Poverty tourism. Pros and Cons.
Tourism is a great idea to broaden the outlook by visiting diverse places of different cultural, traditional, and perceptive and life style character. Covering the miles of roads or air space, you are expanding the scale of your own system of values, morale and esthetic codes, along with enriching the spirituality and saturating personal keenness. Lately, there has emerged a form of tourism that is becoming popular with people across the nations. This form of tourism comprises people taking tours to the sites of poverty and squalor around the world, and some even stay for days at a specific site. Poverty tourism or poorism is the term to designate a style of tourism and is a growing interest in today's society. This type of touristic experience, exemplifying one of the forms of dark tourism, has only recently acquired its name and represents small tours into the places marked by gawp-provoking appearance. Despite the evident fact that there are increasing numbers of the interested in such a form of travel, the issue of poorism arises pros and cons – there are those who consider this travel activity mere exploitation of wretched and deprived clusters of people. Many believe it not to be a brand new idea to improve the living conditions of the poor, but just exploiting them intruding into their lives and making snapshots of the way they live. However, the question of the extent to which such tourism may be considered good or bad, needs a more detailed analysis. So, it’s appropriate to take a magnifying glass of one’s common sense and get an insight into the poverty tourism, rather than just claiming ‘bad’ or accusing it of exploitation.
So, poorism tours can be found all around the world, even in developed countries, for example, the tour to Rotterdam (the Netherlands, immigrant zone) or poor parts of Houston or New York. Still, the widely known and mostly selected by travelers are Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, slummy settlements in India, Mumbai in particular, Dharavi, Soweto, South Africa. The reason of such a seemingly odd choice in favor of impoverished destinations instead of traditional tourist sightseeing lies probably with the desire to experience something different than the usual sunny skies and blue water. This touristic practice has been functioning for about more than two decades in a sense quite unnoticeably and without certain lot of promotion. The Reality Tours & Travel, for instance, didn’t popularized the idea via spreading touting of advertising campaigns. Instead, they only established their own site (realitytoursandtravel.com) and ‘a sign on a lamppost near Leopold's Café—"See Dharavi (the biggest slum in Asia)"’ (John Lancaster for Smithsonian Magazine). Since 2006 the company (in the lead of a young and aspiring Englishman and a local Indian) provides walking Dharavi tours – the poor area of Mumbai, where Dharavi slums are estimated to be inhabited by about a million people living in the territory ‘432 acres barely half the size of New York City's Central Park. There is no discernible garbage pickup, and only one toilet for every 1,440 people’ (John Lancaster, 2007). The British fellow Chris Way was so inspired and affected by the trips to Mumbai (2002) and Rio, that he resolutely delved into the establishment if such touristic tours called to struggle change the stereotypes regarding slumbers and bring in money to the charitable funds of the communities: "We're trying to dispel the myth that people there sit around doing nothing, that they're criminals...We show it for what it is—a place where people are working hard, struggling to make a living and doing it in an honest way" (John Lancaster, March, 2007).
What is popularly believed, favela tours are thought to be the most widespanning type of poorism. The initial company Favela Tours seems to operate qiure reasonably with deep awareness, which can be deservedly attributed to its founing father, Marcelo Armstrong. Being very well abreast of the difficulties and poverty the residents of Rio encounter in their everyday life, he is aspiring to demonstrate tourists that even under such circumstances, even in the conditions of slums, people are still eager to ‘rise’, i.e. develop in all possible ways. So, he organizes tours to the centres of day care in the community and other places locally run. By the way, to establish credible relations with the locals is one of the important points in providing poverty tourism exursions since such interaction will enable both tourists and the residents to feel safe and unoffended in any way. The favela settleres won’t express ire and humiliation if the running tours operators take care to have these close ties (Anya Yurchyshyn, Budget Travel, 2008). Actually, there is also a negative side of the poorism, when it becomes business for incetiable profit-searching enterpreneurs in quest of their stakes which is likely to be detrimental for the locals and tourists.
There are also places in South Africa, suburbs of Johannesburg, Cape Town Now which are those of township tours. The bus township tours like that to Soweto gives opportunity for tourists to see how people live in huts, without electricity, water or any other primary conveniences and to watch with their own eyes the little homes, straitened and constricted conditions of people’s life.
The expanding of the scale the poverty tourism attains is supposed to be evaluated with much sense of prudence. Moreover, such practice is really helping those in need. Thus, Tours and Travels is a bright example of the company intended that donates 80% of the profits to the local charitable organization NGOs to assist in fighting poverty. Besides, every participant of the tour is free to make contributions – toys, clothing, books etc which are acceptable before the tour. Some companies organize it in the way that a tourist willing to provide support and donate can personally do it to the communities they choose (Amanda Kendle). In addition, the stereotypes the critics of poorism are spreading calling it exploitation and transformation into zoo, are confronted by the reality tourists face and experience. It’s of inevitable significance the tourists be in personal connection with the residents which many operating tours (e.g. Victoria Safaris – Kibera community) suggest – you may take walk to the schools, churches or other community centers and provide personal aid for the needed like in a Christian group, Vineyard Ministries, Mazatlán, Mexico, with a free tour allowing tourists to give sandwiches to squalor people (Anya Yurchyshyn).
This controversial issue, with its adherents amused with this form of travel and opponents expressing ideas of ‘wrong’ grounding on the thought the slum dwellers are the victims treated more like animals in a zoo, really can’t but arise disputes. However, it depends. Concerning myself, I believe the perception is connected with the way poorism is undertaken. If it deals with and involves sincere and knowledgeable professionals and incorporates certain rules obligatory to stick to and sustain like no snapshots to prevent intrusion into personal matters, no self-willed uncontrolled gifts, preferable group touring in the interests of the tourists etc, than such tourism seems to bring many benefits to the poor communities. Moreover, provided the tourists are genuinely striving to achieve more understanding and make personal inputs of help, it’s not pertinent and reasonable to blame poverty tourism organizations in exploitation or humiliation of the poor by exposing them and their lives to those much wealthier and fortunate. The threat lies with those travel agencies interested primarily in profits, making advantage of such tours by sending ignorant and common sense deprived tourists prohibiting any rules. In this case they may be ‘deservedly’ called interlopers and privacy invaders.
Amanda Kendle. Poverty tourism: Exploring the slums of India, Brazil and South Africa. Retrieved from http://www.vagabondish.com/poverty-tourism-touring-the-slums-of-india-brazil-and-south-africa/
Anya Yurchyshyn (2008). Budget Travel. Poverty tourism: a dose of reality. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22887812/ns/travel-destination_travel/
Good intentions are not enough (August 11, 2010). The Poverty Tourism Debate. Retrieved from http://goodintents.org/aid-debates/poverty-tourism
John Lancaster (March, 2007). Smithsonian magazine. Next Stop, Squalor. Is poverty tourism "poorism," they call it exploration or exploitation? Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/squalor.html
Vicky Baker (January 16, 2009). Voyeurism or tourism: Globetrotters in Harlem. Retrieved from