sad and still find it hard to believe that Douglas has passed away. He will leave a hole in my heart and for sure in many other people’s, too. I first met him, like the other participants, at the conference in Potsdam, where I had the chance to talk with him about his studies, his first foreign adventure and many other things. When it was time for me to return home, I invited him to stay at my place in Hamburg, if he would pass by there during his stay in Germany. I did not expect him to call me the next day saying he was on the way to visit me. We had a great time and long conversations every day. I was impressed by his immense curiosity, his courage and his mature thoughts on many matters. He seemed like a little brother to me and I was constantly looking at my mobile phone during work, anxious about him getting lost in the city. But he didn’t and so he spent some days with me and my girlfriend. On his last day in Hamburg we had a farewell picnic in a park close by. He enjoyed it a lot and we set up plans to visit him in São Paulo. When he was back in Brazil, he continued to keep me updated about what happened in his life. And there was a lot going on. He was very excited about going to Alabama, just another step on his way to where he chose his life to go to, I thought. And it is still unbelievable and painful that he won’t be able to go any further in this direction with all the potential he had. I will remember him walking down the streets with his green crocs and large suitcase, eager to know everything about every place. I will remember his great sense of humour, his overwhelming commitment to pursue his dreams and just for being a very, very special person.
I’m so grateful to have met you, Douglas. Be well, wherever you are!
Menatullah Hendawy wrote
When we First (and last) met last May I (knew) that we will stay in touch, meet again, and may be cooperate in future projects. But death seems way closer than what we feel, think, or expect.
May your soul rest in peace.
May we meet again, in a better place
May your death teach us about the reality of life
Same as how your life showed us the beauty within hardships, your death shall remark another turning point in our lives.
وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ مَّاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ بِأَيِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
“No soul is aware of what it will earn tomorrow and no soul knows in which land it will die. Surely, Allah is the Knower, the Aware”
Holy Quran – 31:34
In December 2010 slum tourism researchers gathered in Bristol, UK, for the first international “Destination Slum” conference addressing specifically the aesthetic, economic, historical, political and social dimensions of slum tourism. Slum tourism, defined broadly as touristic visits to urban areas of relative poverty, remains a controversial pastime. Despite the controversies this leisure practice is on the rise globally, in developing as well as developed countries. New destinations are added to an already comprehensive list of locations while some older destinations shows signs of maturity and saturation with high levels of diversification, policy interventions, including the integration of slum tourism into urban regeneration and urban tourism strategies. Slum Tourism seems to have entered a new phase.
Just like the development of the phenomenon of slum tourism, academic research has picked up in speed as well, accounting for the phenomenon in a range of case studies from diverse disciplines. The foci of research have also shifted beyond the pertinent questions of ethics, impact and motivation, to address the multiple connections of slum tourism to other forms of tourism, like volunteering, sustainable tourism, community based and pro-poor-tourism or dark tourism and others. Moreover researchers have turned to discuss the possible contributions research on slum tourism can make to questions arising in the study of global phenomena and questions like mobilities, social movements and protest, urban regeneration, security, mega events or poverty alleviation.
Slum tourism research has reached a new phase and the second conference of the network will enable an engaged exchange of the insights gained over the last few years. We aim to better understand the recent rapid expansion and diversification of slum tourism as well as to develop new perspectives on the phenomenon.
We‚d like to invite empirical and theoretical papers that discuss slum tourism and related phenomena in various destinations, comparative research focusing on different case studies as well as conceptual cognate questions such as, but not limited to
theoretical reflections on slum tourism
tourism and poverty alleviation
informal economies ˆ informal tourism
authenticity and valorisation regimes in slum tourism
slum tourism in urban policy
urban regeneration, gentrification and tourism
slum tourism and mega-events
(changing) moral and ethical views on slum tourism
security, slum and tourism
entrepreneurship in slum tourism
social functions/roles of slum tourism
justice tourism and solidarity travel
volunteer tourism and poverty
economies of charity and slum tourism
the migration/tourism nexus and the slum
identity, culture and slum tourism
literary slumming in writing, film and games
histories of slum tourism and slumming
Please submit your abstract of up to 300 words with affiliation and contact details using the submit abstract page on the conference webpage. All abstracts will be peer-reviewed by members of the conference committee and we will notify within four weeks of your submission. Accepted papers are to be considered for publication in a special issue of an academic journal (negotiations are underway).
UPDATED Deadline for abstract submissions: 1st of March 2014
Most attention to slum tourism in Latin America focuses upon visits to the Brazilian favelas. Tourism in other countries is much less common and has received hardly any attention. However, recently an insightful article was published on the internet regarding the notion of tourism to Medellin, Colombia. It discusses tourism in the context of social urbanism and city branding.The online article is a summary of an academic article by the same author in the Journal of Place Management and Development. Certainly worth a read!
Hernandez-Garcia, J., 2013. Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombia. Journal of Place Management and Development 6, 43–51.
