Poverty Tourism and the Problem of Consent
Journal of Global Ethics, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 337-348
13 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2011 Last revised: 1 Sep 2014
Date Written: December 30, 2010
Is it morally permissible for financially privileged tourists to visit places for the purpose of experiencing where poor people live, work, and play? Tourism associated with this question is commonly referred to as 'poverty tourism.' While some poverty tourism is plausibly ethical, other practices will be more controversial. The purpose of this essay is to address mutually beneficial cases of poverty tourism and advance the following positions. First, even mutually beneficial transactions between tourists and residents in poverty tourism always run a risk of being exploitative. Second, there is little opportunity to determine whether a given tour is exploitative since tourists lack good access to the residents' perspectives. Third, if a case of poverty tourism is exploitative, it is so in an indulgent way; tourists are not compelled to exploit the residents. In light of these considerations, we conclude that would-be tourists should participate in poverty tours only if there is a well-established collaborative and consensual process in place.
Keywords: Poverty tourism, poorism, exploitation, tourism ethics, fair trade
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