lifestyle

For $100 a night, you can grotesquely insult poor people like this.

Shanty Town at Emoya Hotel & Spa

Thinking of a holiday?

Why not consider spending the night in a poverty stricken village in South Africa. And you get to pay $100 for the privilege.

Because this is where we’re at now, people. This is where we’re at.

Yes, for $86 per night plus $12 extra if you want breakfast, you can now holiday in a “luxury resort” that’s been disguised a shanty town.

A stay at Shanty Town at Emoya Hotel & Spa (located within a private game reserve) includes a “luxury” bungalow made of aluminium walls with a four bunk bed sleeping arrangement.

There is a catch, because you won’t be in complete poverty. If you stay at the shanty town, you still get a toilet, running water, electricity, under-floor heating and WiFi. But, you can still have the poverty experience if you choose to do your morning business in the communal long-drop than your private toilet. And to make the experience a bit more authentic there are paraffin lamps, candles and battery-operated radios to make you feel really poor.

So why stay in poverty? The resort claims it is “an ideal place for team building” (nothing like knowing what a jobless lifestyle can look like to get you motivated), fancy theme parties (poverty is trending people) or just to have an experience of a lifetime (because being poor is an “experience”).

And, so far, none of the cash you fork out goes to actual poor people. Just the tourism operators. Yuck.

Before I go on to call this resort the most stupid tourism idea, let me give you some background into Shanty towns.

A Shanty Town

Firstly, a shanty town is where a lot of South Africans live in complete poverty. They are homes that are mostly made of 5 sheets of aluminium (4 walls and a roof) which precariously lean against each other to form a home for at least 2 families. There are dirt roads, intermittent electricity and not a lot of running water.

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The families who live in the shanty towns live in such poverty that they usually wake before dawn to walk to the nearby intersection to beg drivers for money while stopped at a red light. Because this is their only way to make money.

I visited South Africa two years ago (I grew up there and left in the nineties) only to turn on the news and hear the first story about a shanty town population who murdered the local guy who worked at the electricity company. They were pissed off about the lack of electricity in their town.

Because here’s what  you need to know: shanty towns are now a representation of the left over effects of Apartheid.

When you squash an entire population there are going to be lasting effects.  When you pay parents barely enough money to pay for the bus ride from the shanty town to your home to cook, clean and care for your kids, you are setting them up for poverty.

A real home in a Shanty Town

When you make schools for black kids dangerous (simply for being a “black school”) then those kids grow up with no education and no job prospects. So you confine them to a life forever lived in a shanty town.

So, do I think paying money (more a night than people have to live on for a month) to have the privilege of living in a recreated slum sound like an awesome holiday? Hell no.

This new resort is about taking (and even celebrating) the lasting effects of apartheid and choosing to live in poverty as a ‘fun experience’.

I can think of few things more insulting to those for whom poverty is a devastating social condition and who don’t simply get to check out and return to a comfortable life after a few days.

What do you think of the idea of Shanty Town tourism? Are we being over sensitive? Would the idea be better if the profits went to improving the lives of people who actually live in Shanty Towns?

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