, Volume 75, Issue 5, pp 421–442 | Cite as

Poverty tourism: theoretical reflections and empirical findings regarding an extraordinary form of tourism

  • Manfred RolfesEmail author


During the mid-1990s, a new form of tourism was established in metropolises of several developing countries or emerging nations. This type of tourism consists in visits to the most disadvantaged parts of the respective city. Poverty tours or slum tours are offered on a relatively large scale in the South African cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, as well as in Indian metropolises, to name some important examples. The target group of these tours consists primarily of international tourists. It is estimated that 40,000 such tourists visit favelas in Rio de Janeiro each year, around 300,000 the townships in Cape Town. This contribution refers to and comments on these developments and insights regarding poverty tourism or slumming, based on empirical research and experiences in South Africa, Brazil, and India. It will be shed light on the phenomenon from an observational-theoretical perspective. It is aimed to open a discussion on the ways poverty tours or slumming observes and simultaneously programmatically charges poverty. And, it will be considered in which way poverty tourism is observed.


Poverty tourism Slumming Township Favela Slum Observational-theoretical approach 



This article is a strongly modified, complementary version to the paper “Poorism—What is shown to the tourists?” presented at the International conference: Tourist Experiences: Meanings, Motivations, Behaviours, April 1–4, 2009, University of Lancashire. I want to thank Annette Balch, Ralf bei der Kellen and Damian Mac Con Uladh for translating and revising this article, as well as Christina Uhl for her active support and the helpful assistance in finishing this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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