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Revista Brasileira de Pesquisa em Turismo

On-line version ISSN 1982-6125

Rev. Bras. Pesq. Tur. vol.11 no.3 São Paulo Sept./Dec. 2017 


Community-based Tourism in Santa Marta Favela /RJ: social, economic and cultural opportunities

Turismo de Base Comunitaria en la Favela Santa Marta/RJ: Oportunidades sociales, económicas y culturales

Apoena Dias Mano1 

Verônica Feder Mayer2 

Aguinaldo Cesar Fratucci3 

1Fluminense Federal University (UFF). Niterói, RJ, Brazil. Formulation of ideas; elaboration of the theoretical frame; data collection and interpretation and paper preparation.

2Fluminense Federal University (UFF). Niterói, RJ, Brazil. Methodological development and data analysis; writing and critical review of the paper.

3Fluminense Federal University (UFF). Niterói, RJ, Brazil. Methodological orientation of the qualitative research; writing and critical review of the paper.


Justification of the topic:

Debates about the causes and impacts of the process of touristification of slums have been carried out over the last years across various fields of study and countries.


This article presents the results of a research conducted in Santa Marta favela (slum), in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, aiming at investigating the effects of community-based tourism activities in that place.


To this end, two studies have been undertaken: the first one, quantitative, has investigated tourists' and residents’ perceptions of positive and negative aspects of tourism; the second one, qualitative, was designed to understand local community-based tourism chain.

Findings and Originality:

The results show that tourism alternatives based on residents’ empowering and leading role may turn tourism practices in slums into something more socially committed. The key contribution of the research is the reflection on the experience of Community-Based Tourism in urban environments such as slums, suggesting that active participation of residents can change tourism profile, strengthening cultural exchanges. The maturity of this kind of community tourism network has to do with the deconstruction of stereotypes related to favelas and to the attainment of more positive and significant socioeconomic and cultural impacts in comparison to more traditional forms of tourism.

Keywords: Tourism in slums; Community-based tourism; Santa Marta Favela; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Propósito justificado del tema:

Debates acerca de las motivaciones y los impactos de los procesos de turistificación de las favelas se han llevado a cabo en los últimos años en diversos campos de estudio y en varios países.


Este artículo presenta los resultados de una investigación realizada en la favela Santa Marta, ciudad de Río de Janeiro, con la intención de investigar los efectos del turismo de base comunitaria en las actividades turísticas que se desarrollan en este local.


Se realizaron dos estudios: el primero, cuantitativo, investigó las percepciones de turistas y residentes sobre aspectos positivos y negativos del turismo; El segundo, cualitativo, se dedicó a comprender la red de turismo local basada en la comunidad.

Resultados y originalidad del documento:

Los resultados permiten afirmar que las alternativas turísticas basadas en el empoderamiento y el protagonismo de los residentes pueden hacer que la práctica turística en favelas sea más comprometida socialmente. La maduración de esta red de turismo comunitario está relacionada con la deconstrucción de estereotipos relacionados con favelas y la obtención de importantes impactos socioeconómicos y culturales en comparación con las formas tradicionales de turismo.

Palavras clave: Turismo en favelas; Tturismo de base comunitária; Favela Santa Marta; Rio de Janeiro; Brasil


The interest and search for differentiated travel experiences, due mostly to new standards of consumption in the twentieth-first century, have led to an increasing popularity of tourism activities in urban regions characterized by social-economic contrasts (Cejas, 2006; Ma, 2010). Worldwide known as slum tourism (Cejas, 2006; Spampinato 2009, Klepsch, 2010), in Brazil, this controversial phenomenon has had significant international highlight due to tourism practiced in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro (Machado, 2007; Freire-Medeiros, 2009; Spampinato, 2009; Rodrigues, 2014; Menezes, 2014).

Recently, the demand for tourist itineraries (Cisne & Gastal, 2011) in Rio’s slums has become more evident due to the spotlight of international attention on Brazil because of events such as the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016 (Freire-Medeiros, Coelho & Monteiro, 2012; Rodrigues, 2014). Similarly, another important reason for further discussion about the development of tourists’ movement in those places has been the public funding policies in the controversial project of UPPs (Peacemaker Police Units) in the slums of the city of Rio de Janeiro. (Carvalho & Silva, 2012; Menezes, 2014).

Along with the increasing touristification processes of slums (Knafoo, 1996; Fratucci, 2008), one sees the rise of debates and critiques as for reasons and interests of social actors for tourist activities yielded by those processes. Is tourism in slums a process of commodification and spectacularization of poverty? Is it caused by the willingness of visitors to help the residents of those areas? Or yet, is it a form of opportunism on the part of the residents? This topic has been gradually analyzed by authors from different fields (Cejas, 2006; Freire-Medeiros, 2009, Ma, 2010; Silva et al., 2015).

Many papers related to this theme point that, in general, the planning of tourism activities in slums takes little account of the impacts on the location (Machado, 2007; Spampinato, 2009; Catão, 2014). It is argued that the growth of tourism in favelas can generate positive and negative effects, such as job creation, income distribution, social value, cultural commodification, and processes of gentrification (Gaffney, 2013).

Based on the assumption that the leading role in decision-making regarding the activities and tourist services should belong to residents, Community-Based Tourism (CBT) places itself as an alternative for slums local development (Spampinato, 2009; Klepsch, 2010).

Gomez et al. (2015) refer to CBT as a new way of making tourism opposed to mass tourism that emerges as an initiative with the potential of social change and local sustainable development. The design of these initiatives contradicts procedures of traditional travel, dominated by market forces.

In this context, research linking Slum Tourism and Community-Based Tourism can contribute to encourage the expansion of tourism activities that have as common goal the local sustainable development.

In keeping with Klepsch’s (2010), view, tourism activities with little planning and local community commitment in decision-making process cause numerous adverse impacts, thus, we considered opportune to analyze and record the way in which CBT has been taking place on the first touristified favela in Rio de Janeiro. To this end, we conducted surveys in Santa Marta favela, located in Botafogo neighborhood, in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, whose results are presented here. The primary objective of this study is to analyze and discuss both practices and effects of a CBT initiative in that Rio de Janeiro slum.

As initial assumptions, several points of discussion on the topic have been considered, such as the recurrent argument that “slum tourism is a zoo of poverty” (Rodrigues, 2014); both negative and positive economic impacts; social and cultural improvement; results of community participation in tourism development, among others. We consider that the results of this research become a relevant database to feed numerous and timely debates on the theme.

This article is structured from two studies undertaken on the topic. The first one includes a quantitative research that compares the perceptions of residents and tourists regarding the motivations for tourism in Santa Marta favela and their insights on CBT concepts and services. As observed by Sharpley (2014), surveys aiming at identifying and explaining both the perception and the relationship between local communities and tourists rarely consider the study of the relation visitor-visited (Smith, 1999).

The second study includes a qualitative research that explores and analyses the current CBT productive chain at Santa Marta favela. Based on the first survey results, we conducted semi-structured interviews in our visits to the favela, aiming to clarify some topics and deepen concepts related to residents’ perceptions that comprise that CBT network. As observed by Woosnam (2012, p. 315) the present literature on CBT “does not consider how residents’ feelings towards tourists (on an individual level) may potentially influence their attitudes about tourism." Trying to close this gap, we have sought to capture and understand the personal opinions of social actors involved with CBT in Santa Marta favela.


Although tourism in Brazil and mainly in Rio de Janeiro is related to tropical beaches, Carnival, and samba (Freire-Medeiros, 2009), a negative image of the country is also perceived at the international level, linked to crime and international drug trafficking in the city, particularly in slums (Carvalho & Silva, 2012). Nevertheless, it is correct to affirm that slum tourism has become a new phenomenon in the city of Rio de Janeiro (Freire-Medeiros, 2009).

As already mentioned, this trend has prompted discussion and debate on the ethical reasons that trigger such tourist interest. Freire-Medeiros (2009) considers that it is natural that the commodification of those places may cause social, ethical, and moral conflicts. According to some authors, however, as much as they intend to contribute, visitors do not know exactly the final impact of tourism activities on slums residents (Freire-Medeiros, 2009; Ma, 2010).

As for the development of itineraries called favela tours, some authors point that initially, the experience offered to tourists was limited to the observation of slums' ordinary life and work routine. Studies highlight that these activities can characterize the commodification of poverty, which occurs when the external tourist intermediary produces an experience to serve their interests better, spectacularizing the slum environment of social-economic contrasts (Cejas, 2006; Klepsch, 2010).

By observing such negative impacts on their place of conviviality, some residents of urban areas classified as touristic favelas (Freire-Medeiros, et al., 2013) started to organize themselves to offer tourist itineraries more consistent to their reality and values. Thus, they began to provide experiences to visitors idealizing the deconstruction of stereotypes and show favelas’ local diversity (Rodrigues, 2014). This operationalization led by local community had as guiding principles the fundamental concepts of CBT (Bursztyn & Bartholo, 2012).


For a better understanding of what CBT is, one should consider that there is no consensus definition of the term, it emerges from many academic fields. CBT does not represent just another market segment, but the possibility of a new paradigm, a more responsible form of planning and executing the tourist experience in less affluent areas from economic indicators and basic urban infrastructure (Machado, 2007; Irving, 2009; Fabrino, 2013).

It is worth noting that in CBT the economic relations are enriched by other elements that transcend the rationality of immediate profit (Fabrino, 2013). These features contribute to the process of validation of identity and local belonging, to the way of life and social and economic well-being of populations through the relationship between tourists and residents (Sansolo & Bursztyn, 2009).

In this sense, the primary objective of CBT focuses on long-term local development, based on a more equitable and lasting social model of development. Such strategy understands tourism not just as an object of profit in the hands of a few operators and businesspeople, but as activities that can be beneficial to many other social actors (Machado, 2007; Rodrigues, 2014; Catão, 2014).

Within this context, Nunkoo and Gursoy (2012) point out the importance, for researchers, scholars, and other social actors, of understanding the community support as a component of sustainable tourism development in communities. Fabrino (2013) reaffirms that one of the great differences of this tourism development proposal lies in the possibility of the tourist to get to know and interact with community dynamics. And this proposal usually takes place from the establishment of a dialogical relation between visitors and visited, based on the dialogue, the recognition of the other, the exchange and the sharing of experiences.

3.1 Community-Based Slum Tourism

It is vital to realize that the tourism phenomenon is basically composed of the encounter of alterities that may produce acculturation processes of varying intensity, but inevitable. According to Garcia, Macía & Vazques (2015) at the social-cultural level, interactions that take place between the visitor and the visited may result in new social and cultural opportunities or generate feelings of affliction, pressure, and nuisance, threatening residents’ local identity and social reality.

