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.
An interesting radio broadcast on slum tourism was recently aired by the BBCWorld Service. Its “Business Daily” programme reports on slum tours in Dharavi, India and we hear a short analysis from Dr. Malte Steinbrink on the subject about whether the phenomenon represents aid or exploitation for slum-dwellers.
The programme can be download from the BBC World Service website, or you can download the report as an mp3 file directly from here (the part on slum tourism starts at 7.12).