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ethics

Slum tour operator “Reality Tours and Travel” winner of Responsible Tourism Awards 2012

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.

 

Slum Tourism: Developments in a Young Field of Interdisciplinary Tourism Research – Free download

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!

Abstract

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.

Two new articles on slum tourism in India

The popularity of slum tourism in academic journals continues to increase.Here are two new ones:

An article titled Touristic mobilities in India’s slum spaces by Anya Diekmann and Kevin Hannamwas recently published in Annals of Tourism Research.They examine walking tour experiences of tourists doing slum tours in India to examine representational and non-representational theories of social lifes

The ethics of slum tourism in India are revisited by Deepak Chhabra and Akshat Chowdhury in their article titled Slum Tourism: Ethical or Voyeuristic? They note how slum tourism constitutes complex production process strives to provide both meaningful and profitable tourist gazes, although heavy traces of voyeurism can be found.

BBC World Service broadcast on slum tourism in Dharavi

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).

 

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 slumtourism.net , 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.

 

 

 

CONTENTS:

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?

 

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.

The ugly side of slum tourism

A weblog by Michael Smith mentions the possible start of  of poverty tourism to the Romani settlements near Veµká Lomnicea village in Slovakia. What is significant about this form of slum tourism is not just the location, but also the fact that it is the mayor of the town that is planning to organise the tours. Apparently the local population that is to be visited has little or no control over this project.

This would make it an example of slum tourism of the most unethical form. Not only does it seem unlikely  money will reach those that are visited, tourism even seems to be used for political purposes. While this may be a biased version of the story, it does reflect a potentially highly disrespectful form of slum tourism that should not be endorsed.

More generally, since this kind of slum tourism perpetuates the negative connotation that many people have with slum tourism, one wonders what people can do to highlight to tourists that tours are unwanted before they book them. Furthermore, it begs the question of how to ensure visits to impoverished areas and communities happen in a respectful way. Next week will see a paper discussing this latter issue on slumtourism.net.

Real Misery – Newspaper article in Stuttgarter Zeitung

Last month the German newspaper the “Stuttgarter Zeitung” published an article on slum tourism. In an interview with human geographer Malte Steinbrink, the history of slum tourism is explained as well as a short debate on the motifs and ethics of tourism to such areas. In the end Steinbrink mentions  that whilst tourism benefits certain individuals, by itself it is certainly not enough to fight poverty.

You can read the original article in German here.