Reality Tours – tourism with difference

Tourism is a huge business. Some countries are almost solely depending on it. For other countries, even though they have other revenue streams, tourism is still big. China for example, enjoyed an income of US$ 137 billion on 2007 from tourism alone.

Imagine when a portion of this money is spent on the poorest areas instead.

That’s what Reality Tours (Wired.com called it Poverty Tours) can do.

First time I heard about it is in that Wired article linked above. Actually I have thought about it, but for my own family. I asked my wife to think about & arrange visits to poor areas with the kids. This will help to expand their horizon.
Last time we went around, my kids were surprised that there are houses with no (ceramic) floor. There are houses with no electricity, no taps. There are people who had to walk very far, just to get a bucket of water. And so on.
We took too much for granted, this makes us less grateful at times, and I aim to fix that.

This Reality Tours idea expanded it for others. This is truly brilliant.
For the tourists themselves, this would not be only fun, but also an eye-opening experience.
Visiting the poorest areas is a totally different experience than your standard holiday, where the aim are just for fun – and nothing else. They will find out totally different things. They will see humanity in all sorts of conditions – and still thriving.

Some of my best mentor are the poorest ones. It’s amazing to see them always smiling, while facing hardships daily. Actually it may be only my opinion, because they doesn’t seem to think of their problems as hardships. They are able to enjoy life in any kind of situation.
Simply beautiful.

Us ? We are stressed when the roads are jammed. We are panicked when the computers are down. We don’t know what to do when the internet access is disconnected.
I am always humbled whenever I met with these great people.

Also I noted that spending is only an instant gratification. It tires you SO much later – so much stuff, what to spend next, where, how, etc. Especially spending on a holiday. At the end of it, sometimes you were left gobsmacked – did I bought all of that? what for? How much ??? And so on.
But, when you’re spending on something that you know are helping others, the effects are so much more lasting. It seems that this is the way the deepest core of humanity were coded.
This is what Reality Tours are offering – a truly refreshing experience. Unlike normal holidays, which may left us tired at the end, and made us unhappy to go to work at the next day (seems familiar?).
The new horizons gained from the Reality Tours will energize us, and brings out the best from us. You don’t aim for fun in these tours, but trust me, you will have a lot of it, and will be enjoying it for a lot longer.

In Indonesia, however, I don’t think you can bring foreigners into the deepest slums in Jakarta. Probably in some areas, but generally this can be very dangerous. Unless you know the people and the gangs in that slum very well.

A much better destinations would be the countryside. The landscape are beautiful, and the people are far more graceful.
A taste of this may be enjoyed in JAM (Jika Aku Menjadi), a unique TV programme created by the well-known Satrio Arismunandar. In its episodes, an urban dwellers will be selected and then taken to a family at the countryside to live there for some time.

A truly touching example is the episode where the actress lived in a duck herder’s family. It’s very hard to imagine a family of 5 living on a cup of rice – for 2 days.

Yet they’re still happy, and they’re grateful with what they have. Imagine how joyful they were when someone gave them Rp 1 million (about US$ 90), so they were able to increase the size of their herd.

It’s a truly humbling experience, and makes you realize about things that really matters.

So, if you’re going to arrange Reality Tours, let me know. If it’s any good, we’re signing up.

154 thoughts on “Reality Tours – tourism with difference

  1. Pak Harry, to be honest I am not convinced with Reality Tourism specially (hm sorry) related with reality show tv). I am bit skeptic about Poverty Tours (sounds bit like we enjoy poverty -wish I am mistaken) but indeed I tried what so called volunteering. We built school, fixed the board chalk, chairs and even tought the kids. I’m prefer to be part of the ‘tourism’ rather than sit and watch.
    I was wondering if I have my own kids whom used to living in such privileges (car, house, education, toys, etc). I want take them to remote country to share experience, integrate with locals and bring various childhood memories.

  2. How would the poor people feel being tourism objects?

    Promoting helping poor people as tourism might work to attract the public’s interest, but the subject could be very sensitive to the poor people. This needs to be approached really carefully and thoughtfully so that it would not offend anyone.

    The “tourism” system must be developed such that the poor people receive the biggest benefit, not the tour operators or any other party (I’m not saying they cant make money from it).

  3. Hi mbak Ambar & mas Ronny, thanks for joining in.
    .
    Personally, I would be most sceptical as well. However, the article on Wired discusses this kind of business which have been running for 16 years. Looks like it’s running very welll so far.
    Of course it’s all boils down to the execution – done poorly, it can become very tasteless.
    .
    So I guess this is not only a feasible business, but also already accepted by the people / tour objects as well. When done properly, this can be very beneficial, both to the subject and to the object.
    .
    Re: making money, I like how Mr Fantozzi are telling people that they’re not getting any money by begging to the tourists – but they will have plenty of it if they sell something.
    .
    But the biggest benefit of this, I think, is that it helps expand our horizon. These are the kind of events that can inspire. And when somebody has been inspired, they can do great things. I think you have seen that kind of thing around yourselves for quite several times already.
    .
    Thanks.

  4. i’ve been reality traveling for 5 years now, have to say that it seems that the locals are preety cool with being tourism object cuase it translates to money for them, which they realy need. i truely recommand going to these places it opened my mind and heart,
    Hayden Nielsen.

  5. I loved your article… its quite inspiring and I think you are 100% right. Reality tours can be both educational, inspiring and benefit the local area in a positive way which isnt always just financial.

  6. An expert on adventurous travel and festival tours in southwest China, organises Yunnan tour, Tibet tour, Guizhou tour, with motor travel, camping, trekking and mountaineering tours.

  7. Thanks for the article.

    I’m from Northern Ireland and tourism is only really starting to take hold here since the beginning of the peace process. But people are definately loving our beautiful wee country

  8. Reality tourism can provide not just a boost in tourism, but a sustainable boost… thats the key to a successful tourism business plan – making it sustainable.

  9. This is a pretty good article. I understand why some people are saying that touring is a bad idea and some people might not like it because it seems degrading, but I think this is a great idea and experience for most people. I believe that the people in rural areas will appreciate that people are visiting them and seeing that not everyone in the world is living in luxurious places, it may make people appreciate things more and hopefully help them have better lives. I mean they may be happy with their life, but I’m sure them having water close by for everyday use. My parents moved from Vietnam and they have told me many stories, for example there is a river that is used to wash clothes and to cook food. But that same river is also used as a toilet, and the fish eat the poop, and the people eat the fish… We have to find a better way for them to feed fish.

  10. Although it is very good to enjoy trips and holidays in that way but how many of us would like to go there in poor areas? First of first, there are security risks then majority of us have dreams to spend holidays on hill tops or Europe or UK so it is rather difficult to plan such tours.

  11. There definately needs to be a better way to feed the fish!

    Seriously though great article and great idea. Well done to the founders I wish them every success

  12. It really is amazing to see how the majority of the world actually lives. Especially when you compare it to our lifestyle here in the west. I think that Reality Tours should be almost mandatory! thanks for posting this great idea.

  13. Yeah,very well said..tourism is such a huge industry, but it relies entirely with people having high purchasing power…with this economic crisis , will this industry still survive???

  14. thought traveling might delcine a small amount, tourism in general will never disapear. people are always going to travel, maybe less during economic harships like now, but it will pick back up soon. i love to travel, and i know there are lots of people out there that feel the same

  15. Your experience is very interesting. I like travel so much so your share is useful for me! Thanks for your share!

  16. I found a great idea for my next tour. Maybe reality tourism is one of greatest achievement to be done this year. I am very much interested in exploring lives and cultures of different people. In such a way, both end will help each other. Have someone tried to volunteer here in charities and institutions in a third world countries? I will be glad if you could share your insights here. Thanks and more power.

  17. @Randy – it’s called “Poorism” or “Slum Tours” here.
    .
    Here’s an article on that : http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/06/09/taking-a-tour-poor-side.html
    .
    Quoted :
    .
    As the debate continues, one man is already taking the global trend of poverty tourism – or “poorism” – to Jakarta’s kampungs (villages).
    .
    At the Sanggar Ciliwung, hearing stories about how members of the local community organize themselves to compost waste and provide nonformal education for the children, the two tour participants appeared even more amazed.
    .
    This is the kind of story you’d never get from regular tourism.
    .
    A third of the fee goes to paying the guides, 17 percent goes to Ronny’s NGO the Interkultur Foundation, 15 percent is given as donations to the families and community organizations they visit and the rest is used to cover tour participants’ expenses.

  18. Great post. Tourism sector is indeed a thriving market and should not be neglected. The revenue figures are staggering. Some countries do depend a lot on tourism. Tourism has been deeply affected with recession lately. People are traveling less and less and saving for basic expenses rather.

  19. What a great vacation for our children, that is a good idea. Our children have not seen hardship or making do with what you have. One thing, I wonder, how safe would these countries be? But what a great way to remember gratitude.

  20. It is certain that the idea of reality tours will be an eye opening experience to everyone. Your article really touched my heart. Thanks a lot for such a beautiful article.

