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Slum tourism is a type of tourism which involves visiting impoverished or underprivileged areas. In the 19th century, it originally focused on the slums of Manhattan and London. Slum tourism is now becoming increasingly prominent in the developing nations which include Indonesia, Brazil, India, Kenya and others.
In 1884, the Oxford Dictionary dated the first use of the word slumming. People, in London, visited slum neighborhoods such as Shoreditch or Whitechapel to observe life in this situation. In New York City, by 1884, the wealthier people began to visit the Five Points and Bowery area of the Lower East Side, which is the neighborhoods of poor immigrants, to see how the poor people lives. In South Africa, in the 1980s, black inhabitants organized township tours for educating the whites in the local governments, on how the black population survived. International tourists, who desired to learn more about apartheid. International tours in the mid-1990s began to be organized with destinations in the most disadvantaged areas of developing nations often known as slums. They have grown in popularity and are run and advertised by professional companies. In South Africa and Cape Town, for example, upwards of 300, 000 tourists visit the city each year for viewing the slums.
In 2008, prior to the visit of Slumdog Millionaire, Mumbai was a slum tourist destination. The conception of slum tourism has recently started to gain more attention from academia and media alike. The first international conference in Bristol in slum tourism was held in December 2010.
Slum tourism is mainly performed in the urban areas of the developing countries. They are most often named after the type of areas that have been visited.
- Township tourism: in post-apartheid Namibia and South Africa. South African settlements are still visibly divided into wealthy historically white poor and suburbs, historically black townships, because of the effects of racial segregation and apartheid.
- Favela tourism: in Brazil
- In Jakarta, Jakarta hidden tours, the capital city of Indonesia
- Religious or social divisions: Belfast and New York City, Northern Ireland.
- Dharavi, Mumbai, which is farmed by Slumdog Millionaire movie. Here, tours actively break stereotypical depictions of slums.
The University of Pennsylvania in 2010, showed that tourist in Mumbai, Dharavi slum were motivated primarily by curiosity, as opposed to several competing push factors such as entertainment, education, social comparison or self- actualization. In addition, according to the study most slum residents were hesitant about the tours, while the majority of tourist reported that they have positive feelings during the tour, with intrigue and interest as the most commonly cited feelings. Several tourists, visit the slum to put their life in perspective.
Slum tourism has been the matter of much controversy. Both defensive and critiques of the practices have been made in the editorial pages of a prominent newspaper such as the London Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and others. A primary accusation that the advocate against slum tourism make is that it turns poverty into entertainment, which is something that can be momentarily escaped and experienced. A Kenyan, Kennedy Odede, wrote in the New York Times, Op-Ed section, that they get photos, and lose a piece of their dignity.
Similar critics call the tours exploitative and voyeuristic. Slum tourism critics have also cited the facts that Valentine’s Day and Christmas Day as the common times for slum tourism. It further support the belief that Westerners often visits slums just for feeling better about themselves, during those holidays when most people are with families and significant others. For the slums, the tour provides income and employment for tour guides. This is an opportunity for craft- workers to sell souvenirs. As the debate over the ethics of slum tourism, continues, studies are being done, and the forums for discussion are being created to added dialog and provide reliable information.
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