Search results for: responsible travel

Orphanage tourism – an issue of concern!

For a long time concerns have been raised in the tourism industry regarding orphanages attracting tourists as visitors and volunteers, and like I wrote about some months ago, the respected tour agency pioneered when they took action and removed tour products that entailed orphanage visits among their holiday packages. The campaign got good media coverage, and it’s delightful to see the topic being on the agenda for important events like the World Travel Market.

While these are very good news and an important step for the fight against a complex issue, it’s also true that the number of orphanages in the developing world and volunteering projects for want-to-become volunteers is booming. Therefore, as one can see with other issues of concern, it takes a lot more awareness-raising campaigns and calls for action in order for travelers to get educated and the private sector and national governments to act.

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In that regard Tourism Concern just published a post, prior to an up-coming campaign against orphanage tourism, asking whether volunteers are fueling this unethical practice. In the article they point out that while nobody doubts the good intention of the donors, travellers, and volunteers who give time or money to orphanages, they still believe that orphanage tourism, and volunteerism are fuelling the demand for “orphans”, and so driving the unnecessary separation of children from their families.

Furthermore by stating that the number of orphans in Cambodia has halved – yet the number of orphanages has doubled – 75% of children in these institutions are not in fact orphans. In Ghana the figure is as high as 90% they tell the audience how important it is that they engage with this topic, even if that means just spreading information about the issue.

So please do, and while you’re on it, please also sign this petition to stop unethical practices within this field.

Why mass tourism is unsustainable

One of the tourism academics I admire the most is Anna Pollock, the founder of Conscious travel.

According to their website, Conscious Travel is a movement, a community and a learning program that enables places to attract and welcome guests in a manner that doesn’t cost the earth. They state that tourism is system of three elements: Places, Guests and Hosts.  And that as such; It’s all about PEOPLE, thus If people change their values and their perception of how the world works, then everything else changes.

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Conscious Travel refers to the Conscious Capitalism Institute for the philosophy of Conscious Capitalism (which has the same features as Responsible Capitalism). It is based on the belief that a more complex form of capitalism is emerging that holds the potential for enhancing corporate performance while simultaneously continuing to advance the quality of life for billions of people, and challenges business leaders to re-think why their organisations exist and to acknowledge their companies’ roles in the interdependent marketplace. Read more here.
I first heard about Anna Pullock (that has 40 years experience working as a strategist, analyst and change agent for travel destinations around the world) through Tourism Concern work as she has engaged with them throughout the decades.
Here you can read her recent article in The Guardian, presenting the six key reasons why the current tourism model is way past its prime and why more of us need to focus on creating alternatives.

(find Conscious Travel on facebook here).

Not just another T R A V E L blog

When I now launch this as a T R A V E L blog (before the other things I write about), Id like to tell you why.

My passion is traveling and I’m 100 % aware of the extreme privileges that contains. Pointing at the opportunities and responsibilities coming with those privileges are often exactly what I like to spread with this blog.


So what makes this (travel) blog different?

It focuses on personal travel experiences including feelings and lived contrasts I come across. It often entails the subjects of Responsible/ Ethical tourism, ethical consumption when traveling, Human Rights in tourism in addition to stuff about music-tourism, techno/dance-tourism (true story, such a term exists), with the overall aim of encouraging people to somehow make a difference when traveling…

Generally speaking its about sharing good ideas, stories and hopefully some surprising angles on how we can travel to change the world.

Peace & Love,


Congratulations ECPAT International

I just read something wonderful!

ECPAT International was recently selected to receive the 2013 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million (US dollars), for its tireless for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. According to their own website 2013 is the 18th year for the Hilton Prize given by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to an organisation that is significantly alleviating human suffering.

ECPAT International was one of over 200 organisations being considered for the award, and won it as “The Hilton Prize international jurors recognized the pressing need to put a spotlight on this malignancy that is growing throughout the world” said Judy Miller, vice president of the Hilton Foundation and director of the Hilton Prize. Dorothy Rozga, the Executive Director of ECPAT Internation, states being deeply honored to be selected to receive the prestigious Hilton Humanitarian Prize by its distinguished jury. Read more here.

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Personally, I discovered ECPAT International some years ago through my growing interest in tourism impacts, learning that child sex tourism is one of the crucial issues of consequences in our increasingly globalized world. I’ve also written a piece about them before. As ECPAT describes it child sex tourism occurs when an individual travels, either within their own country or internationally, and engages in sexual acts with a child. Some offenders engage in sexual acts with children out of experimentation often fueled by opportunity or a feeling of anonymity as a result of being away from their home.


