In an earlier post I discussed the how researchers and aid workers in impoverished areas may also be seen as slum tourists. An interesting article by Rowan Davies related to this matter was published on the Guardian website yesterday. It discusses how influential bloggers are used by international development campaign organisations to highlight issues in economically poor areas. An example is given of a blogger that is flown in to these locations and requested to report on them.
The author argues that these blogging trips in a way can be viewed as a form of poverty tourism. Indeed, in a way such “blogger” visits are reminiscent of forms of slum tourism from a different era where authors wrote stories about their visits to the slums (sometimes also with an eye on social reform).
Also the author argues visits like these risk becoming little more than some form of public relations for the aid agency, particularly if no comprehensive aid strategy is linked to them on the ground. If this is the case they become part of a dubious public relations strategy for the donor agency that could result in the exploitation of and even lead to patronising attitudes towards people that are visited. These criticisms are indeed very similar to those levelled at slum tourism suggesting at least some form of similarity.
It would seem that a new addition can be made to the the ever-expanding world of poverty and slum tourism. The following article in English newspaper the Guardian discusses package tours that are organised by NGOs and labels it as “Donor Tourism”.
It provides a discussion of the reasons why (international) NGOs seem to have started to actively use specialist travel agencies to organise group donor trips to poverty stricken areas. In the end they note “development agencies realise that to build lasting connections between donors and their beneficiaries, increasingly the donor needs to get something back”.
This is an interesting observation as it suggests donors are more and more seen as clients that have a right to expect something back rather than supporting relief organisations on a more intrinsic altruistic basis. The article also reflects on the worries of those working in emergency relief who in general appear to be unhappy with “Donor tourism”. A further critical discussion is given by Matt Muspratt on his Blog, where he highlights the dangers of such tours for further emphasising people’s gaze of Africa as that of a charity case. As Chimamanda Adichie so eloquently points out such a single narrative can create incomplete stereotypes of impoverished areas and rob people of dignity.
Given this critique, it will be interesting to see how “Donor Tourism” develops and to what extend it will establish itself as a new form of poverty or slum tourism.