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.
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.
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>