  21. It is sure Reality tourism will be an eye opening experience to everyone. Your article really impressed me lot. I look forward to read your article in the future.

  22. humans are born to thrive in any situation, it is one of the many gifts we have. if you live in a bad situation, you strive to better yourself and your surroundings. working together helps the process and involves other useful minds. great post – thanks.

  23. The โ€œtourismโ€ system must be developed such that the poor people receive the biggest benefit, not the tour operators or any other party (Iโ€™m not saying they cant make money from it).

  24. Just seeing the standard everyday attractions. They want an experience that will be etched with them forever and these tours will do thatโ€ฆ I hope more catch on in the future as we could all learn a lot from them.

  25. Thank for this info.
    This reality tourism is a great idea. It is not about how people when considered as tourism object. I like to meat people and know how they live when I travel. I like to villages when I travel to another country and meet people there. At the same time I feel proud when people coming to visit my country and socialize with us.

  26. Hopefully, tourism in Indonesia… especially in Bali will growing up. It will increase national income. Thanks….

  27. I absolutely agree with that China is a big tourist country now as its economics growth and and hardware infrastructures improved alot. However, many friends in China told me that the “soft” parts are not able to keep up with the “hard” parts. That includes the foreign language ability, etc. So, if you really want to travel around China, you may need to learn some basic Mandarin. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. There are many good landscape views in this world, just by sitting at home we can see many great views ๐Ÿ˜€
    But many tourism from other country pay a lot of money just to see a great landscape.

  29. I think your heart is in the right place.

    However, in our city, a middle class family touring the poorer neighborhoods, would be extremely foolhardy.

    We have reports all the time of middle class folks mistakenly wandering into poor sections and being robbed and beaten. We also have police warnings to stay away from those areas, especially if your family has the wrong skin color.

    I am talking about the US here.

    Of course, there are famous cases of foreign tourists being killed in Florida, but the problem is relatively common in any of America’s big cities.

    The most dangerous place of them all is where we live, Washington D.C. There are more muggings of middle class people in D.C. than anywhere in the world.

    The place is a virtual police state and I would be guilty of violating every principle of common sense to subject my kids to that kind of danger.

    Even my husband, a strapping man, was mugged in one of D.C’s poorer sections.

    If you have additional information that would encourage us to be braver, please share it. We respect your opinions.

    Beth

    My favorite hobby shop:

    ToysPeriod is a leading online shop specializing in lego sets and model railroad equipment.

  30. I think this is a great idea and experience for most people. I believe that the people in rural areas will appreciate that people are visiting them and seeing that not everyone in the world is living in luxurious places, it may make people appreciate things more and hopefully help them have better lives.

  31. Tourism is a HUGE industry and I really think it will survive even though this economic crisis. The most important is to adjust the tourism to the situation and try to get of it the best, according to the reality.

  32. Tourism is really highly developed in the most part of the whole world.And it’ll surely survive ANY crisis definitely – everyone will want to have a rest abroad.

  33. Tourism is a huge business, your not wrong, I am feeling that you really are making some very strong points I have a hoilday coming soon, and I dont really want to think about the family of 5 living on a cup of rice for a couple of days, the world is so unjust. Would me not going on a hoilday help these problems. I have Herbal business we sell herbs and superfoods and I work very hard, I do need a break. However, the world is on my shoulders.
    Good blog – thanks.

  34. For some countries tourism is the only income source. So it was for Kyrgyzstan. Is there anybody who wants to travel to that country?

  35. I know that for some countries tourism is the only source of income because the country might be really poor. But for the landscape and images, sometimes it’s worth to travel even in the most far away country. There are always carnival cruises ready to take people on board and take them to unforgettable lands and cities. At least once in your life you should try the cruises.

  36. I think tourism can be foreign exchange resource of the country that have tourist attractions place. So right! tourism industry will survive…

  37. Lapindo mud you know? some time ago, it became the early appearance of local tourism. But now to be a national disaster and still could not overcome. I had visited it once because iam curios.

  38. any time we need to visit the poor people so that we can be more thankful to God. and we must share with those less fortunate. if necessary, we take trips together to enjoy this natural beauty. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  39. Unique and fun vacations now include cultural tours. These uniquely designed and organized tours offer some of the most unusual vacations available around the world. Tourists are visitors to the community and are welcomed with open arms to enjoy the best of the community including attractions such as tours and fun activities designed for visitors. Cultural tours are different; they invite tourists to become a part of the community. The visitor is able to step beyond the facade created for the visitor and they are invited to partake in the intimacy and daily life of the community.

