Tourist and resident perspectives on ‘slum tourism’: the case of the Vilakazi precinct, Soweto

Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, Nthabiseng Letsatsi, Thabisile Malleka, Irma Booyens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Slum tourism as a topic of investigation has seen significant growth since the beginning of this decade with increasing theoretical and empirical depth. With this growth, some inconsistencies in conceptual framing and use of terminology have emerged. The purpose of this paper is to argue for township tourism in Soweto to be regarded as a form of heritage tourism rather than slum tourism—a notion which has entered the township tourism literature in recent years. This argument is presented through two sections of analysis and debate, using Vilakazi precinct in Soweto as a case study. Firstly, the paper analyses the emergence of township tourism as an academic focus in the literature and how it came to be classified as slum tourism, considering definitional conundrums. Various South African authors emphasise the struggle heritage character of township tourism. Secondly, the historical development of townships and tourism in these areas are interrogated. The empirical data offer the perspectives on tourism in their area from: (a) residents living in and around Vilakazi Street; and (b) tourists visiting the Vilakazi precinct. The analysis reveals that neither residents nor visitors consider the Vilakazi precinct or the larger area of Orlando West as a slum; rather they perceive tourism is the area to be connected to its struggle heritage. We accordingly stress that the term ‘slum tourism’ to describe township tourism in Soweto is inaccurate and is inconsistent with the views not only of residents and visitors, but also South African authors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1133-1149
Number of pages17
JournalGeo Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Heritage
  • Representation
  • Slum tourism
  • Soweto
  • Township tourism
  • Vilakazi Street

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


Dive into the research topics of 'Tourist and resident perspectives on ‘slum tourism’: the case of the Vilakazi precinct, Soweto'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this