By Mitali -SPARC
Is slum tourism ethical or is it just another exploitative pastime catering to the ever changing whims and fancies of the rich tourist? This was the question posed in an article that I came across recently in the Metro – a leading newspaper in the UK. Entitled ‘A rough guide to world slum digs’ in the physical paper (the online version has a less distractive title) the article does make you wonder if slum tourism is a bit of a farce – a chaperoned daytrip around the fringes of some the most complex settlements ever to exist on the planet… do you really expect people ‘get it’? On the other hand, is this exposure something worthwhile? Seeing the energy, enterprise and industry in informal settlements, does slum tourism build awareness where previously there was none?
The toughest question, I find, is also what Dr. Fabian Frenzel is looking to find an answer to. According to this article – the lecturer from Leicester University will travel the world to all the famous slums to find out if slum tourism has any real benefits on the ground.
By the way – you may have noticed that while this resourceful journalist has researched some tantalizing numbers, quoted experts from Universities and zoomed in for a ‘local perspective’ from a tour operator in Brazil – there is not one quote from a slum dweller. Policy makers, city planners, wealthier residents of a city etc. often fall into the same trap as this journalist seems to have done – to see the slums as just a metaphor for poverty rather than communities of individuals with voices, preferences and priorities.