The ethics of poverty tourism

A philosophy journal article! The abstract:

Is it morally permissible for financially privileged tourists to visit places for the purpose of experiencing where poor people live, work, and play?

…First, even mutually beneficial transactions between tourists and residents in poverty tourism always run a risk of being exploitative.

Second, there is little opportunity to determine whether a given tour is exploitative since tourists lack good access to the residents’ perspectives.

Third, if a case of poverty tourism is exploitative, it is so in an indulgent way; tourists are not compelled to exploit the residents.

In light of these considerations, we conclude that would-be tourists should participate in poverty tours only if there is a well-established collaborative and consensual process in place.

Seems reasonable. I have probably said all I have to say on the subject. My previous takes here.

5 thoughts on “The ethics of poverty tourism

  1. I’m more in favor of attracting tourists to resorts and or safari’s, and in the end would rather promote that because of the economic and environmental benefits that go with it.

    Getting tourists to slums can be beneficial so people see for themselves the conditions they are living in. However, I would rather have volunteers or NGO’s work on community service projects rather than just have people take pictures.

  2. Isn’t it what we see in Kenya with the Masai used as touristic attractions? It is easy to monitor “incorporated begging company” dropping with Mercedes cars poorly geared beggars in strategic places. Try a true poor guy to beg on the place he will be rapidly turned back to his suburb. “Begging Inc Co.” provides appropriate gear to its employees just like any other companies do. This is not Africa, this is not just tourism, and this is observable in northern countries. If the goal is to look at what poverty looks like, no need to go to Africa, just look in the suburbs of western megapoles and in some remote small forgotten towns.

  3. Isn’t a philosophy journal the worst place to go for a reasonable position on this? You could do a field experiment on the short-run effects and let people submit their priors on the long run beforehand.

  4. What do you mean by exploit? Getting pleasure from other people’s misery? Then someone who gets pleasure by reading about any situation that involves misery is guilt of exploitation. for example, the novel War and Peace is about situations involving immense human misery. Are those who get pleasure from that novel guilty of exploitation? And what’s so bad about Begging Inc Co? How are they worse than someone presenting a drama on a theatre stage in London? It’s just a business transaction.

  5. Does it really make sense to decide whether something is ethical or unethical on the basis of whether it’s exploitative or not? I don’t think so. Besides the possibility of mutually beneficial mutual exploitation, it’s unclear how “X is exploitative and therefore wrong” is a QED.