Some studies have already been undertaken relating CBT to slum tourism. Spampinato (2009) concluded her work carried out at Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro, stating that it is possible to think of tourism in an integrated way to slums territory, including and benefiting the local community in its productive arrangements. The author understands that, if tourism is thoroughly planned, the activities resulting may serve as encouragement for social, economic, and cultural appreciation of slums (Spampinato, 2009).

Reflecting on favela tour itineraries, the author highlights that during her study, tourism activities were not satisfactory for the community, its leaderships and not even for its residents (Spampinato, 2009). It is worth observing that those more popular itineraries are carried out in military jeep-type vehicles, through the main streets of the favelas and stopping at places previously determined by agents from outside the visited favela (Rodrigues, 2014). According to this tour model, the favela alleys, potential meeting places, social and subjective constructions, are reduced to a small setting of observation for tourists and some few economic exchanges (Machado, 2007). As a result of the experience offered, the visitor is led to see the resident as a representative of poverty, while the resident, on the other hand, sees the visitor as a representative of the opportunity to earn some money.

The desire for new experiences and not just for new products and services or observing new things leads us to note the presence of a new characteristic in tourism demand. The interest of visitors has been gradually shifting, once they now value specific aspects of visited places’ culture at the expense of cultural icons (SNV, 2009 apud Bursztyn & Bartholo, 2012).

3.2 Community-Based Tourism in Santa Marta favela/RJ

Perhaps one of the most famous touristic favelas in Rio de Janeiro is Santa Marta, located Botafogo neighborhood, in the city’s southern zone. The 50,000-square meter territory that received its first residents around 1930 is currently inhabited by approximately 5,000 people (Freire-Medeiros, Vilarouca & Menezes, 2012). Its popularity in the tourism market took place mainly after the recording of the video clip "They don’t care about us," by the American singer Michael Jackson (Freire-Medeiros et al., 2012). It was a huge hit, although local authorities at that time stood against the artist’s decision of recording in the favela, saying that the video clip would denigrate the image of Rio de Janeiro. After a couple of years, the tourism potential was acknowledged and the recording location was re-functionalized as a thematic space of the artist (Rodrigues, 2014).

In 2010, the program Rio Top Tour was organized by Rio de Janeiro State as a first CBT public project in a favela. That proposal searched to promote local tourism, proposing that activities would be conducted by Santa Marta’s community itself. Despite the premature end of the project by public authorities, it is still possible to notice some of its legacies: the development of attractions and tourism professionals, the local population’s awareness of CBT and the formation of opinion of residents about slum tourism.

The fact is that tourism activities promoted by the community became a daily reality in that territory (Rodrigues, 2014). Nowadays, approximately 20 tour guides take part in Santa Marta’s Tour Guides Committee and traditional companies that used to promote tourism activities in jeeps are not providing services in the favela anymore (Rodrigues, 2014).

The development of tourism demand in Santa Marta favela has also been benefited by UPPs project, a new model of policing that involves constant monitoring through the accomplishment of periodic police approaches, the use of surveillance cameras installed at several points of the hill and different approximation tools, in an attempt to shorten the distance between residents and police officers (Menezes, 2014).

The results of the Rio Top Tour project make it possible to observe how the sense of community and local belonging was encouraged and driven by TBC activity, through which the resident finds individual free space of expression and tries to take the leading role of touristic arrangements (Spampinato, 2009, Rodrigues 2014).


This research used a mixed-method approach, with a quantitative preliminary phase, followed by a qualitative investigation aimed at deepening issues and enriching the vision about the studied phenomenon, following the recommendation of the literature, that quantitative studies are limited and not always the most adequate for the understanding of high complexity contexts, such is the case of tourism. The combination of methods increases the possibility of reflection (Creswell, 2007).

The quantitative study aimed to compare residents’ and visitors’ perceptions in respect to tourism activities in Santa Marta favela, as well as reasons of tourists to visit the place. A survey was applied between April 17 and 19, 2015 to a non-probabilistic sample of 80 residents and 80 tourists in the favela. A collection station for the application of the study to tourists was located on Michael Jackson’s slab, the most important tourist attraction in the favela.

The quantitative analysis s urvey was divided into four sections: a) respondent profile; b) general perceptions on tourism in the favela captured through free elicitation (Oleary & Deegan, 2005; Figueiredo & Mayer, 2010); c) tourist motivations using motivational categories tested by Ma (2010) in the region of Dharavi, India; d) distinct perceptions related to community-based tourism such as economic advantages and disadvantages, socio-cultural impacts, public security and relationship between tourists and residents.

The scale of motivations of Ma’s study (2010) was translated into Portuguese and the items were adapted to study’s objectives, by a board formed by two senior experts. The scale consisted of 21 statements related to six motivational characteristics: cultural curiosity, self-interest, other types of interest, escapism, connection with non-tourist experiences and pre-concepts of slum tourism. A five-point Likert scale was used to allow respondents to express their level of agreement with motivation and perception items (Corrar, Paulo & Filho, 2012). The five points reflect the strength and the direction of the respondents’ reaction, ranging from “1 -Strongly disagree,” to “5 - Strongly agree” Data were treated in the statistical software SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), version 23.0.

In the second study, of qualitative type, in-depth interviews were carried out from September 21 to 28, 2015, with participants of Santa Marta favela CBT productive chain. Discrepancies in opinions between tourists and residents revealed in the quantitative study were used to formulate a semi-structured script for interviews. Additionally, questions were developed, based on results that gave rise to discussions related to the literature review.

For the qualitative stage of the study, agents were selected from various areas of involvement of Santa Marta favela CBT local chain. Among them, local tour guides, entrepreneurs, owners, and sales employees who took control of tourist flow, besides the president of Santa Marta Community Association of Residents (Table 1).

Table 1 Description of CBT chain interviewees 

Interviewee 1 Guide, cultural producer, and entrepreneur
Interviewee 2 Guide, cultural producer, and entrepreneur
Interviewee 3 Guide and entrepreneur
Interviewee 4 Guide and entrepreneur
Interviewee 5 Language interpreter in tourism itineraries
Interviewee 6 Gift shop assistant
Interviewee 7 Gift shop owner
Interviewee 8 Restaurant Owner
Interviewee 9 President of the residents’ association

Source: The authors.

The interviews lasted around one hour each and were transcribed to allow a detailed analysis of information obtained. The study used content analysis, based on categorization and interpretation according to the following topics: relationship visitor / visited; the role of local guides; the experience of visitors; residents leading role; CBT future in the favela; maturity of CBT chain.


Analyzing data obtained and distinguishing residents from visitors, it can be said that in both cases there is a balanced distribution of gender among the respondents, with 52.5% of female residents and 56.3% of women visitors. As for age, most of the residents are over 60 years old (22.5%), followed by those who declare they are between 25 and 29 years (16.2%) and 40 and 49 years (16.2%). Among tourists, most of the individuals said they are between 25 and 39 years old (65.0%).

Concerning visitors’ place of origin, it can be observed that most of the tourists interviewed come from Europe (46%), followed by people resident in Brazil (21%), North/Central America (14%) and South America (10%). This information confirms the predominance of Northern Hemisphere tourists interested in slums, as Cejas (2006) points out.

As to education, it was verified a significant difference between the two profiles. Among residents, almost half of the sample declared to have only primary schooling (45%) and the other half, only secondary school education (41.25%). As for the visitors' group, almost half had higher education (41.25%) and a significant part had post-graduate degree (28.75%). It is worth noting the discrepancy between levels of education among residents and visitors surveyed, which may be interpreted as a reflection of the social status of these groups. Given the poor financial condition that leads to the need of working and income generation, many favela residents are forced to leave school early (Gaffney, 2013).

5.1 General Perceptions on Tourism

For the free elicitation procedure, tourists and residents were encouraged to say the first three words that came to their mind when they thought of the expression “slum tourism.” The analysis of the result obtained was made through two Word Clouds, from the online platform wordle (, representing perceptions from both groups.

Observing the words provided by residents (Figure 1), the most prominent ones are “curiosity”, “knowledge,” “to know” and “fun.” It is noticed that, from the residents’ point of view, these can be the reasons that lead tourists to get interested in visiting slums. However, it is important to observe that there are less highlighted words referring to negative feelings, such as “indifferent,” “inequality” and “shame.”

Source: The authors.

Figure 1 Perceptions of residents towards slum tourism 

It is also worth mentioning the fact that, among the several answers, the word “opportunity” is highlighted, pointing that some residents relate “slum tourism” to interests and possibilities of income. This finding is in line with Rodrigues (2014) who refers the increasing residents’ understanding on CBT-related opportunities.

In the visitors’ Word cloud (Figure 2), “interesting” appears with emphasis, besides “culture”, “curiosity,” “different,” “eye-opening” and “people.” In general, these words refer to cultural and local curiosity, in addition to the feeling of surprise as they realize that the favela is different from what they expected to find. However, a more attentive look allows the observation of words that relate themselves with both the contrast and the social stereotype of favelas, such as “poor,” “poverty’ and “danger.”

Source: The authors

Figure 2 Perceptions of tourists towards slum tourism 

These words are in accord with Freire-Medeiros’ (2009) analysis on the search of tourists for different places of traditional tourism itineraries. Even though poverty causes a stir, the visit, for other reasons, is somehow enlightening to theses visitors.

5.2 Slum Tourism motivations and CBT

Table 2 shows the comparison between residents and visitors perceptions related to factors that motivate slum tourism and factors related to CBT in those communities. To verify the existence of differences statistically significant, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used, which tests the hypothesis that the averages of two or more populations are equal. The level of significance chosen was of 0.05, with a confidence interval of 95% (Hair et al., 1998).

Table 2 Differences between residents and visitors’ perceptions  

Motivational Category - Cultural Curiosity Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
Curiosity to see a different way of life. 4.49 4.68 5.822 0.017*
To see the setting, the alleys and the city view one gets from a slum. 4.35 4.31 0.065 0.799
To think that the visit authentically portrays slum life. 4.00 3.99 3.067 0.082
To avoid a little the most traditional city tours. 4.20 4.10 0.14 0.708
To experience life in an environment of extreme poverty. 3.15 3.08 3.587 0.060
Motivational Category - Other Curiosity Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
Willingness to contribute to the well-being of slum residents. 3.10 3.79 25.283 0.000*
To see up close tourism slum controversies. 3.75 3.89 10.794 0.001*
Willingness to interact with slum residents. 3.24 3.61 13.614 0.000*
Motivational Category - Self-interest Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
To think that a tour through the slums is a unique and an unforgettable experience. 3.89 4.36 7.96 0.005*
To see the contrast between the rich and the poor side of Rio de Janeiro. 4.16 4.07 8.465 0.004*
Curiosity to know what is your own life like compared to the life of slum residents. 3.94 3.79 0.327 0.568
Willingness to value more your own life after the visit. 3.87 3.50 0.02 0.889
Motivational Category - Escapism Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
To think that the tour is fun and exciting. 3.91 3.63 0.804 0.371
Run away a little from city life. 3.64 3.54 7.827 0.006*
Motivational Category - Connection with non-tourism experiences Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
Willingness to share the experience with family and friends later. 4.02 4.20 1.776 0.185
I believe that after the tour, the tourists will get more interested in the life of people in need and try to understand the conditions under which they live. 3.59 3.88 13.009 0.000*
Motivational Category - Cultural Curiosity Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
Curiosity after knowing tourism in slums through several medias. 4.21 3.90 7.214 0.008*
To see the slum that you knew only through films and books. 4.2 3.84 0.603 0.438
Motivational Category - Pre-conceptions of Slum Tourism Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
To change the negative image of slums that people bear in mind. 3.64 4.26 25.793 0.000*
Life in the slum seems more authentic and genuine than life in the city. 3.83 3.49 4.271 0.040*
To see a different kind of poverty. 3.80 3.37 0.389 0.534
TBC in Slums Averages Residents Averages Tourists F sig
Tourism can bring economic advantages to slums and local entrepreneurs, such as job and income creation. 3.64 4.41 15.694 0.000*
Social projects and local NGOs should be benefited by touristic visits. 4.45 4.26 1.719 0.192
The interaction between slums residents and tourists is positive. 3.83 4.21 4.631 0.033*
Tourism in slums can contribute to local social development through the organization of their residents. 4.05 4.37 3.296 0.071
Tourism can bring economic disadvantages to the slums, such as an increase in the cost of living and real estate speculation. 3.00 2.86 0.389 0.534

* level of significance ≤ 0,05

Source: The authors

Significant differences are found between the residents’ and tourists’ opinion in eleven items of the survey, which deserve more careful examination. In all cases, residents and tourists’ opinion move in the same direction, but with differences in intensity with which they agreed as for reasons for slum tourism.

In the category, “cultural curiosity”, tourists agree more strongly (average=4.68) than residents (average=4.49) that “interest to see a different way of life” is the main reason for this kind of tourism. In the category “other curiosities”, in turn, tourists indicate a higher level of agreement with all items, indicating more strongly that they wish “to see up close slum tourism controversies”. Considering “willingness to interact with slums residents,” residents agree less (average=3.24) with the statement than tourists (average=3.61), a possible reflection of previous experiences.

The item that seems to show little alignment between the opinion of both groups is the reason to “contribute to the well-being of slum residents.” Residents prove themselves less optimistic and unsure towards this idea (average=3.10) than tourists (3.79). In the category “self-interest,” residents (average=3.89) show a lower level of agreement than tourists (average=4.36) with the idea that “a tour through slums is a unique and an unforgettable experience.” But residents (average=4.16) show higher agreement than tourists (average=4.07) with the statement that tourism searches “to see the contrast between the rich side and the poor side of Rio de Janeiro.”

In the category “escapism,” in turn, residents show a higher level of agreement (average=3.64) with the reason “run away a little from city life” than tourists (average=3.54). In the category “connection with non-tourism experiences,” tourists agree less (average=3.90) than residents (average=4.20) that the wish of going to the slum arose “after knowing slum tourism through several medias,” showing that visitors may not be so motivate by this aspect as interviewed residents consider.

It is worth noting that residents (average=3.59) are less inclined to agree that “after the tour, tourists get more interested in the lives of people in need” than tourists themselves (average=3.88). In the last motivational category “pre-conceptions of slum tourism,” residents and tourists’ opinion presents significant difference as to the reason for slum tourism being related to a possible willingness to “change the negative image of slums that people bear in mind.” In this respect, residents reveal themselves more skeptical (average=3.64) than tourists (average=4.26).

Finally, residents (average=3.83) tended to agree more than tourists (average=3.49), with the idea that slum tourism is a search for a “life [...] more authentic and genuine than city life”.

With respect to the perceptions about CBT in the slum, there was a significant difference of opinion between residents and tourists in two relevant items. First, residents (average=3.64) agree less strongly than tourists (average=4.41) that “tourism can bring economic advantages to slums and local entrepreneurs, such as job and income creation.” Secondly, visitors (average=4.21) tend to agree more than residents (average=3.83) that “an interaction that occurs between slums residents and tourists is positive.” This opinion can be justified by the history of tourism visits and the global image of the community on slum tourism, where much is said about stereotypes, prejudice, and generalizations.

Attention is also drawn to the fact that both residents and tourists present a low level of agreement (3.00 to 2.86). They affirm that “tourism can bring economic disadvantages to slums with an increase in the cost of living and real estate speculation”, pointing that there is a tendency to underestimate negative effects of tourism among respondents.

From the analysis of these results, other discussions emerged, based on the hypothesis that CBT activities in slums could be identified as an attempt to re-invent tourism, based on premises that turn the activity into something critical and reflexive (Klepsch, 2010), providing knowledge and interactions between people that would hardly meet if not for tourism (Freire-Medeiros, 2009). Among the results, it stands out the socio-economic impact of slum tourism, the difference of perception in activities promoted by local agents and the opinions about the present moment and the future of these tourism activities.


