About a quarter of the world’s urban population lives in slums—and this figure is rising fast. According to UN Stats the proportion of the urban population living in slums worldwide increased from 23 per cent to 24 per cent, translating to over 1 billion slum dwellers.
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Whether it is Philipines, Brazil, or India, the slum tours are organized mostly in developing nations to visit their impoverished areas.
Slum tourism is when people go to visit poor communities in order to experience poverty.
This can be a form of charity, but it can also be seen as exploitation, especially if the visitors do not contribute anything to the community besides money or other goods.
These are basically the areas that tourists would not visit normally.
In reality though, slum tourism has many positive effects on both the tourist and their host community.
What is meant by slum tourism?
In slum tourism, tourists visit poor areas of the world to outlook and learn about the poor condition of the resident population.
Prearranged slum tours are around the world in cities such as Nairobi (Kibera slum)-the biggest slum in Africa, Cairo, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico (Neza-Chalco-Ixta), Johannesburg, Mumbai (Dharavi slum)-the largest slum in the world, and Cape Town.
Slum Tourism also known as poverty tourism is the practice of financially supporting communities by visiting poorer citizens in their communities.
It has been criticized for its potential exploitation of local people and for its insensitive portrayal of their lifestyle.
The term “slum tourism” was coined by Simon Caulking in 1991. He describes it as a form of travel that focuses on the poor, often in developing countries.
- Slum tourism can involve visiting slums or slummier neighborhoods with people living on less than $1 per day.
- It may also involve staying at hostels that provide low-cost accommodation to travelers who want to experience living conditions similar to those they would find at home.
Types of slum tourism
There are several different types of slum tourism.
- Poverty tourism, also known as “slumming” or “slumming in the ghetto” is a type of tourism that focuses on the poor and their lifestyle. It can be either negative or positive, depending on how you look at it. If you’re interested in experiencing poverty firsthand, this type of travel may be right for you!
- The opposite extreme is ghetto tourism or trauma tourism, which focuses more strongly on displaying how lovely life can be within these neighborhoods than actually interacting with residents themselves or understanding why they live there in the first place.
- While both types are often criticized by environmentalists who argue that they encourage people to ignore environmental issues caused by poverty or urban decay—and therefore contribute nothing but discomfort—they still have their own supporters who see them as valuable opportunities for learning about other cultures and viewpoints through firsthand experience rather than through stereotypes transmitted through media headlines or television shows about crime-ridden areas.”
Slum tourism is mainly made in urban areas of developing countries, most often named after the type of areas that are visited.
- Township tourism: Due to racial discrimination poor black townships and white suburbs are divided and so is the name.
- Favela tourism: In Brazil soldiers build working-class neighbourhoods under the favela trees so it is named.
- India: Dharavi in Mumbai as depicted in the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
- Social or religious divisions: New York City, North America, and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- Disaster tourism: After Hurricane Katrina, impoverished areas of Louisiana became slum tourist attractions as a result of disaster tourism.
Can slum tourism be good?
Slum tourism can have many positive effects on the community.
The money that tourists bring in can be used to improve the area, and this money also allows communities to show off their culture and traditions.
It’s a chance for them to share their stories with outsiders, which may help increase awareness about slums in other parts of the world.
Slum tourism is beneficial because it provides access to resources that would otherwise be unavailable or difficult for locals to access – such as water pumps or electricity generators in rural areas; healthcare services such as clinics or hospitals; schools where children learn how they got where they are today (whether this means going through school themselves or knowing who else went before); etcetera…
Benefits of slum tourism
Simply you can say that it has some benefits like:
- It can be a money-making business opportunity for the resident of this area.
- Opens tourists’ eyes to poverty in other parts of the world and possibly inspires them to do something.
- Many tours contribute a percentage of their profits or offer back to the community in some way (e.g., educational centers, maintaining parks, bathrooms, or community centers)
- Increased tourism leads to increased groundwork by the government like roads, telecommunications, bridges, and water supply that will help locals.
Slum tourism has a bad reputation but can have wonderful benefits for the community if done correctly and morally.
Slum tourism, which is not the same as poverty tourism, is a growing phenomenon that has the potential to positively impact the lives of communities in need.
Slum tourism is a growing trend in many parts of the world where there are large numbers of people living below the poverty level.
These areas are often neglected by governments and corporations alike because they do not offer much potential for profit or development.
However, these communities often have fascinating histories and cultural traditions that deserve some attention from outsiders who want to learn more about them while they’re still here!
Slum tours can provide opportunities for people from around the world to gain insight into life inside slums without actually having lived there themselves (which would be impossible).
Some of the foreign tourist may generate income for the local community of the slum area.
Tourists will see firsthand how hard it can be just trying to survive day-to-day life outside one’s home country and maybe even gain some perspective on their own privileged existence!
It can be done in a respectful way and with good intentions.
Reaction of locals
The locals have mixed reactions. Research reveals that two third of people have a positive effect while others react negatively.
When locals are treated as equals and business opportunity increases along with other infrastructures then it gives a positive reaction from locals.
On the other hand, breaching privacy by clicking photos to post on the internet makes slum residents feel degraded, or just arriving in an area due to curiosity about slum life results in a negative reaction from locals.
Why is slum tourism unethical?
Because people living there think that their rights and life have been breached by tourists. They consider them intruders. Tourists click photos while they are washing clothes and utensils, and doing other chores.
They are like unwanted guests who want to know their daily routine and earnings and family.
Arguments against the practice of slum tourism
These can be summarized as:
- It is a practice that earns money by viewing the poverty of others which makes them (residents living in poor areas) feel vulnerable.
- Most tourists only visit due to curiosity, not with the commitment of helping or giving back to the community.
- Money hardly seeps down. Instead, tour operators fill their pockets.
- Even if the local lead the tours as tour guide he is underpaid.
How to find a good slum tour?
If you have the intention to serve the poor then you should definitely go on slum tours and finding a good tour company or tour operator for a slum tour is not a big task. Just keep the following things in mind.
- Good companies do not allow photography as they respect the privacy of residents, their routine, work, and traditions.
- Always find out what the company does with the fees. Are they donating some part to the upliftment of residents of these areas?
- Do they have a sustainable policy? Responsible tourism has.
- Who leads the tour? Good companies train people from these areas so they could earn and also lead the tour.
Slum tourism is a controversial topic. It has its advantages and it has a bad reputation too.
But it is getting rising support in recent years as tours are planned with a notion of charity and will put and highlight those areas for upliftment.
Remember, ignoring poverty will not let it go away but helping does!
Slum tourism is a great way to help people in impoverished communities. It can also be very lucrative for the tourists who travel there and support them financially.
Slum tourism has its challenges, but it can have positive effects on both the community and tourists who visit them.