Darrell Wade, co-founder and CEO of Intrepid Travel, writes: Sometimes it’s hard to be a traveller.
If being charged with environmental crimes and cultural imperialism wasn’t enough, travellers are now being accused of insensitivity to the plight of the world’s poor.
More and more the very act of travelling is being pulled apart and scrutinised. Recent media reports suggest that movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ have not only grabbed the attention of the Oscar’s Academy but they’ve also seen tourist visits to the slums of Mumbai increase. It’s being referred to as ‘slum tourism’ and it’s the latest issue for people to growl about.
Before I get accused of being flippant, I do agree that the travel industry needs to wake up and take action around climate change. I’m also one of the founders of a travel company that actively celebrates cultural differences. And personally I abhor cookie-cutter resorts that make the world look the same, no matter what country you’re in.
I do however take issue with some of the criticism that’s being slung at slum tourism.
For starters there’s the label slum tourism. It’s a pretty derogative way to refer to someone’s home but that isn’t my main problem. It suggests a very voyeuristic experience that belies the positive outcomes a greater understanding of a different culture can bring.
Almost half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day and if you travel to places like Asia, Africa, South America, even Australia you are likely to encounter living situations vastly different to your own. Travel provides a real opportunity to educate people about the circumstances that lead to poverty.
Travellers are often so moved by their experiences that they are motivated to take action. I know of one traveller who was so touched by what she saw on an Intrepid trip in Cambodia that she has set-up an aid organisation, Helping Hands to provide support to Siem Reap’s poor.
Sure. Don’t be a jerk and wander uninvited into someone’s home.
Do pack a sense of curiosity when you travel. You never know what good will come of it.