Yesterday a new book on slum tourism by one of the leading scholars of the subject, Bianca Freire-Medeiros was published. The book called “Touring Poverty” focuses on tourism in Rocinha, the most famous slum tourism destination in Latin America. It is a striking account and certainly a worthy read. You can find more information in the press release below
Touring Poverty addresses a highly controversial practice: the transformation of impoverished neighborhoods into valued attractions for international tourists. In the megacities of the global South, selected and idealized aspects of poverty are being turned into a tourist commodity for consumption.
The book takes the reader on a journey through Rocinha, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro which is advertised as “the largest favela in Latin America.” Bianca Freire-Medeiros presents interviews with tour operators, guides, tourists and dwellers to explore the vital questions raised by this kind of tourism. How and why do diverse social actors and institutions orchestrate, perform and consume touristic poverty? In the context of globalization and neoliberalism, what are the politics of selling and buying the social experience of cities, cultures and peoples?
With a full and sensitive exploration of the ethical debates surrounding the ‘saleof emotions’ elicited by the fi rst-hand contemplation of poverty, Touring Poverty is an innovative book that provokes the reader to think about the role played by tourism—and our role as tourists—within a context of growing poverty. It will be of interest to students of sociology, anthropology, ethnography and methodology, urban studies, tourism studies, mobility studies, development studies, politics and international relations.
Bianca Freire-Medeiros is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Center for Research and Documentation on Brazilian Contemporary History (CPDOC) at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She was a Research Fellow at the Center for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University.
PREFACE by Licia do Prado Valladares (Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Lille 1 – France and Associate Researcher at IESP in Rio de Janeiro – Brazil)
Reality Tours and Travel, the company operating slum tours in Dharavi, India has won the Responsible Tourism Awards 2012. The company is awarded the prize on the basis of their educational Dharavi Slum Tours that is said to make it possible for tourists to tour a slum in India in a responsible way.
The Awards Judges said: “We were really impressed by this fully integrated approach to realising the social purpose of using tourism to raise awareness of the reality of slum life, good and bad, and to raise money from its business and its customers to assist the community in Dharavi to develop. It has developed a form of Respon
sible Tourism that deserves to be adapted and replicated elsewhere; for this reason, as well as its own substantial achievements, we have selected Reality Tours and Travel as the 2012 Overall Winner of the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards.”
This is the second year running that a slum tourism product (or similar) won the overall Responsible Tourism awards. Last year it was Sock Mob Events/Unseen Tours that won with their tours of London by homeless people. This is an interesting development. Whereas slum tourism has received much criticism on ethical grounds, it now also is increasingly recognised as a potential form of responsible travel. One of the most needed things to achieve this, would appear to be transparency on where income and profits go. The website of Reality Tours has an impressive ‘transparency‘ section on their website that shows how their income is spend. Unfortunately, the last report dates from March 2011, so it is not possible to see the developments of the last 1,5 years in which the company can be expected to have grown much.
A recent article by Fabian Frenzel and Ko Koens titled “Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research” can now be downloaded for free from the publisher’s website. It provides a short overview of current central themes in the literature on the subject and sets out a short research agenda. As such it is both a useful introduction for researchers that are new to the subject, as well as those that want to reacquaint themselves with subject to do new research in the future.
It is not certain how long this articel will remain open access, so it may be useful to download it soon!
This paper introduces the Special Issue on slum tourism with a reflection on the state of the art on this new area of tourism research. After a review of the literature we discuss the breadth of research that was presented at the conference ‘Destination Slum’, the first international conference on slum tourism. Identifying various dimensions, as well as similarities and differences, in slum tourism in different parts of the world, we contest that slum tourism has evolved from being practised at only a limited number of places into a truly global phenomenon which now is performed on five continents. Equally the variety of services and ways in which tourists visit the slums has increased.
The widening scope and diversity of slum tourism is clearly reflected in the variety of papers presented at the conference and in this Special Issue. Whilst academic discussion on the theme is evolving rapidly, slum tourism is still a relatively young area of research. Most papers at the conference and, indeed, most slum tourism research as a whole appears to remain focused on understanding issues of representation, often concentrating on a reflection of slum tourists rather than tourism. Aspects, such as the position of local people, remain underexposed as well as empirical work on the actual practice of slum tourism. To address these issues, we set out a research agenda in the final part of the article with potential avenues for future research to further the knowledge on slum tourism.
Frenzel, F. & Koens, K. (2012) Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research. Tourism Geographies, 14 (2), p.pp.1–18.
While slum tourism generally is not associated with Central America, Eveline Duerr describes in her article Urban Poverty, Spatial Representation and Mobility: Touring a Slum in Mexico how in Mazatlán, Mexico a multidenominational church offers regular tours to the city’s garbage dump. She looks at different modes of (im)mobiilties and the implications this has for people and places and describesteh ambigious effects of integrating marginalised places into the urban representation.