Tourists seeking authenticity in a destination can pay for tours of the world’s poorest neighborhoods, a controversial new trend in travel named “poorism,” according to a travel book on the subject.
The book, “Slum Tourism: Poverty, Power & Ethics,” (Routledge, 2012) co-edited by Ko Koens, details what a report in CBCBooks calls “the booming trend of poorism and how people’s search for new experiences is behind this new craze in travel that takes them to the poorest parts of the world.”
Examples of tours include trips to the townships of South Africa, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the Bronx and Brazil’s Favelas.
Proponents say people visit slums for ethical reasons and want to see the whole context of a country they love. The practice, however, has its critics including Koens, who was interviewed on a Q podcast for CBCBooks.
“It’s a very extreme form of tourism and the main problem really is that you are really visiting people’s living space and people’s homes,” Koens said. “In some tours, people just enter local people’s homes. And that really makes it very personal and it makes it very difficult to do it in a respectful way. If you talk about people without people really knowing about it then it becomes hard to really be on an ethical tour.”
The way the tours are run becomes especially questionable when the tours are led with no interaction with residents and when none of the profits are put back into the community, the report says.
But there are ways to run such tours ethically, Koens said in the CBCBooks report. “It’s not all tours to impoverished areas that are misrepresenting the area that they’re visiting; several slum tours have won prizes for their responsible and sustainable tourism because they actually try to improve the local situations and they try to paint a different picture and show people that it’s actually an area where people live.”