Slum Tourism

slum tourism by wesley allsbrook

Slum tourism is a type of tourism that involves visiting impoverished areas, which has become increasingly prominent in several developing countries like India, Brazil, Kenya, and Indonesia. The Oxford English Dictionary found the first use of the word ‘slumming’ in 1884. In London, people visited neighborhoods such as Whitechapel or Shoreditch to see how the poor lived. In 1884 the concept moved to New York City to the Bowery and the Five Points area of the Lower East Side were visited to see ‘how the other half lives.’ In the 1980s in South Africa ‘township tours’ were organized to educate local governments on how the black population lived. It then attracted international tourists that wanted to support and learn more about apartheid. Prior to the release of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in 2008, Mumbai was a slum tourist destination.

Critics say slum tourism, like poorism, is likened to a kind of voyeurism, exploiting people less fortunate, snapping pictures and leaving nothing in return. Some tours do use portions of the profits to help out however. They have also courted controversy because of disputes about their safety, and fears that they misrepresent local culture.


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