Janet Thorne recently wrote a professional report on her experiences of cultural tourism in the Gambia. Her findings suggest that these tours bear similarities to slum tours and, similarly to slum tours are promoted with the promise of an insight into “the real Gambia” by certain tour operators and informal tour guides.
Thorne further shows how tourists on package holidays in this mass tourism destination certainly have an interest in such tours. What particularly surprised her on this matter was how similar the interests expressed by tourists in The Gambia were to those in the slum/poverty tourism literature. Among other things, tourists are hoping and expecting to see “everyday life” and have a more “authentic” tourist experience than is offered in general. Tourists are both intrigued as well as shocked by the poverty they see thus partially fulfilling this desire for authenticity.
While written as a more practical report rather than a purely academic work of tourism, the report contains much useful information on these cultural tours. The finding that there is demand from for these kinds of tours among package tourists in the Gambia alone is interesting. The destination is mainly known for its Sun, Sea and Sand package tours where tourists come specifically to relax. Thorne goes further however and also discusses different forms of interaction between locals and tourists as well as difficulties of market access and local participation.
All in all this professional report brings up the important question of when cultural tourist activites can be categorised as poverty or slum tourism? This may be easy in the case of favela or township tourism as the practices are limited to certain geographical areas. However as Thorne shows, similar practices take place elsewhere as well under a label of cultural tourism.
Thorne, J. (2011) Selling culture to package tourists: An exploration of demand for intangible heritage excursions in the Gambia. MSc. Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University