Attending to conferences about Ethical Tourism, reading Codes and strategies for the future, working for Tourism Concern and studying Responsible Tourism Management, I’ve come to understand how sex exploitation (in tourism) is an increasingly notorious and ugly daily reality to millions of children worldwide. By seeking to ensure that children everywhere enjoy their fundamental rights free and secure from all forms of commercial sexual exploitation, the name ECPAT has become synonymous with action to stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children over the last 20 years.

Their work truly is among the most admirable and crucial in our world today.

To get involved and support ECPAT, please visit this site.

How Locals Feel about the Practice of Slum Tourism?

Just came across the Independent travel cats. It’s made by a couple passionate about traveling and makes up a very good site in terms of being shaped as a blog with a great variety of content on many kinds of traveling.

What mostly caught my attention today was this very good update they recently posted on the increasingly debated concept of slum tourism.

Ill provide you with the link, but this is how it starts:

Have you ever heard of slum tourism? This is a tourist practice where travelers visit poor areas of the global South to view the impoverished conditions of local inhabitants. Organized slum  tours exist around the world in cities such as Mexico City, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro. The worldwide success of the film Slumdog Millionaire significantly increased the number of Western travelers signing up for tours which promise to guide them through the stench-filled slums of Mumbai, India.

While the practice of slum tourism is certainly not a new concept—for instance, 19th century wealthy Londoners would sometimes go “slumming” in the poorer neighborhoods of London—there has been an increase in the number of organized tours worldwide which has fueled discussion about this controversial practice. 


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Then , the authors provide the reader with a Brief Summary of the Arguments For and Against Slum Tourism:

Arguments in support of the practice: 1) profitable business practice that employs locals who live in these impoverished areas, 2) opens Westerners eyes to poverty in other parts of the world and perhaps motivates them to do something, 3) many tours donate a percentage of their profits back to the community in some way (e.g., maintaining parks, schools, or community centers), 4) increasing tourism to these areas leads to increased income for locals selling products and services, and 5) increased tourism leads to increased government investment in infrastructure (e.g., roads, telecommunications, bridges, water supply) that will benefit both travelers and locals.

Arguments against this practice: 1) slum tourism is a practice only geared towards making profits out of viewing the poverty of others, 2) the practice is exploitative and voyeuristic, 3) locals do not like or want to be put on display for tourists and feel demoralized by it, 4) most tourists only visit out of curiosity, not with the intent of giving back to the community, and 5) viewing poverty in an idealized manner only downplays the real and horrendous living conditions of people in the slums.

From there the authors go on sharing their opinion about how it’s interesting that much of the commentary on slum tourism comes from those living in the industrialized Western world and is predominately based on opinions and anecdotal information. They then point on what many researchers (including myself) have started debating. That it’s more important to hear from those who actually live in these areas, and to collect this data using empirical methods.

Here you can take a look at their summary of a research article that recently was published in Annals of Tourism Research. It specifically investigates whether slum tourism can be a responsible practice by gathering information from both local inhabitants working in the slums and from local experts involved in developing these areas.

Travel Research: How do Locals Feel about the Practice of Slum Tourism?

If you want to read more about slum tourism research, have a look at what I’ve written about my own experiences. Check this post about how I researched the phenomenon in Cape Town,  this post about the key findings of my research and this post about what I defined as Responsible Slum Tourism for my research project.

Also, before doing my research, I wrote about my first visit to a township in South Africa, divided into not one, but two more posts actually (no wonder I eventually researched the topic, I got so passionate about it when first visiting!!)

Graduation bliss

Phui, what a weekend! What a year. What a master’s course!

I’m officially graduated! As a proud holder of a Master’s degree in Responsible Tourism Management I traveled to Leeds for Graduation day July 26th to wear the gown & silly hat, reunite with co-students from the course as well as our teachers – in order to celebrate this fine event.

As I had to go straight from and to work I flew in to London on Thursday, took the train to Leeds on Friday and trained over to Manchester the very same night to catch a plane back to Norway. Flight tickets were horrendously expensive this weekend so this route was my best option.

But: I missed the plane on my way back. Due to my never ending fashion of gambling on last possible transports to an airport and trusting the options being on time. This time it wasn’t, so I arrived to the check in desk too late.


I had to go back to Leeds (1,5 h) and drown my sorrows (the new flight ticket I had to purchase cost 300 pounds) there together with an already cheerful crew of graduates. Not the worst of options, but oh my, do I regret my ‘fashion’!?

You live, you learn.


I just have to go

Like I’ve mentioned before I kept a diary throughout my whole childhood and teenagers. Although the content got a bit more serious throughout the years, developing from drawing hearts and writing lists over the boys I had kissed in class to listing goals and wishes for my adult (love) life, it’s pretty obvious I’ve always been a dreamer.