From the analysis of residents’ and tourists’ perceptions, a qualitative study has been carried out, aiming at an in-depth understanding of the reality of CBT in Santa Marta favela and reflecting on issues that involved the differences between groups found in the quantitative survey.

The interviews show that involvement of respondents with tourism activities usually took place at the beginning of Rio Top Tour project in 2008. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the existence of that project encouraged many Santa Marta favela residents to dedicate their time, partially or entirely, to tourism activities. Despite previous tourism-related activities, the CBT network process, the object of this study, took off as of 2008.

The analysis of results indicate that the social actors interviewed have critical perceptions mainly regarding the socio-economic and cultural impacts of tourism. Irving (2009) states that the essential condition for CBT is the encounter between alterities, in the sense of mutual sharing and learning among participants. Sansolo and Bursztyn (2009) refer the validation of cultural identity, besides environmental conservation, and generation of direct benefits for receiving communities as CBT supporting components. The overview of the president of the Association of Residents refers to these issues when he muses on what has changed in the favela since the beginning of tourism activities:

Tourism has in its background entrepreneurship, employability, besides uncovering the favela to the world, showing its specificities, its cultures. I think it is positive. (Interviewee 9)

6.1 Relationship between Visitor and Visited

One of the most complex aspects of tourism-related activities in favelas is the interpersonal relationship between visitors and residents. CBT initiatives give residents’ a greater sense of proximity to tourists. This relationship contributes to the deconstruction of opinions based on other kinds of favela tourism experiences, as one of the interviewees points out:

Residents greet and talk to everyone when they pass with tourists, and this generates integration. And it pushes aside that impression that tourism turns the favela into a zoo. (Interviewee 2)

The way the tour is marketed is key to attract certain type of tourists’ profile. It is essential that the local initiative takes its role as an active agent, participating in the various stages of creation, implementation, and management of the tourism project (Spampinato, 2009). In addition, the interaction between residents and tourists based on authentic encounters is considered as the primary tool of approach:

With us, tourists leave with a greater experience once they interacted, got to know the home of a resident. When I do the tour, I interact with Dona Francisca, with Dona Maria. Shaking hands and hugging me, they [the tourists] also interact and realize that, in fact, I live here and know everyone. They [the tourists] leave the community with much more baggage. (Interviewee 4)

Guides and local entrepreneurs revealed that they promote actions and part of the profit goes to residents who are not involved with tourism activities. For this purpose, they promote parties and donations on special holidays such as Easter, Children’s Day, and Christmas. Additionally, there is a tacit agreement by which everyone pledge to contribute to the Residents Association. In their words, with these actions, residents experience the positive impacts of CBT and start supporting the activities.

6.2 The Role of Local Guides

Comparing the work of tour guides belonging to the community with those who come from other locations, we can claim that the favela is presented more appropriately by local guides due to their interest in telling the history of the place and its people in a more authentic way. For them, this contributes to the deconstruction of stereotypes and prejudices produced by external agents, such as guides who are not from the favela and the media. A tourism guide points that external guides have a generic version to present the favelas and fail to consider peculiarities of each local history:

The guide who comes from the outside doesn’t know the story of the community. The same story he tells in Santa Marta, he tells in Rocinha, in Vidigal and still includes lots of lies. (Interviewee 1)

It is up to local guides to offer their services in the best way they can. The guide becomes a key point in this process. For the CBT, it is important that the presence of the tourist does not cause strangeness in the favela, breaking barriers between visitors and visited:

Then he/she [the guide] will show the bright side of the social project, prepare feijoada on Michael Jackson slab, contact residents and everyone will eat together. Then [the residents] know they are benefited from the visits the favela receives, and it is very important that we show the good things the favela has to offer. Not only the bright side but also the problems it has, so that people may know that the place is not perfect. (Interviewee 5)

Therefore, the existence of a Community-Based Tourism network in a favela has the potential to influence impressions and perspectives of the community and even of the visitor. Many interviewees refer they are open to cooperation agreements and partnerships with outside guides and companies, to offer services together and promote the distribution of activities throughout the favela. According to a local guide:

The tourist feels comfortable with a local guide because we know everyone, talk to anyone, clear doubts. There is no question I’m not able to answer. And the fact of knowing everyone and tell people’s story makes me be welcomed, understand? (Interviewee 3)

6.3 The Visitor Experience

To encourage the participation of the community so that the activity evolves in a sustainable way, one should stimulate not the profit but social entrepreneurship and community tourism (Rodrigues, 2014). When the impact is minimized through the participation of residents as major players, tours take up positive functions that directly influence tourists’ perceptions:

There is the demystification of people’s opinions, who’ve never been to a favela before. (Interviewee 1)

After the tour, the tourist realizes that the favela is not only what the media shows. (Interviewee 5).

The interviewees point out that tourists who search a “community” tour have a much more respectful attitude towards residents. According to a local guide, it is also up to guides and local actors the promote an adequate attitude of visitors:

When it is a person who doesn’t understand the proposal and why people don’t like pictures, I only ask them to try to put themselves in other’s shoes. Imagine a person taking a picture of you at this time in the morning. Will you like it? (Interviewee 3)

Sampaio and Coriolano (2009) state that CBT specificity lies in the understanding that tourism activity is closely linked to other areas such as education, health, and the environment. Also, the visitors’ experience is intrinsically modified because community tourism is not focused only on tourism activities, but represents a sustainable proposal of territorial development, which encompasses all those involved in several dimensions - political, cultural, economic, and human.

