18 August 2010

A Taxonomy of Poverty Tourism and What is the Best Form

Aaron at Staying for Tea puts together the following taxonomy for poverty tourism:
He then goes on to explain all of his classifications that I encourage everyone to go read over at the original post: http://ow.ly/2rm6b .  I could have put it here, but I think that he deserves the traffic for all the effort put into piecing it together.

I made the suggestion of making the change to add the following three genera in front of the existing six: volunteering, tourism, education.  Volunteering would include: volunteer trips and voluntourism (with a share link to tourism).  Tourism: slum tours and community tours.  Education: study abroad and exposure trips. That way it separates them out further with their main thrust.

This all started because of this comment that was left on my post that asked about the positives of slum tourism:
I spent all day yesterday reading through the spate of blogs on the topic of slum tourism (poverty tourism, development tourism, etc.) that was set off by the NYT op-ed, which has re-stoked the perennial debate on whether this is a good thing or not. One of the things I realized was that many bloggers and commentators were talking past each other and the discussion got unnecessarily hot, even shrill, in part due to a lack of linguistic clarity. Not all "poverty tours" are the same in terms of who goes, why they go, who leads it, what the role of the host community is, etc. Without knowing what kind of slum tour we're arguing about, we can end up totally missing the actual fault line or confluence of our discussion. So, I decided to make my contribution to the debate a taxonomic clarification of the Poverty Tourism family of terms, including poverty safari, voluntourism, community tours, and about a dozen others. This helps us to answer the question "Are There Any Positives to Slum Tourism" in a way that is grounded in clearer terms. I've proposed 6 genera and tried to provide both a clear definition for it as well as a number of comments from various bloggers to highlight where the actual nexus of discussion is related to that genus. Slum Tourism is the first genus. So, for example, what Tom was asking about in response to Brigid, is actually a different genus of poverty tours altogether called Community Tourism, in which the community controls who comes, how many come, how the profits are shared and used, and most importantly, what messages the visitors hear about their community. You can still argue, as William Easterly does, that this is degrading, but at least it's clear that you're talking about something different from a standard slum tour, which is generally operated by an outside, often for-profit and customer-centric, tourism operator whose purpose is to generate private profit, not common good.
My post has led to some great comments, so, in light of the comments and post by Aaron, I want to try to continue this discussion and pick on your thoughts. 

Assuming that people will want to continue to travel to the developing world for first-hand experiences, what is the best form?  It seems useless to engage in discussions that strike out everything that is listed by Aaron when people will continue to offer and participate in these types of experiences.

So, the move now transitions from ‘is’ to ‘what.’  I will weigh in with my opinion later as you share your thoughts and suggestions.