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Slum Tourism -The Crassest Way to See the World?

Voyeurism or ethical tourism?

What's not in right now: beaches, high-end lux and hedonism. What's in: shantytowns, back alleys and garbage dumps. No, we're not kidding. "Slum Tourism" or "Poorism" is the hottest new trend in travel, according to a New York Times article this week.

Reality Tours and Travel, based in Dubai, organizes tours in poverty stricken areas, sometimes into areas Slum Tourism - Is It Ethical?Slum Tourism - Is It Ethical?police won't even venture. The point? To give travelers an honest, up-close look at life in places they wouldn't travel to without a guide: garbage dumps in Brazil or the squatter camps of Rio de Janeiro for example.

Supporters of the trend say tourism dollars open up job opportunities and raise global awareness of poverty and how individuals can make a difference. By is it ethical? Do travelers tour in buses and snap pictures without respectfully interacting with locals?

"Tourism is one of the few ways that you or I are ever going to understand what poverty means," Harold Goodwin, director of the International Center for Responsible Tourism in Leeds, England told the New York Times. "To just kind of turn a blind eye and pretend the poverty doesn't exist seems to me a very denial of our humanity."

David Fennell, tourism and environment professor at Brock University in Ontario doesn't agree. He says slum tourism robs people of dignity and is only about making westerners feel better about their place in life. "Would you want people stopping outside of your front door every day, or maybe twice a day, snapping a few pictures of you and making some observations about your lifestyle?"

While even critics concede some tourism dollars will eventually trickle down to do some good, is traveling to slums a responsible alternative to volunteer travel or simply writing a check to help the poor?

What do you think of slum tourism? Do think it's ethical travel or plain and simple voyeurism?

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Comments

If people want to see poverty, it's easy enough to find in their own country. (Would you take your family into ghettos and high crime areas of the US for a learning experience? Not likely). There are plenty of ways to learn about poverty and to help without the blatant voyeurism.

Nope not for me. I agree this is crass. If you want to do good when you're traveling then volunteer at the same time. Don't try to make it look all ethical when its just about you seeing something you couldn't see by yourself. Stupid trend if you ask me.

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