It isn’t uncommon for wealthy travelers to visit economically struggling countries without ever interacting with the extreme poverty its citizens undergo on a daily basis. So a five-star South African resort decided to remedy this rich-kid travel ailment by creating something that is about 500 times worse than… let’s call it idealistic ignorance.
Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa created a fake shanty town so that its wealthy clientele can pretend to slum it “within the safe environment of a private game reserve.”
But don’t worry, even though the “Shanty Town” has intricately designed, colorful iron shacks, outdoor bathrooms, and battery operated radios, things aren’t too realistic for comfort. “This is the only Shanty Town in the world equipped with under-floor heating and wireless internet access!” its website boasts.
And it’s also listed as ideal for team building exercises or theme parties. Because nothing is more festive than pretending to pinch pennies while spending a third of the median South African monthly income in one night.
Poverty tourism, also known as “poorism,” isn’t unheard of. There have been various “reality” tours through the slums of Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro’s favelas for years.
While the merits of visiting a real shanty town, as if it were a museum exhibit or a wildlife reserve, is certainly up for moral debate, 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.