The development of small tourism businesses has been seen by policy-makers as a valuable means of alleviating poverty in South African townships. This perspective has also been endorsed by several “responsible” tourism businesses and academics.
After close investigation of township tourism practices and micro-entrepreneurship in South Africa, Ko Koens and Rhodri Thomas, however, argue that this may not necessarily be the case. In their article “You know that’s a rip-off”: policies and practices surrounding micro-enterprises and poverty alleviation in South African township tourism, they identified several barriers that prevent township residents from successfully developing their businesses and sharing in the material gains available through tourism, even when visitor numbers are significant.
These findings suggests a need to critically reconsider current policies in favour of greater regulation and alternative forms of investment as well as a need to reassess the value of advocating responsible tourism to consumers who are often unable to gain full understanding of the context they visit or the implications of their choices.
For a short time you can download the article on the website of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism for free.
Koens, K. & Thomas, R. (2016) ‘You know that’s a rip-off’: policies and practices surrounding micro-enterprises and poverty alleviation in South African township tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
An article by Shelley Ruth Butler on township tours in South Africa has been published the the Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change. See the details below:
Should I stay or should I go? Negotiating township tours in post-apartheid South Africa
This article focuses on township tours outside Cape Town and Johannesburg during the past decade. By examining the subjectivities of guides and tourists, as well as public discourses about townships, I argue that township tours are ethically problematic and ambiguous, but do not go uncontested. Questions about voyeurism and development are negotiated during the tours in a number of ways. First, the morality of witnessing townships – not through the modality of vision, but through participating in contact zones – is asserted. Second, public discourses that valourize the creativity of the poor, and which harness history as a force for reconciliation and development, inform the tours. Third, tour guides attempt to reform charity and to highlight ethical consumption. An ethnographic and discursive analysis leads me to conclude that township tours are part of a larger post-apartheid project of re-imagining and remaking marginalized urban spaces.
Butler, S.R., 2010. Should I stay or should I go? Negotiating township tours in post-apartheid South Africa. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 8(1), pp.15-29. <URL>
This reference can now also be found in the bibliography section of this website.