Monday, March 10, 2008

Slum Tourism - Can we stoop so low?

An excerpt from an article in the Travel section of the Sunday New York Times --
"Slum tourism, or "poorism," as some call it, is catching on. From the
favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the townships of Johannesburg to the
garbage dumps of Mexico, tourists are forsaking, at least for a while,
beaches and museums for crowded, dirty — and in many ways surprising —
slums. When a British man named Chris Way founded Reality Tours and
Travel in Mumbai two years ago, he could barely muster enough
customers for one tour a day. Now, he's running two or three a day and
recently expanded to rural areas.

Slum tourism isn't for everyone. Critics charge that ogling the
poorest of the poor isn't tourism at all. It's voyeurism. The tours
are exploitative, these critics say, and have no place on an ethical
traveler's itinerary.

"Would you want people stopping outside of your front door every day,
or maybe twice a day, snapping a few pictures of you and making some
observations about your lifestyle?" asked David Fennell, a professor
of tourism and environment at Brock University in Ontario. Slum
tourism, he says, is just another example of tourism's finding a new
niche to exploit. The real purpose, he believes, is to make Westerners
feel better about their station in life. "It affirms in my mind how
lucky I am — or how unlucky they are," he said.

Not so fast, proponents of slum tourism say. Ignoring poverty won't
make it go away. "Tourism is one of the few ways that you or I are
ever going to understand what poverty means," said Harold Goodwin,
director of the International Center for Responsible Tourism in Leeds,
England. "To just kind of turn a blind eye and pretend the poverty
doesn't exist seems to me a very denial of our humanity."

Read the full article at --

No comments: