Fake Shantytown Emoya Estate Offers "Poverty Porn" For Tourists

Holiday season means vacation season, and a place called Emoya Estate is offering a new and WTF-worthy travel destination: a mock shantytown in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Before you run to your travel agent, you should know that the Emoya Estate shantytown isn’t your typical village of huts made from scraps in a desperate attempt for shelter and survival against crushing poverty. These shantytown structures are built on a private wildlife reserve and they offer wifi and heated floors. According to Emoya Estate's website

The Shanty Town is ideal for team building, braais, fancy theme parties and an experience of a lifetime. Accommodates up to 52 guests. Our Shantys are completely safe and child friendly.

However, “safe,” “child friendly,” and “fancy theme party” are terms that most definitely do not represent a real shantytown. In fact, actual shantytown residents wouldn’t be able to afford a stay here even if they wanted to; one night costs $82, which is more money than most shantytown residents see in a month. Not to mention that real shantytowns are in the slums, not on fancy reservations. They are hotbeds for disease, malnourishment, and crime and they lack necessities like electricity, water, and sanitation. Perhaps Emoya offers those options in a deluxe package?

Surprisingly, "slum tourism" isn’t a new thing. Cape Town, South Africa sees around 300,000 tourists visit their slums each year. Critics of slum tourism point out that it is a voyeuristic way for the privileged to reduce the pain of poverty to a spectacle. Kenyan activist Kennedy Odede critiqued slum tourism in The New York Times for “turn[ing] poverty into entertainment, something that can be momentarily experienced and then escaped from. They get photos; we lose a piece of our dignity.”

Perhaps the only redeeming quality of that type of slum tourism is that it provides some economic stimulation to the desperate area, unlike this faux shantytown. As Time put it, “pretending to have the experience without ever having to set eyes on people who are actually suffering is a whole different kind of tone deaf.”

So, wealthy people who want to pretend to be poor for vacation, do yourselves a favor and find something else to do. I hear that Yacht Week is fun.

Image: Emoya.co.za