People have different opinions about tourism by richer people to look at how poor people live. You can argue that it is better that they see some piece of reality themselves rather than swallow whole what is shown in the media (and optimistically hope they know they are being misled by them). Or be glad they prefer an educational trip to a hedonistic beach holiday, or that they are curious about the world outside their own comfy patch. And obviously the individuals who sign up for these things are all different and many must be well-meaning (awful word) and genuinely eager to learn.
Or you may, like me, view this as Rescue Industry prurience rooted in racism and colonialism (an aspect of helpers’ own identity formation). You may wish to tear your hair out simply at the thought of a tour catalogue displaying different kinds of social problems to feel horrified about and different human beings to feel pity for. But that is what Global Exchange offers in the form of Reality Tours - and human trafficking is a staple item. This tourism is veiled in language that makes tourists advocates. Here’s the description from last year’s week-long trip; new trips are listed for Perú, Uganda, Cambodia. I’ve added boldface as an emotional expression not only about the ideas but the trite language!
Thailand : Not For Sale Advocacy Delegation on Human Trafficking
Accurate statistics are difficult to compile, but it is believed that between 600,00 and 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year- 80% of them women and children. [blah blah, the usual] . . .The numbers are staggering, and actually confronting them and the shattered lives they represent can be an overwhelming prospect. Yet we are not powerless in the face of this monstrous industry, and the first step towards bringing it to a halt is education. In partnership with the Not for Sale Campaign against human trafficking, Global Exchange Reality Tours is facilitating this delegation to Thailand geared specifically to confronting the realities of the global trade in human beings.
Participants will receive a comprehensive education in the mechanics of human trafficking, as well as an understanding of its underlying causes. Participants will meet with those who have been freed from slavery and learn what it means to rebuild one’s life after having been a victim of trafficking. They, will also engage directly with groups and individuals on the frontlines of the struggle . . . We will visit vulnerable communities targeted by traffickers, learn effective strategies for undermining slave rings, and experience first hand how emancipated slaves rebuild their lives. Upon return, Global Exchange and Not for Sale will integrate the insights of the trip directly into an understanding of the nature of human trafficking in the United States and the meaning of working globally on backyard abolitionist activities.
Cost: $1,000 Includes:
All accommodations in 3-star and above hotels. Price is for shared double room- we can usually pair you up with a roommate.
All in-country transportation
Two meals per day
Tour leaders and guides
All program activities and translation
All entrance fees
Preparatory reading materials
Global Exchange membership
Donation to NFS
Plus airfare, of course. I wonder how large these groups get?
Picture of Nicholas Kristof, who does his own kind of reality tourism, from aidlolz.
–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist