Since the dawn of time tourism has been the main driving force to connect people from all corners of the world. An apparatus used to breakdown invisible walls that led to our disconnect as a people of the world. Some even call tourism the main antidote to cure ignorance. Derogative preconceive ideas about a certain people, lack of understanding all of that has been put to sleep because of traveling.Because of its unique ability to expose peopleto new worlds, new environments it then become a prerequisite for creativity and innovation, cultural exchange and heightened our level of tolerance and acceptance of others and cultures. We have learned to appreciate the world and its diversity even more through tourism. Tourism has opened new business ideas and open doors for new job opportunities throughout the globe. If we are to bring it home to South Africa we have witness communities that did not get the opportunity to express themselves as travel destinations in the past growing, those who were once in the periphery becoming key role players in tourism. Today we see townships and rural communities receiving platforms to take advantage of the opportunities that tourism industry has to offer.
Tourism has grown, evolved and took different shapes and its seems like it’s in constant state of change. We are constantly introduced to different ways to travel and experience the world. But sadly we have also witnessed how tourism can take the less desired opposite direction. Where communities became sources of exploitation or how over exposure of certain spaces has led to those spaces dilapidating. When those who are in power and those who provide tour related services negate principles of responsible tourism, undesired outcomes come flooding down and what was a reputable travel destination and a key economic source for some becomes corrupted and stymied.
As a point of departure it was imperative that we highlight both extremes, the good and the not so good aspects of tourism so that one gets to understand in writing this paper one was not blinded by euphoric aspiration that negated the reality of things. If we are to discuss how tourism stimulates social transformation for the better an overall function of the industry needs to be understood and we need to be aware of its unintended consequences.
In modern day South Africa we still find ill resourced communities who are incorrectly labeled as previously disadvantaged communities where as the reality is, these communities are still by today’s standards very much disadvantaged. In the tourism space these communities have been pushed to the periphery as the unwanted options that the visitor can opt for but not much is done to sell them.
Communities highly infested with social ills they sold as havens for superficial humanitarian work but to as destination where one can experience these communities.The travelers choice has been made for them by the main stream tour operator before the travelers even set foot in the country to walk away from these communities. What has shocked the industry is how these communities have used tourism as tool to transform the very same unwanted dwellings in the periphery.
Khayelitsha township has been one of the leading communities who exceptionally exhibited this kind of thinking. In Khayelitsha we find innovative organizations like 18gangsterMuseum, this museum aims to teach young people about the implications of joining gangs so they can take informed decision for the future and not take wrong route. How this museum has used tourism as means to drive social change is a remarkable story to tell, the travelers come flooding to visit the museum because of how the museums allows them to have an authentic experience while contributing towards societal change. The museum provides the travelers with three different packages , a museum tour, an immersive walking tour and a well curated bike tour. The museum created a one for one model where the each traveler that comes to 18gangster museum and partakes in an experience does not only pay for themselves but also pay for a young person in the community to come and take part in the programs rendered by the museum for free of charge. The traveler not only have a good times, get immersed in the township but also contribute towards bettering the conditions of the township itself . It even goes a step further, the travelers visit other local owned businesses and this builds the economy of the township and the benefits of this are tremendous.
This methodology employed by 18 gangster Museum gives us a blue print as to how can tourism can help stimulate societal transformation given the fact those wo are within the sector put in place requisite measures to make sure the desired objective is met and people are not exploited. This means today Khayelitsha township tour is key if we seek to have townships that are free of social ills.
If we are to put numbers to illustrate the size of the impact the museum has been able to work with over 4000 young people and has managed to amass 7000 visitors. This shows how people from the rest of the globe have changed the way in which they experience the townships. They are driven by the will promote social change.
The evolution of tourism has the industry taking different dimensions, it is mostly pleasing to see how it has now got to a point where it contributes towards driving social change. Khayelitsha township tour is on center stage today because of the wonderful work it managed to do for the development of the township. If tourism could continue on this trajectory it would mean a great deal for the travelers and the communities that the travelers travel to.
For more info visit www.18gm.co.za