Beggarism and black market tourism – a case study of the city of Chaar Minaar in Hyderabad (India)
Begging is undoubtedly an ancient phenomenon but when explored from the tourism perspective, it is relatively new. Begging has existed across several historical periods, but with sophistication and savviness, it has developed into a lucrative form of tourism business. While previous studies have reasonably explored the beggar–tourist interaction in several socio-economic contexts, the present one attempts to research an unusual aspect of these encounters which is termed as “black market tourism.” In the current study, black market is explained as a clandestine but visible market where tourism transactions take place within three important stakeholders, namely, the beggars, the tourists and shopkeepers. The transaction is found to have some aspects of illegality, but ultimately, serves the manifest function of yielding money and growing the underground network. This triangular interaction is therefore of relevance to understand the functioning of this black market involving those key stakeholders. With this notion as foundation, this study aims to empirically and conceptually explore the phenomenon of black market tourism which is derived from the beggar–tourist– shopkeeper encounter in an important city of India called Hyderabad. The specific location of the study was Chaar Minaar, a popular tourism city with ancient monument and shopping places in Hyderabad (India). Tourism in India is undeniably infused with the notions of color and culture, but how this colorful context gradually developed into a colorless black market tourism economy is worthy of study.Design/methodology/approachFrom a methodological point of view, this conceptual paper draws on unobtrusive research methods (written records, non-participant observations, informal interviews and occasional photography).FindingsFindings show that begging is developing into a lucrative industry without costly investment and beggars operate in a cartel. The black tourism market is found to be an emerging underground tourism economy with established stakeholders, who are rapidly progressing and growing their network. The network is seen to be increasingly attracting educated and young professionals.Research limitations/implicationsThe research is explorative and provides a consistent and empirically based starting point for research on black market tourism involving beggar–tourist and beggar–shopkeeper interactions in Indian cities. The sample being very limited, it is important to stress the limited possibilities to generalize the findings of this study to other destinations. Moreover, the assumption that the background of the local researcher might have influenced the interpretation of primary data need not be neglected, thus suggesting a further examination to confirm validity of the results.Practical implicationsThe study provides information not only to destination managers interested to diversify the tourism product, but also to policymakers who are fighting against begging in the city of Hyderabad. The beggar experience can be used to attract more tourists seeking authenticity, provided that the process is improved by adding in some level of professionalism. For instance, beggars could be trained to perform decently in a town hall where tourists are invited to attend cultural shows. To some extent, this study may also help empowering beggars to become part of the tourism ecosystem. This is important, as modern society has disempowered economically disadvantaged members of the community (Hutton, 2016). Ultimately, the study attempted to show that disempowered members of the community are not always passive and powerless. They can create business out of another business (a re-invented form of beggarism that has potential to generate money from tourism).Social implicationsThe study has a social aspect as it takes the involvement of three stakeholders, namely, the tourists, the beggars and the shopkeepers. The study shows how begging transactions affect the three stakeholders and it sheds light on its overall impact on Hyderabad, as a tourism destination.Originality/valueTo the best of authors’ knowledge, no tourism study (academic and non-academic) has so far considered the beggar–tourist encounter from a black market perspective. The findings offer new information on a reinvented form of beggarism and unveils that this black market is a well-entrenched system operated by an educated pool of people and professionals. Ultimately, the study attempts to show that disempowered members of the community (beggars) are not always passive and powerless. They can create business out of another business (a re-invented form of beggarism that has potential to generate money out of tourism).