Shantytown meets luxury?

Sadly, some of the world’s most beautiful places are plagued by the underbelly of extreme poverty, and it’s fairly common for wealthy travelers to visit those places yet remain removed from the daily struggles of the local people.

But what if you’re curious about how the other half lives? Stay in a faux shantytown, of course!

South Africa’s Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa affords people with more money than sense the ability to pretend to slum it “within the safe environment of a private game reserve.”

This warped version of Third World meets resort is so absurd you’ll question its very existence. But as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. Here, you’ll find colorful iron shacks, outdoor bathrooms, battery-operated radios, under-floor heating and wireless Internet access. The best part: Guests will spend a third of the median South African monthly income in night, according to data from Statistics South Africa.

This is hardly a “walk a mile in their shoes” experience, but rather a mockery of the plight of the world’s poor.

As strange as it sounds, poverty tourism, or “poorism,” is nothing new. In recent years a growing number of tourists have visited Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, or slums, according to many travel sites. In July, Pope Francis visited this area to remind the residents that the Church is with them.

He also had a message for those who look the other way in the face of poverty. “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty,” he said.

It’s probably safe to say that vacationing in a shantytown is probably not what Pope Francis had in mind. And it seems the management at the Emoya could benefit from a lesson or two in Catholic social teaching.

Lauren Caggiano is assistant editor of OSV Newsweekly.