Urban Forum

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 315–328 | Cite as

“Does this Look Like a Slum?” Walking Tours in the Johannesburg Inner City

  • Gijsbert HoogendoornEmail author
  • Julia K. Giddy


Slum tourism is becoming increasingly popular in cities throughout the global South. South Africa has long been a township/slum tourism destination due to the inequalities caused by apartheid. During the later apartheid years and after the fall of apartheid in 1994, the once upmarket financial centre of inner city Johannesburg took a major economic downturn and has since been considered by many a ‘no-go zone’. Since 2012, a number of tour operators have begun to develop walking tours taking visitors into the inner city of Johannesburg. Some research has argued that tourism in Johannesburg’s inner city is a form of slum tourism. However, we argue that the inner city of Johannesburg is diverse, vast and complex, and therefore these walking tours should not necessarily be grouped with the concept of slum tourism. The research to justify this argument is multifaceted. First, definitions of slum tourism are explored against the backdrop of the Johannesburg inner city. Second, in-depth interviews were conducted with five tour operators that run inner city walking tours. Finally, 100 tourists were surveyed to determine their perceptions of inner city Johannesburg and whether or not they consider it to be a slum. The results demonstrate that although some commonalities exist between slum tourism and inner city walking tours, particularly the goal of de-stigmatisation, walking tours in the Johannesburg inner city should, arguably, not be considered a form of slum tourism.


Walking tours Slum tourism Johannesburg Inner city Frenzel 



Thanks to James Gregory for sparking our interest in this topic. A special thanks to Martin Nielsen, Prenesha Pillay, Mark Petzer and Sethu Mbambiso from Free Walking Tours who assisted us with interviewing tourists. Also thanks to Jo Buitendach from Past Experiences, Franck Leya from Djala Nje, Gerald Garner from Joburg Places and Brett McDougal of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation for their input.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy StudiesUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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