Not too long ago I went through the diary I had at 17 and realised how strong my dream of “living abroad” was from an early age. I don’t know at what age it started really; I just had this vision about eternal happiness through traveling and world discovery, and even knew I had to learn more languages to get there.

And here I still am. At 31. If possible, in an even more intense way now than before.

Looking back: At 22 I went to Cuba and started realising that Spanish dream of mine, beginning with the language. Later that year I was accepted as a volunteer through a youth organisation in Barcelona and spent 6 months there. At 26 I went to Buenos Aires for a year, including all the journeys (internal and external) that led to in that region, and at 28 I moved to Ibiza, then London – twice –  and at 30 to Cape Town for 6 months.

The past year I dedicated to the master’s degree in Responsible Tourism Management which at its best has told me THIS topic really is my field, and at its worst has confused the shit out of me. Who do I want to be professionally, where do I want to live, what is it I really want to do in this life? How important is it anyway with a degree? If I want to write anyway, can’t I just do that…? And travel? Must it be academic? I do love researching… But journalists research a lot too!?

My little audience: I would love, love, love your feedback on these thoughts. I’m currently “working” fulltime on researching how to become a researcher (hah!), freelance journalist as well as academic. I will apply for work within all fields and although I’m good at living “here & now” and daily say to myself the same thing we all have to say when getting up in the morning: “who knows where this day takes me”, it would also feel good to soon have some clearer answers, or nailed projects.


Why township tourism?

If you’ve read some my blog, you know by now that slum- and township tourism are tourism phenomena that interest me a lot. After having experienced my first such tour ever in 2009, I wrote about it from a traveler’s personal point of view here.

After starting my master’s degree in Responsible Tourism Management (RTM) where I learned more about complex tourism mechanisms and impact studies from poor areas globally, I also read a lot more about slum tourism from an academic point of view (which Ive shared here stressing why a Responsible Tourism approach in particular is important in the field of slum tourism), and from the media’s point of view (shared here & here stressing that the phenomenon is a lot more complex than “good or bad”, thus needs solutions for improvement).

Since I started sharing my views on township and slum tourism, I may not have explained thoroughly why I finally chose to research township tourism for my final research project for my Master’s degree. Part from rationalising a little in the posts linked to above. I’ve therefore chosen to copy and paste a little from my final report (that was awarded with a Distinction). It regards the reason for why I finally wanted to study township tourism for my final project.

During a holiday in Cape Town in 2009 I went on a township tour. Not knowing much about tourism to urban impoverished areas at the time, but concerned about how the communities would benefit from my visit, I looked for an ethical company I could trust. To my positive surprise I found out that not only tour companies, but also the government’s tourism body assure that tourism is beneficial to the township communities as well as very educational for the visitor.

Any specific initiatives were not indicated, yet tours were promoted as a ‘must’ to learn about African culture. I decided to book a tour with a small local company and liked the experience as it was indeed eye-opening and the residents I met were welcoming. However, ever since I was unable to stop thinking about what is in it for local populations.

Therefore, three years later, the choice of subject for my final research project during the Master’s program Responsible Tourism Management was easy. I went to Cape Town to investigate the scope of community beneficial initiatives within township tourism. During the 4 weeks of fieldwork in the townships Langa and Khayelitsha I explored six tour operators’ actions and opinions related to previously identified issues of concerns in the field of slum tourism, by interviewing them about their responsible practices and participating on their tours. I also interviewed forty inhabitants from the most visited areas about their perceptions of tourism impacts and four representatives from the local government about current work on responsible tourism in the field.

Now that Ive got good feedback on my report and Ive agreed on it being available online, Ill also soon reveal some of the findings from my research for you. They are important and should be interesting to people far outside of the Academic field too.

Read about the key findings from my research here.

Gipsy giraffe’s real name is Jeanett Andrea Søderstrøm and Im a Norwegian girl that early grew very tall physically and over time into a world-thirsty, awareness-seeking, free-spirited person.


Early in life I dreamed of living in many places as an adult, and to pursuit that dream I learned Spanish in Cuba in 2004 and soon after moved to Barcelona, working as a volunteer. Back in Oslo I got a Bachelor degree in Human Geography and Social Anthropology, during which I lived for a year in Buenos Aires. After two years as a Spanish teacher in Oslo I moved to Ibiza for love, and not only got a brilliant opportunity to get to know one of the most magical places on earth, but also its vibrant tourism and music sector.

In January 2011 I got an internship as the Social Media manager in the unique NGO Tourism Concern and that’s when my longtime interest for Ethical Tourism, Human Rights work and Social Media communication took off. I lived between Ibiza and London in 2010 to 2012, before taking a career step that seemed perfect for someone who constantly questions and investigates how tourism impacts people and the world for the better or worse: the Master program Responsible Tourism Management (at Leeds Metropolitan University).