6.4 The Leading Role of Residents

From the moment residents start to feature in tourism activities, the remainder community starts to consider many opportunities in tourism. This action initiates a process of acceptance related to tourism activities. As already mentioned, according to the kind of activity, residents start to differentiate their behavior towards tourists and their guides within the favela:

Today the community sees our work with other eyes. We are the residents of favelas who make tourism happen here. I think that the resident’s perception towards us is positive, but still negative with people who come from the outside. (Interviewee 4).

According to interviewees, the interest of residents in involving themselves directly with tourism-related activities is increasing. As for those who are already participants in the CBT chain, it is vital the participation of the largest possible number of people from the community. However, the quality of the service is a relevant factor:

If the residents are to be helped, we should be there to help. We are super-positive living experiences. Would you like to follow us? You can come. It is not closed. Our search is for qualification. (...) If you want to be a guide, we can help with the guiding or monitoring course, and all the training. (Interviewee 1)

There are examples of people who were involved in trafficking and crime-related activities and found in tourism an opportunity to change their lives:

Today we are 20. After me, many other people came and said: “I need to change my life.” One of them is a former inmate who left prison and didn’t want that life anymore. Nowadays he is a guide and searches for qualification. (Interviewee 1).

This concern with the quality of services is a quite relevant characteristic essentially related to stigmas associated with favelas and their residents. Despite the growth and the professionalization of local tourism community initiatives, there is a great distrust regarding favela-related services:

We’re like little ants changing this panorama. Today I'm already a business entrepreneur that takes part in tourism fairs, I have my own trademark. I think that if someone says “favela,” there is already some prejudice in it. If someone says "favela company"… we have to be 200% good. We cannot be 100%. One first mistake and we already suffer prejudice. (Interviewee 2)

6.5 CBT Future in the Favela

The development of tourism in Santa Marta favela is frequently associated with the project Peacemaker Police Units (UPPs). However, considering this project within Rio de Janeiro’s social-political context as city host of the Soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games, there is, for instance, also the emerging of new market demands, real estate speculation, increase in prices and evasion of people who ceased to afford increases in rent within the favela. (Gaffney, 2013). The increase in prices in Santa Marta favela is a reality, and this has been related, in several moments, to a greater sense of safety established in the place, the favela’s strategically actual location and its tourism movement:

Unfortunately, prices rise, and people who pay rent are forced to move to another favela, probably one that is still more dangerous. (Interviewee 6)

Rents went very high, but you should consider the peace you have. Who doesn’t want to move to the South Zone? (Interviewee 7)

According to the report of these residents, there is a feeling of uncertainty and insecurity regarding economic stability in the favela. As Menezes (2014) states, in the early years of police occupation, there was a great climate of uncertainty towards the future in the favelas:

Everybody says that what can harm communities and their residents, or trades, and tourism is that, after the Olympic Games, pacification will lose strength. The number of police officers will go down. That they are doing it just to make the favela look like a postcard. (Interviewee 7)

The weakening of UPPs project had already become noticeable during research. The reduction of the peacemaking process in the favelas was a prominent symptom:

You see they were always promoting peace. One after the other. Now they’re not pacifying anything. They held everything back. (Interviewee 8)

Currently, the economic, social, and political crisis that the State of Rio de Janeiro has been facing, UPPs project is undergoing alterations since the State government does not have financial and human resources to keep it within its original guidelines.

6.6 CBT Chain Maturation Process

The maturation of attitudes and reflections related to the impacts of the activity on the favela territory and the aspirations of tourists and residents became perceptible in several interviewees reports.

The effects generated by tourism activities are recognized and problematized by local agents. Tourism in the favela is observed by respondents from a long-term perspective, where negative impacts are minimized in favor of the distribution of positive results throughout the whole community:

Tourism is a very aggressive activity. It is something that destroys the structure of the city and several of its spots. I’m very concerned about the possibility of minimizing this impact. There will always be some, but what is the best way of trying and helping everyone? (Interviewee 3)

Benatti and Silva (2011: 433) understand that “the acceptance of the activity in their location may bring benefits, followed by the willingness of participating and appropriate planning, leading to a healthy relationship between residents and tourists, harmonious, patient and respectful towards their upbringing, traditions and ways of life.” This benefit, originating from the acceptance of tourism in the favela is perceptible in interviewee’s affirmations that illustrate the difference of perception concerning social actors who promote tourism in the favela:

Today the community sees our work with other eyes. We are the residents of the favela who make tourism happen here. I think the resident’s perception towards us is positive, but it is still negative towards people who come from outside. The guide has no orientation whatsoever, so they go and take pictures of children, of women sunbathing on the slab. This attitude generates a lack of education and orientation. (Interviewee 4)

It is worth noticing that the fact that there are well-succeed practices of tourism projects and work experiences also promotes social well-being and a sense of community power. Freire-Medeiros (2009) refers that the practice of tourism in regions with the characteristics of a favela increments the economic development of the area, tourists’ social awareness and self-esteem of receiving populations. The community self-esteem can be illustrated as follows:

The tourist may have more money, but I doubt he/she is happier than the resident. Here we have a sense of community. People help each other, talk to each other, support each other, even if their social problems are not being tackled by local, state or federal authorities. They turn their difficulties into development. And this behavior makes us all very proud. (Interviewee 1)

The development of the site and citizenship of those involved in the CBT process in the favela depends primarily on both the encounter and authenticity. Through strategies that turn the interaction that takes place between the tourist and the resident increasingly natural, the favela will also become increasingly natural in the urban life, which will reduce the strangeness and racist thoughts based on stereotypes. The favela CBT chain is aware of both the attractiveness and the peculiarity of its services, as well as of the opportunities linked to the offer of these services: social inclusion, stereotype breaking, and economic autonomy.

