Travel & Tourism brings economic opportunities to places other sectors can’t reach.
“I love this place!”
Krishna Pujari never imagined he’d end up running a company taking tourists around a slum. It has changed his life and the lives of the children and adults his project has helped.
Projects that give back to the communities they visit are a powerful example of how travel and tourism can transform our world for good. It brings jobs and income to places — like slums — that few other sectors can or indeed want to reach.
Whilst other sectors like finance or retail are typically associated with the world’s more affluent markets, travel and tourism can operate alongside the poor or disadvantaged, alleviating poverty and hardship.
Travellers are increasingly seeking more authentic experiences too. They want to feel they are making a difference, participating rather than just observing. So the demand is there for more of these kinds of projects that provide both a unique experience to the customer and deliver real economic benefits for the providers.
From Maasai village tours in Kenya to community owned eco-lodges in Bolivia, their breadth and diversity is considerable. Further growth is a given.
It’s not just small scale either. Recently the Chinese government announced that it plans to use rural tourism to lift up to 12 million people out of poverty¹.
Slum tourism is a great example. With 16,500 people joining the world’s slum populations every single day², visiting tourists can help provide a better standard of living and give people hope for the future.
It’s easy to be judgemental — to assume that this is a form of voyeurism between “haves” and “have nots”. But that’s rarely how these projects work.
Run with the collaboration and consent of the slum communities these trips can be powerful experiences.
Many living in slums have a precarious existence. They have no rights to the land they live on, housing is usually very basic, conditions are cramped, access to sanitation and power is exceptionally limited.
When Krishna started talking about his idea, people were suspicious about his motives. He spent more than a month living in Dharavi, learning how people lived and worked, explaining that he wanted to show tourists the positive aspects of life there.
“First time I visited, I so was surprised,” he says. “It’s a vibrant place. The people, the sense of community. It’s like my own family. Something clicked for me.”
Trust grew quickly. Tourists came away inspired, challenged and a little humbled. Locals were proud of the interest outsiders took in their work and their lives.
Profit from tours is spent on computer literacy training for children, teacher training and other educational projects.
Not only is this project helping transform the lives of the slum community and the tourists, it has given Krishna a new sense of purpose.
“I can’t express my thanks to tourism enough,” he smiles.
² UN Slum Almanac 2015–16