Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Slumdogging it: will a movie boost India's 'slum tourism'?

Will Oscar-tipped Slumdog Millionaire see a rush of tourists on Mumbai's shantytowns? That's what the Telegraph has predicted. It seems this could be the City-of-God-versus-the-favela-tour controversy all over again.

The subject was picked up today on Vagablogging. "I've never really understood how movies inspire people to travel," writes the author. Really? Big sweeping movie images of a foreign land just don't do it for you?

A Vagablogging reader adds: "It’s easy to judge a 'poverty tour' without actually experiencing one but ironically slum tours can be very educational and may be the very way to start change."

I'm not sure about the irony, but other than that, I agree. I've touched on this subject before with Harlem "ghetto" tours and I'm sure I will again.

Tourists here in Buenos Aires could confine their entire visit to the trendy neighbourhood of Palermo and think Argentina is the land of milk and honey (with lattes, wine and steak thrown in too). Many will never see the shanty towns here, which unlike Brazil, are kept more hidden away.

I visited one - the notorious Villa 31 - on a previous stay, not on a tour but with a friend. She was a local headmistress, who was looking to set up a teaching programme there and get some volunteers from overseas to help out. I can't see that this is a bad thing. I'm meeting up with her again in the next couple of weeks and will report back on how she got on...