For the final research project of my Master’s degree I moved to Cape Town (a city I already had fallen in love with twice) in 2012-13 to research (responsible) tourism practices and impacts in deprived townships. Now I’m is based in Europe, yet with no specific plan for where to go next, but tons of travel and project desires.

Wherever I’ve lived – and in between the working periods in Norway – I always prioritise visiting new places around the world and write texts about them on my blog, and occasionally for the media. Now my dreams are

1) To be able to make a living by writing inspiring, fun, socially and politically aware stories about my own travels & the industry. 2) To get into more comprehensive research work and assist in consulting organisations to develop trends within RTM.

I’m devoted to keep pursuing what makes me happy, and on my way I’ve found out that this entails allowing my restless body to keep moving – and often outside of my comfort zone – always seeking to understand people & places. I also happen to be a music lover, thus often travel with music’s flow – especially if it takes me to random festivals around the world. However, this blog doesn’t solely feature my own trips as I use other sources than my own experiences too – in order to express general and different, in addition to personal angles – on how we all can travel for change in this incredibly wonderful, but also shockingly cynical world of ours.

I hope it can inspire you.


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(Media) issues with slum tourism

As media coverage about slum tourism is increasing there are reasons to believe more and more people get aware of such a thing even existing. However after reading many of the news cases myself, I often fear that they give people a way too polarised picture to a very complex phenomenon.

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See the full article here

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See the full article here

See link:

See the full article here

Yup. A media article often ask “Is it ethical to visit a slum, or is it not”? or “Is it exploitative poverty porn, or can it actually benefit the poor”?

The answers to all the four questions above are yes. Yes, slum tourism can be ethical, yes it can be unethical. Yes it can be exploitative poverty porn and yes, it can actually benefit the poor.

It really depends on many factors, right? As much as it depends on the tourist’s behaviour it depends on the company with whom you’re traveling with for slum tourism to be ethical. The same goes for when it’s not ethical. And logically, it also depends on the eye that sees: Two slum resident families may perceive tourists coming into their neighbourhood very differently, regardless of whether money from the tour goes to a school near by or whether the tourists are smiling and acting respectfully while they pass by.


Tourism per definition is highly complex. It’s a floating phenomenon taking place within places, hihgly dependent on human beings’ behaviour, choices and imaginations: Thus it’s constantly changing and developing and able to both improve and demean the lives of people, the various regions and the trends it impacts upon. But to understand it or judge it, it’s simply impossible to break it down into yes or no questions.

So.. To understand more of different tourism issues then, who do we ask, who do we trust and how do we find ways to travel as ethically as possible ourselves? In tourism overall, communication of this has only recently started to take off. Fortunately there is a trend in many major industries to talk about stakeholders’ social and economic responsibility.

I guess most would agree with the statement that tourism to any area should impact positively in terms of benefits to destination areas and their residents. Thus I guess most would definitely agree that tourism in typically impoverished areas should be a powerful tool for poverty alleviation.

However, the relationship between poverty and tourism is rather controversial and tourism is often regarded as being more harmful than beneficial to poor communities (wherever), and that is actually the main issue with tourism in the world today, and the very reason why I personally chose to go for a career in the field of Responsible Tourism.

When traveling I had started to see myself in the eyes of the locals, as just another tourist, one out of many.. Then I thought more and more about the immense impact we obviously have on places and societies. I got aware that travel is an extreme luxury product for the ones that can afford it, and saw myself as extremely privileged to even talk about my next holiday surrounded by people that don’t even use that word.

Just think about it: Traveling in the modern world represent the purchase of a product which takes wealthy people from the modern world (and poorer countries) out of our daily lives to somewhere else (more and more commonly to developing countries) in order to see new places and live new experiences far away from home. It undeniably brings an unbelievable added value to our lives.

No wonder this quote has gone viral on Facebook & Instagram lately:


What we often forget however, is to think about how our travels add value to the lives of the people in the destinations we visit. Is it really enough with us just arriving in their countries? Is it enough that we spend money on eating fancy dinners and sleeping in local hotels?

Well, it’s not of course. However, I could go into the it depends– arguments again, because it obviously does depend on various factors.

But when it comes to slum tourism there are many issues and controversies, and although it’s good you read whatever the media presents about the topic, it’s important to grasp the more profound debates about the complexities. And hopefully in the future more suggestions for actions and improvements to such a phenomenon.

Therefore I’d like to share some subtracts from my academic research report about the issues with slum tourism. To cut a post short, Ill post it separately here.