Rethinking slum tourism: Tourism in South Africa's rural slumlands

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Slum tourism is an expanding domain of research focused on organized tours to poorer areas of cities in the global South, such as South Africa's urban townships. The aim is to contribute towards a reframing of scholarship on slum tourism by directing attention to the phenomenon of tourism development occurring in rural slums or poverty areas of South Africa, namely the former rural Bantustan or Homeland areas. These rural areas are presently the focus of government attention for tourism promotion as part of economic upgrading and employment creation. The key findings are that the expanding tourism economy of these rural slumlands is dominated by domestic tourists rather than international visitors with most tourists engaged in VFR travel including trips to rural second homes. In addition, these areas are important foci for religious pilgrimage. In terms of international scholarship on slum tourism the paper offers the significant observation that the largest share of tourists originate in the country's urban township areas which are the attractions for international slum tourists. The destinations for visits by international slum tourists are therefore the essential source regions of tourists for visits to the rural poverty areas or slumlands of South Africa. This points to an imperative for broadening the research agenda of slum tourism to incorporate research which examines the tourism mobilities of ordinary residents of townships or favelas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-34
Number of pages16
JournalBulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Slum tourism
  • South Africa
  • VFR travel
  • rural tourism
  • townships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • Urban Studies


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