  40. Tapi banyak daerah juga belum terexpose karena kurang dana, gimana cari investornya nih…supaya turis buruan masuk???

  41. Many who are looking to buy property in Bulgaria wonder how they can move there permanently and still make a living. One of the things which most often springs to mind is something in the tourism sector, such a a bed and breakfast in the countryside. Until now the higher-spending independent travellers who would use small b and b’s in Bulgaria have been just a dream.

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  43. well, reality tours are just for those who can afford to go for vacations. What about the people who can watch and wish for these places

  44. This is a very insightful article. I agree with the commentators that take the view that the poor would not mind an influx of tourism. In my travels, I have never felt that this is the case. An opportunity to make a little hard currency and see strangers from very different lives (the locals are also having a tourist experience of their own) is not negative.

  45. Very good article. I think tourism is really great as people nowadays really need to expand their view. So many people just trapped in one view which is pretty shame. Its really a huge industry as u mentioned!

  46. you may be right in a way, lots of things depends upon the government of the Country itself, its upon them if they give good try on Domestic Tourism, it will not only benefit them but can be a way of promotion to international tourism indirectly, even during crises.

  47. I saw a reality show, where a family of 15 or 20 people, including grandfather, mother, father, children and grandhildren in India were all living in a one room house. Everybody had their own job, but they all shared one community bank account. But what was most remarkable, was that they all seemed happy. In fact, they seemed happier than some of our rich folks living in their mansions.

    What is happiness, really?

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  49. I’m from Las Vegas, an obviously large tourism destination. Having lived there for so many years and spending a few years working on the Strip, I know how important tourism can be to a local economy. However, on a personal note, when traveling I’m more likely to avoid signing up with a company. Ideally, I would meet some locals ahead of time and have them showing places some company would not.

  50. Sounds like a great idea – it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves just how lucky we are to have what we’ve got. There is always someone worse off than us. I especially liked your comments about what a big deal it is to some of us when the internet goes down and yet there are people living on bowls of rice! Great article. Thanks

  51. Great article, definitely reminds us how lucky we are to have what we’ve got which we very often take for granted! We should be more grateful! Thanks

  52. Thank you for the article. There are so many places in the world where we can be educated in the way people live, what we can do to help sustain them, as well as experience the culture and magnificence of the place you’re visiting.

  53. Never occurred to me about touring poor areas. I do know that some people do it intentionally with their children and especially with children that don’t realize how fortunate they are compared to other people and the kids come away with a new appreciation for life and are a bit humbled after such an experience.

  54. My friend and I are planning to go to India, and I know this sounds weird, but ever since I’v seen Slumdog Millionaire, I really want to go check out the slums in Mumbai through my own eyes on weekend jobs, I just don’t know what to expect.. is it safe? and has anyone heard of Reality Tours in Mumbai? Could you tell me a little about it. Would you recommend it?

  55. It is a pretty good post. This post contains useful information which helps us a lot. I have never seen such a great post. your wonderful post can inspire a lot and helps us. I visit your website often and share with my friends.

  56. I can’t say I know how it feels like to live in poverty now, but I can surely relate to that because my family were once struggling with finance too… Living in the capital city of Indonesia is hard. That’s for sure.

  57. Thanks for this great article. Definitely for true experiences!! Travellling in poor areas is the way to appreciate our western lives and help these people to improve their living standards.

  58. how to be a successful tour business ..? I am a new person in the world of business. please provide me feedback

  59. In the past I believed this kind of povery tours were for bored rich people only. I found them simply disgusting! Now I changed my mind: they can give the opportunity to rich men to see how real world is like and to realize the luck the have had being born on the right side of Earth. If this business can help poor countries with some money, well, that’s even better!

    Luca

  60. This is a great spin on normal travel. Some of the most beautiful places in the world are very poor. I also enjoy visiting these places for the beauty and the smack back to reality. It makes you realize how much you don’t need to be happy.

  61. It really is amazing to see how the majority of the world actually lives. Especially when you compare it to our lifestyle here in the west. I think that Reality Tours should be almost mandatory! thanks for posting this great idea.

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  63. it is really good article.. i have blog something like this… about the travel, tourism, adventure holidays, vacations. I hope u can visiting to my blog, thx

  64. Thanks for the article.
    Iโ€™m from Northern Ireland and tourism is only really starting to take hold here since the beginning of the peace process. But people are definately loving our beautiful wee country

  65. You have very valid concerns. it is heart breaking to witness the disparities between the rich and poor regions in China. It only seems reasonable when some of the revenues collected from tourism is used to improve the quality of life in this poverty stricken regions. Do not hesitate to click on the link below whenever you are in need of article critique formatting services:
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