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Soweto

It’s not always about poverty – new types of slum tourism

As I mentioned in my previous post, many slum tours tell a story of poverty and indeed poverty is nearly always associated with slum tourism. Two new forms of tourism may cause people to question what exactly constitutes slum tourism. Firstly there is the latest addition to tourism in Soweto. This is one of the most often visited townships in South Africa. Although the majority of international tourists still go on a township tour, they now can also go there to do bungee jumping and tower swinging. The activities are based around the Orlando Power Station towers and are promoted as one of the most exciting ways to see the township.

These activities are very different from the average township tour and it would certainly be interesting to see what kind of tourists do these tours and how their expectations and experiences compares to the more usual forms of township tourism.

 

It’s not only in Cape Town however that new and different forms of slum tourism are being developed. Accoring to this newspaper article an Australian businessman has plans to build 10 luxury villas in the high parts of Vidigal favela in Rio de Janeiro. According to him the attraction would not so much be poverty, but more the excellent views on the bay and beaches. This favela also attracts tourists for its “funky parties“. This is very different from watching the poor that slum tourism is so often associated with.

While there certainly are many potential ethical problems with these types of slum tourism as well, it does show how slum tourism is evolving and diversifying beyond looking at poverty. However, probably due to their novelty these new types of tourism and their impacts are hardly recognised and not yet investigated much by those working in the field of slum tourism.

 

Rethinking township tourism: Towards responsible tourism development in South African townships

Irma Booyens has just published an article in Development Southern Africa on township tours in Soweto, looking at visitor demand and the perspective of other stakeholders. Details below:

Rethinking township tourism: Towards responsible tourism development in South African townships

Township tourism in South Africa has grown in popularity since 1994 and is considered by some to be an appropriate mechanism for stimulating local economic development. This paper suggests, however, that it is not necessarily a viable or responsible development option, since it does not automatically ensure pro-poor benefits or enhance community development. Primary research conducted in Soweto to understand visitor demand and tourism stakeholder perspectives suggests there is a demand for responsible tourism in townships. The paper contributes to South African debates about the developmental role of tourism, township tourism and local economic development, responsible tourism, and the related policy implications. It calls for responsible township tourism development in which local authorities play a vital role and recommends the development of township tourism attractions, with a focus on culture and heritage, to create unique visitor experiences.

Booyens, I. (2010) Rethinking township tourism: Towards responsible tourism development in South African townships. Development Southern Africa, 27 (2), p.273. <URL>