Its been five hectic weeks since I came to Cape Town to carry out my research about township tourism for my masters. The first two weeks I spent reading some of the last bits of literature on the phenomenon slum tourism globally, arranging meetings with the tour operators involved in my research as well as going on various townships tours to both Langa (the most visited township in Cape Town and Khayelitsha (the biggest).
Everything research-wise till now has gone super smoothly, everyone I meet are so nice and welcoming and I get lots of input and new understanding of the sector every day in the field.
This week Ive spent some days in Langa carrying out interviews with people living in the most visited areas to be able to identify tourism impacts and issues. I’ve been super lucky and found the best translation assistant I could dream of. I understood early I needed one to do the research I wanted in Xhosa (the tribe language commonly spoken in Langa), as most people I want to speak to are not too savvy in English.
Two random pics from a interviewing situation.
In the left bottom corner you see my assistant. He’s such a sweet heart and so tuned in and seems to understand the purpose of the project very well. We’ve become friends really quickly and he teaches me many interesting inside township logics as he grew up in one himself. Hopefully Ill get richer information that way about people’s opinions on tourism, despite of the risk of loosing data through his translations to me.
Here he is another pic from today after a talk to some women in Langa.
The stories people tell us about their lives with tourism are rather fascinating, as well as disturbing at times. Like many seem to think, tourism to poor areas like this, is indeed controversial, as poverty per se turns into an attraction. This is not something I claim, but something many previous researchers have found out is at the very core of people’s motivation list to visit in the first place. However, there is no doubt that many people want to visit first and foremost to understand more about the townships as well as learning about their culture as one often puts it. According to testimonials (on webpages and Tripadvisor) that is indeed also what it seems people feel they get by visiting.
Part from that, visitors tend to get surprised over the friendliness and hospitality among the township residents, and to that point I have to add that tourism obviously wouldn’t live very long if the opposite was the case. That point is also the one tour operators most often mentioned when I interviewed them. In a sense they try to justify that they earn money on showing how poor people live, by stating that the people like getting visitors and that tourism obviously enhances employment opportunities in a poor and often forgotten area. From my interviews with local people till now Ive also got the impression that this is the seen case, and nobody has claimed to not like tourists.
Nevertheless, it does unfortunately not seem to be a common impression among the residents that tourism brings them a better economy, which to me proves there are tons of unexploited opportunities in the sector. Again, I don’t claim that out of personal opinions, – previous researchers have found the same. By going on tours Ive also tried to see how companies and guides practice what they preach, and well.. I think there is a lot of unused potential to make extra efforts for much more positive impacts than what the current situation holds.
After finishing the report in January, Ill try to post more about my findings, as it’s not correct to do it at this stage.
Until then, enjoy some pictures from my weeks in the field. And please note that whenever people are photographed, they have given consent and been told what the pictures are for.
I’m not a huge fan of photographing kids, especially as there has developed a lot of weird “logics” for kids with tourism by posing and yelling at tourists with cameras. However, these two girls are friends of one of the participants in my study and the situation developed naturally.
Gotta continue transcribing interviews here.. Ugh..