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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
Evan Selinger, Kevin Outterson and Kyle Powys Whyte published a paper last month titled “poverty tourism, justice and policy” in which they discuss whether poverty tourism should be subject to specific policy constraints based on moral grounds.
They look at this matter through favela tours in Rocinha, Brazil and garbage dump tours in Mazatlan, Mexico. In their conclusion they argue that slum or poverty tours are a result of complex social relationships that require individual attention and policy research.
The paper can be downloaded from the homepage of the school of law at Boston University and is set to be published in a future edition of “Public Integrity”
Selinger, E., Outterson, K. & Powys Whyte, K. (2011) Poverty Tourism, Justice and Policy. Boston, Boston University School of Law.
In a former post regarding a television programme that involved famous people “living like locals” in the Nairobi slum Kibera for a week I wondered whether this could be a future face of tourism. It turns out a similar experience has already been offered, albeit on a smaller scale.
It is discussed (briefly) in a recent article on domestic slum tourism in North America written by Amanda Grzyb. She gives an example of a “48 hour street retreat” that was offered by a Yoga centre in Toronto. The retreat involved “going into the street without any money and live on the streets for several days… relying on the generosity of the streets to take care of us.” Grzyb recognises this retreat as a form of tourism and discusses it in the context of historical accounts of domestic poverty tourism in North America as well as manifestations of domestic slum tourism in the the current age. In the article she relates domestic slum tourism to societal class boundaries and concludes that “Domestic poverty tourism may or may not involve varying degrees of social conscience, advocacy, and calls for reform, but it is, first and foremost, a commodification of experience that reinforces class boundaries”
The article is part of an academic roundtable discussion on the concept of “Homeless Chic” in the journal “Expositions”. It can be downloaded from the “Expositions” website, or you can follow this direct link to the pdf of the article.
Grzyb, A. (2011) “Homeless Chic” as Domestic Poverty Tourism: Street Retreats, Urban Plunges, and North American Class Boundaries. Expositions, 5 (1), p.pp.55-61.
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.
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.
The report can be downloaded here and those wishing to contact Janet can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thorne, J. (2011) Selling culture to package tourists: An exploration of demand for intangible heritage excursions in the Gambia. MSc. Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University
http://www.montrealcampus.ca/la-misere-des-riches: Recently an article on Slum tourism appeared in French on the website of Montrealcampus, mainly regarding the ethical aspects of the subject.
Left at the Crossroads: Ogling the poor: Slum tourism was also the subject of a column by Marc Saint-Upéry, discussing the ethics of slum tourism and linking favela tourism to tourism in Victorian times.
Towship tourism: A mixed blessing: Not so much an article on township tourism, but a photographical slideshow that depicts the concept of township toursin South Africa fairly well.