The tourist of Rio de Janeiro comes with this desire of experimenting what is real, and we see that some agencies from outside turn everything very fake. Rio de Janeiro is not only Christ the Redeemer. It is Lapa, hip-hop, street party, and funk dance. It is the experience of street artists. It is the boy who sells candies on the streets, who is smart. It is what Rio de Janeiro is all about. Tourism in the favela, CBT and the tour of experience add value, bringing a different perspective: to insert favela dwellers in the segment of tourism, to clear the way of tourism in the favelas in an elite-oriented segment, and we’ve been able to break through the blockade, to have and manage our own business. (Interviewee 2)

It is important that community seeks to undertake the tourism activity in their territory according to their desires and expectations; that they search their political empowerment, thus avoiding the negative effects of tourism so that the local community econonomic, social, and cultural well-being may be preserved, from the leading role of their own residents (Rodrigues, 2014).


This work has been developed from the analysis of Santa Marta favela touristification process and the constitution of a CBT in the local. Considering the objective of analyzing and discussing the effects of CBT initiatives’ in a Rio de Janeiro favela, it would be reasonable to say that from this study it is possible to point out residents’ and tourists’ perspectives and experiences that trigger new social, economic, and cultural possibilities for slum tourism.

Starting from a free elicitation procedure and a quantitative study on convergences and contrasts of opinions between residents and tourists, relevant results have been obtained concerning the interaction of visitors and visited during these experiences. In the qualitative study, some issues that cause more interest in this area of research and permeate discussions about tourism in favela and CBT have been analyzed and more carefully investigated.

Whether motivated by the desire of having different tourism experiences or by the willingness of sharing photos and reports with their friends and relatives, tourists recognize that during their visits, they see an opportunity to get in touch with the cultural diversity of favelas. These tourists, in general, consider enlightening both the experience and the opportunity of visiting and getting to know the streets of a favela. Through many years, tourism in favelas was very criticized by official representatives and most of the Brazilian middle and high class, being considered a despicable activity, by “denigrating the image of the country due to the exposure of poor population” (Freire-Medeiros, 2009: 45). According to the result of this study, tourism interest may occur not because of poverty, but from several factors that motivate visits. Despite the historical social inequality and the power of media's influence (Rodrigues, 2014), visitors usually perceive the favela in a way different from the one they had in their countries.

The results of this research indicate that there are possibilities to create alternatives of tourist experiences that promote social development at a local and interpersonal level from CBT concepts. A closer relationship between the visitor, when he/she is aware of its social impacts and the resident, when he/she assumes the leading role of tourism productive arrangements, seems to be beneficial for both parties (Botelho, Egrejas & Bartholo, 2014). In the final section of the interview, we can observe the awareness about effects of tourism in residents that have a high level of involvement with this area.

However, it is important to highlight that the presence or absence of public power, from policies and practical actions that work for effective integration of favelas in the territory of Rio de Janeiro city, are vital factors to make structure experiences from CBT precepts both fruitful and feasible. The newest emptying process of state government actions in Rio favelas, mainly in the UPPs project, shows how the presence of the State is still crucial and irreplaceable.

It is also important to highlight that different profiles of tourists and relationships dynamics between tourists and residents have been through a constant process of change. Despite the existence of a large variety of CBT’s studies, the number of studies considering urban environments such as favelas has been quite small, as well as studies that focus on the leading role of residents in tourism local initiatives. The sustainability of these activities is also a relevant factor, mainly in terms of the perception of both impact and effects on these places.


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Received: May 09, 2017; Accepted: July 06, 2017

Apoena Dias Mano

Bachelor in Tourism at the Fluminense Federal University. Specialization in Urban Sociology at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Researcher member of LABCONS - Laboratory of Studies on Consumption and Behavior. Areas of Interest: Sustainable Development; Tourism in the Slum; Community-Based Tourism; Consumer’s Behavior. Email:

Veronica Feder Mayer

Associate Professor at the Fluminense Federal University. Ph.D. in Business, Coordinator of the Course of Bachelor in Tourism at the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality, a member of the teaching staff of the Academic MA Program in Tourism - PPGTUR/UFF; coordinator of LABCONS - Laboratory of Studies on Consumption and Behavior. Her research lines include Consumption and New Demands in Tourism; Planning, Marketing, and Relationship with Stakeholders; and Psychology of Prices. Email:

Aguinaldo Cesar Fratucci

Associate Professor at the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality of the Fluminense Federal University. Ph.D. and MA in Geography. Coordinator of the Post-Graduation Program Stricto Sensu in Tourism at the Fluminense Federal University. The leader of the CNPq Research Group “Tourism, Management, and Territories”. Areas of interest: Tourism public management; processes of touristification of spaces; planning and management of tourism destinations; epistemology of tourism. Email:

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