Protest tourism: An Airbnb tour to "live the Chilean revolution"
For $25, one platform user offered tourists, mostly European, a tour of the riots, mineral water and a helmet (in case things got ugly).
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Visits to places where tragedies occurred, such as the Chernobyl power station, Fukushima or the Nazi concentration camps, have been nourishing dark –if not poverty– tourism for a few years now.
What was never expected was that another kind of tourism would emerge from the morbidity in the form of tourism of the political rebellion, and that it would have its epicenter in Chile, which has already seen more than 60 days of protests in the streets.
Such an idea came to the mind of an Airbnb user, Sebastián Nieto, who was using the platform to sell tourist packages to "Live the Chilean Revolution" for $26.
Nieto, who calls himself an "experience ambassador," offered in his ad a two-hour visit to the most emblematic places of the mobilizations, such as Barrio Lastarria, the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center and Plaza La Dignidad, formerly Plaza Italia, as well as a bottle of water and a helmet to protect yourself in case more violence broke out.
Interviewed by a local media, the tourism entrepreneur said that "it's a way of giving travelers access to a unique and generally unusual place that they can't access without the company of a local."
In the ad published by Nieto, which was removed from the platform for violating security policies and had received criticism from numerous Twitter users who accused him of lack of sensitivity, the following could be read:
"Chile has awakened and its capital is more alive than ever. Observe and learn through the art of demonstration and its artists, what are the social demands that have driven this social movement".
The surprising thing is, according to Nieto, that the tour was a great success among European tourists, especially French and German, who wanted to experience the citizens' mobilizations in a safe way.
"I noticed that there were many spectators at the demonstrations, like people taking pictures. We don't talk much, but in the end, the demonstrations are an event. Everything breaks with the daily routine and there is a social background of improvement that is totally valid, but there is also a recreational part," he said.
The hunger for more extreme adventures and the merchandising of absolutely everything, even pain, has led to the proliferation of other forms of alternative tourism that no longer consist solely of visiting places that became a nightmare at some point in the past, but that still are.
Since the middle of the century, there have been packages called war tourism, where travelers visit countries like Syria, hit by a brutal war, with their Canon and Nikon, imagining, perhaps, that they are war correspondents. The agencies sell the tours as the most real and closest way to understand these events: "Welcome to the eye of the hurricane," in what seems to be another of the episodes of "Black Mirror".
Will the protests in Chile and their attempt at cultural commercialization be the first step towards a new form of "powder keg tourism"? While some risk their lives on the streets claiming their rights, others, the tourists, take photos that will be uploaded to their Instagram accounts.