This text was kindly translated by Tania F. Cannon. Thanks!Latin America (with a few exceptions), Asia and Africa are very cheap places to travel.  Many people chose those destinations because they know they can spend much more time touring, living in different cultures without spending too much. This usually happens because of the disparity in exchange rates, differences in the cost of living or something like that.

However, I would like to highlight a problem, through an example coming from Ethiopia. The amount of beggars and poor people amazed me. Everywhere, people in different stages of health, physical conditions and ages walk along the streets begging for money. The number of people who depend on those donations usually triples in the touristic areas.

Here are some figures, collected from informal talks, to help understand a small problem: the average wage of a hotel maid, receptionist, or security officer in Lalibela, north of Addis Ababa, ranges between 350 to 400 Birr a month (something around U$20.00/month). Those services usually take more than 10 hours a day, in questionable conditions, with no job security and many times, based on a verbal agreement (no labor laws or anything like that). A tourist pays, in average, for a simple and clean single hotel room, approximately 60 to 120 Birr (3 to 7 dollars) for a night.

Let’s suppose that someone feels sorry for a beggar on the street and gives him/her 10 Birr, equivalent to approximately U$0.50. And half an hour later, someone else shares the same feeling and gives them the same amount. And lastly, let’s suppose that all of it took place in a one-hour span, in the morning, when tourists leave their hotels to explore the touristic attractions of the city.

Supposedly, this situation repeats itself every day of the month. If you are also calculating, we are talking about 20 Birrs for a one-hour work , times 30 days a month: a total of 600 Birrs (U$35.00), almost 50% more of the hotel wage. Instead of spending the entire day cleaning bathrooms, and organizing someone else’s mess, with no sign of guarantees or labor laws, begging becomes an excellent option. Much more profitable and much less tiring.

Then, what can be done? I see a solution from two different angles to be resolved simultaneously. I believe it is not enough to tell tourists not to give money to the beggars; it is also necessary to regulate and qualify the work of those people. Those two actions need to be coordinated and job opportunities need to outdo begging.

Maybe the cost of a night at the hotel will go up. Even if it doubles, it is still a good deal for a tourist, and the funds coming from tourism may finally contribute to the development of regions such as Lalibela in Ethiopia. Tourists will have to agree to spend a little bit more for their tips, paying the price to help the development of those communities. And that, of course, only if the money is well used.

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