Whta you know about tribal tourism
Travelling is all about opening your eyes to new places, people and ways of life. But unfortunately, sometimes we’re so eager for an exciting experience that we can’t see the effects of our choices, and it’s all too easy to stop thinking about them once you’re back home.
While tourists are increasingly aware of the need to consider the environment when they travel, and to be aware of animal rights violations, fewer are informed about their impact on indigenous people. Here, we explain a little about what tribal tourism is, and why you need to take great care if you’re considering it.
What exactly is tribal tourism?
Tribal tourism is visiting a place in order to see or meet the indigenous people who live there. “Ethno-tourism” and “ethnic tourism” are sometimes used to describe the same thing. As the name implies, this isn’t the same thing as an expedition for anthropological research, but a trip for recreational purposes.
Why are people interested in this kind of tourism?
For some people, it’s an educational opportunity – travel is a way of learning more about the world and yourself, and meeting new people can be a part of that. Others feel that, in our globalised age, they’ll have a more memorable, authentic experience of a place if they see its indigenous cultures.
And for others still, it’s simply a voyeuristic exercise: they want to see people whose appearance and way of life looks very different to their own.
What positive effects can it have?
Tribal tourism can have a lot of positive effects. Done sensitively, it can help people learn about and appreciate different ways of life. For indigenous communities, it can facilitate cultural exchange and celebration. And for those that are struggling to maintain their livelihoods and traditions, it’s also a way of educating others about their situation, earning some money and playing an active part in the maintenance of their culture.
And what about the negative aspects?
Tribal tourism can cause immense damage – and sadly, more often than not, this is the case. There are profound economic, environmental and cultural effects of this kind of tourism, with each usually worsening the other.
These issues are complex, and you should make sure you know what’s going on before participating in any sort of tribal tourism. The Mursi tribe in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valleyare one example. Following forced resettlements and depletion of the resources on which they depend, they have been forced to use tourism to help make ends meet.