Good and bad: What readers think of #SlumTourism

Cape Town - Slum tourism, also known as 'poverty porn', has had interesting effects on poor communities who suddenly find themselves subject to an influx of tourists into their neighbourhoods. Photos are taken and some money is spent, but is this kind of tourism voyeuristic by nature or does it hold tangible benefits for the locals?

SEE: #SlumTourism: Tourists flocking to spot where Despacito was filmed

The music video for the biggest song of the year, Despacito, not only broke the record for most views on YouTube, but it has also attracted many fans to the Puerto Rico slum where it was filmed. La Perla has struggled with crime and lack of investment from their government, but the fame garnered by Puerto Rican singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee has inspired the locals to repaint their house and building some more facilities.

Others, however, don't believe this is responsible tourism, and that the community doesn't exist as just an attraction for tourists to visit, with little money actually reaching the area, posited in a video by AJ+.

In South Africa, with many township tours and a large part of the population living below the breadline, similar questions have been raised regarding the pros and cons of this kind of tourism. We asked our readers if they believe slum tourism is advantageous to locals or if the negative impacts outweigh the economic value of such a venture.

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The results

Out of the 7 970 readers that participated in the vote, only 23% (1 803) believed that slum tourism could have a positive economic benefit to poor communities, as tourists end up having a high spending rate compared to locals. With only 404 more votes, 28% (2 207) voted that this kind tourism has a negative impact on communities, who are viewed as a 'tourist attraction' and become subjects in 'poverty porn'.

The majority with half of the total votes (3 960) believes that it can be both beneficial and detrimental to communities where slum tourism takes place, indicating a need to monitor such activities and make sure the good outweigh the bad, with important investment needed from government to ensure the necessary infrastructure as well as checks and balances are in place.

SEE: Township Tourism: Why SA should value and invest in places like Khayelitsha

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With international tourism to South Africa growing year on year - the opportunity to present unique, immersive cultural experiences exist through kazi township tours - if done responsibly.

According to the data released by South African Tourism, tourist volumes grew by 2.8% compared to 2015 to a total of 34.3 million tourists.

International tourist numbers to South Africa grew by double digits by 12.8%, to reach over 10.0 million tourists in 2016.

Understanding the value Township tourism represents to the South African tourism industry as a whole, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa has called for small micro-medium enterprises (SMME) in townships to take part and help SA tourism get to great lengths in areas like Khayelitsha. 

Speaking previously at a tourism imbizo held at Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha, Xasa says for tourism in SA to grow and be better, community members as well as SMME’s need to participate and make not only townships, but the whole city more welcoming for tourists.

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“For us to realise radical economic transformation we must have inclusive economic growth – meaning participation from everyone is key,” she says.

 Township tourism that aims to improve the impoverished and redesign the slum culture is essentially a vital building block towards achieving this.

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