As I scrolled through my tweets, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I figured I wasn’t seeing properly so I scrolled back.
“A fake slum for tourists, ‘ideal for team building…fancy theme parties and an experience of a lifetime'”
Now I thought I had seen it all. Figuring this couldn’t possibly be for real, I clicked on the link.
Sure enough, a website is advertising a shanty town as a venue for weddings, fancy parties and team building. I have deliberately left out the location and the name of the venue as I certainly don’t want to promote it.
“Millions of people are living in informal settlements across ________. These settlements consist of thousands of houses also referred to as Shacks, Shantys ….
This is the only Shanty Town in the world equipped with under-floor heating and wireless internet access!
The Shanty Town is ideal for team building….. fancy theme parties and an experience of a lifetime.”
There is also a luxury spa on-site.
Does this strike anyone else as being in extremely poor taste?
Shame on the owners! I have never seen anything so tacky and in such poor taste. There has been nothing so appalling since Marie-Antoinette played shepherdess at Le Hameau de la Reine in the gardens of Le Petit Trianon.
These are also tasteless.
This has been called out in tweets and on blogs.
Dear _____: The poverty, police violence, & conditions of military occupation in favelas are no joke & it’s not a samba frat party
- Slum Tourism: Shanty Town Tours In Brazil, India, South Africa Give Travelers Glimpse At Poverty; Raise Ethical Questions
Let’s be clear. The purpose is to gawk, not provide assistance.
What most people don’t know is that, before I started my career in business, I was a professional social worker. I actually have an MSW and an MBA. I have worked with families in some improvised communities in the Caribbean and, as I have travelled the world, I have certainly seen the deplorable conditions in which some people are forced to live.
There is nothing glamorous or cool about poverty, people eking out an existence, malnourished children and children dying of hunger.
There really is nothing much that I can say is “What in the world are the owners and the companies participating in this thinking?”
There is so much suffering in the world. There are families that need housing, children who need food and school uniforms, young people trying to find the money for school fees, and emerging professionals struggling to come up with the funds to purchase the tools to start their careers.
Just last night I was speaking with a young man in an emerging nation. He has completed his training in photography. I have seen his work and he has talent. He is finishing his internship but needs better equipment so that he has a real shot at a career. (The equipment he has now is old and some of it is damaged.) Even reconditioned used equipment would help him get the start he needs. His mother is very sick and in the hospital. A young man like deserves a leg up. There are stories like this all over the world. So for the life of me, I just can’t relate to marketing a shanty town as a tourism experience or luxury event venue.
Instead of “slumming it” as if it is a cool eco-tourism adventure, it would be far better for businesses to donate the money to a worthwhile charity, provide supplies for a school in an impoverished area, prepare meals for a soup kitchen, provide shoes for children so that they can go to school, or feed children who are going to school hungry. Charity team building to raise funds or purchase food and supplies to improve the lot of people who are forced to live in slums would be a much more worthwhile investment than spending a few days in a “fake” slum.
For companies that are short on ideas, here are a few:
Photo Credit: SuSanA Secretariat – Please note, photo is not of the “fake” slum.