In A Nutshell
Imagine you had zillions of dollars. What would you do? You could go mad in Las Vegas, play the stock market like a total boss, or spend the rest of your life cruising round the Mediterranean. On the other hand, you could also shell out hundreds of dollars to stay in a fake South African shantytown, set up to enable luxury tourists to experience “poverty” without discomfort.
The Whole Bushel
Every now and then, a story about the mega-rich will come along that sorely tempts you to just give it all up and become a Marxist revolutionary. This is one of those stories.
South Africa is a country of extreme divides—between rich and poor, white and black, urban and countryside. The very richest live a life of utter luxury, while the very poorest are herded into shantytowns that are rife with violence, addiction, and misery. For a rich Westerner, the idea of traveling through one of these towns and experiencing a frisson of authentic poverty can seem pretty tempting. Unfortunately, it also means having to encounter actual, real, poor people and maybe even engaging in a tiny bit of activism. But now a hotel chain has come up with a solution: They’ve constructed a “luxury shantytown” so wealthy people can pretend to slum it for nearly $100 a night.
Situated in a private reserve and built from corrugated iron, the complex is intended to be hired out for theme nights and parties (or simply because you’re a callous blowhard). Shacks come complete with underfloor heating and free Wi-Fi and are intended to give an “authentic” experience of South African poverty. As you may have guessed, this “authenticity” doesn’t stretch to any level of discomfort or anything more than simply looking slummy.
Now, this isn’t the first time companies have tried stuff like this: There’s a hotel in London that charges extra to let you stay in what appears to be decrepit squat. But it may be the first time any company has tried it with such a staggering lack of tact. As Time magazine noted, this is a “whole different kind of tone deaf.”