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  • London’s ‘Unseen Tours’: Slumming or Social Tourism?

    Claudia Dolezal, Jayni Gudka

    Chapter from the book: Smith A. & Graham A. 2019. Destination London: The Expansion of the Visitor Economy.


    This chapter investigates the work of Unseen Tours, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in London which offers a source of income to homeless, formerly homeless and vulnerably housed Londoners by employing them as tour guides. The aim of the chapter is to raise awareness of the work of Unseen Tours in the context of London’s changing visitor economy and to relate it to the wider debates on slum tourism, societal change in the city and the idea of the ‘tourist gaze’. It explores the fine line that exists between selling and commodifying poverty and making a social contribution to poor peoples’ lives, for example by creating new and alternative livelihoods as part of an ethical and responsible tourism agenda. This chapter calls not only for the inclusion of homeless tour guiding in the debates over the tourism-poverty nexus, but also for increased research efforts into this recent social phenomenon arguing that homeless tour guiding is driven by tourists’ desire to learn about the ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ London. Thus the argument that this guiding is the new form of slum tourism or poorism seems difficult to justify.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Dolezal C. & Gudka J. 2019. London’s ‘Unseen Tours’: Slumming or Social Tourism?. In: Smith A. & Graham A (eds.), Destination London. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book35.g

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on May 21, 2019