When alternative tourism goes wrong.

There exits a whole other type of alternative tourism that has absolutely nothing to do with the preservation of the environment or social awareness. There are different types that we’re going to develop below.

Slum or Ghetto tourism: It is part of what is called “poverty tourism”. Poverty tourism is according to Matt Collins definition: “any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause.[…]” In this case, people (generally from the North) visit impoverished urban cities (generally in the South) to see the living condition of the population there. Not out of concern for or to help the local people, but mostly for voyeuristic purpose. Some of the country sadly infamous for this practice are India, where slum tourism boomed after the movie Slumdog Millionaire came out, Brazil where it’ called favela tourism, and South Africa where it is called township tourism.

This kind of tourism is counterproductive because the tourists visit without respect for the dignity of the locals, have a vague idea of what they go though, and go back to their comfortable lifestyle.


Favela tourists with their guide in Rio de Janeiro.

Disaster tourism: It is the act of visiting places that underwent natural disasters, civil conflicts or even warfare. This practice emerged in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Tourists through their tour bus could drive through the city to take pictures of the devastation the hurricane made. Like guetto tourism, disaster tourism is seen as voyeuristic as many people visits these places merely to satisfy their curiosity.


A sign aimed at tourists in the neighborhood of Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

These unethical approaches of tourism are increasingly taking a share of mass tourism.

How to Travel Responsibly

What is responsible travel? Like we saw in a previous article, responsible travel is the act of travelling while minimizing negative impacts, whether they be being sensitive to the environment, respecting local cultures and boosting local economy. To make sure that our travel is as responsible as possible, one has to follow a certain set of rules that I’ll develop below.

1) Make sure you choose your travel agency and accommodations carefully. Do they practice responsible tourism? Is the staff locally employed? Do they recycle? Conserve resources? Make sure you ask all these question before you go.

2) Educate yourself! Most tourists act irresponsibly because they act out of ignorance of the cultural aspect of the places they visit. The more you know about a place before you go, the more responsible you will be when you arrive there. Try to learn about the culture, tradition, clothing, and proper behavior to adopt. Knowing all those things will help you to be more respectful of the cultural differences. Even better: learn the language.

3) Support the local economy. Most hotels are part of big groups that keep all profit for themselves. Choose to live in locally owned hotels or inns, eat at local restaurants, buy local products and crafts. Anything that can sustain people.

4) Conserve the environment. Protect resources, choose transportation that have the least environmental impact, turn off your TV, or light, don’t take long showers…  The locals may not have access to these resources, so be careful with them.

Travelling responsibly is really simple. Just keep these few rules in mind and your travel experience will be pleasant for both you and the population of the place you visit.



Ecotourism is fast growing industry. However, contrary to mass tourism, ecotourism, or green tourism, is the action of travelling in a remote, natural, and untouched place while preserving its natural state and the local people. The key-word here, is “responsible”. The ecotourist must be educated about the country, the environment and local people. They travel in order to learn while minimizing the negative impact on the wildlife. The ecotourist is also respectful of the local culture; they have to learn before the travel about the local customs, the dress codes, the political context, and other social norms in order to leave positive experiences both for them and their hosts. The Ecotourism Guidelines must be followed for a pleasant trip. The financial benefits of ecotourism must serve to empower local people. Ecotourism generally takes place in remote places where isolated communities are not used to foreigners.
Tourists planting olive trees under the Olive Tree Planting Program in PalestineTourists planting olive trees under the Olive Tree Planting Program in Palestine.

However can the thousands of protected areas of the world still remain preserved and protected if more and more tourist are drived there? Wouldn’t that defeat all its purposes? With ecotourism becoming a trend, it is bound to lose all its meaning.



A new way to consume

Alternative tourism was created as an alternative to mass tourism. It is a new, respectful kind of tourism because of the way that alternative tourists look out for the impact they have on the environment, the culture, and the people of the places visited. Alternative tourism started developing at the beginning of the century and its objectives are environmental integrity, social justice, and economic development.

There are several types of alternative tourism:

  • Ecotourism: or « green tourism » is one form of sustainable tourism. Ecotourism is based on the discovery of nature. Its development rate is one of the best in the world. One of its limits is that hotels and structures are built in beautiful landscapes.
  • Solidarity tourism: the travelers live and share with host families.
  • Responsible tourism: its goal is the same as sustainable tourism, to promote sustainable development. People can live in better places and the places to visit are more preserved thanks to this kind of tourism.

In this blog project we will develop the different kinds of tourism. Not only will we talk of its advantages but also of its limits.