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Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombia

Jaime Hernandez‐Garcia (School of Architecture and Design, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 8 March 2013




The purpose of this paper is to explore the contribution of informal settlements to a tourism strategy and to city branding. It takes the case of Medellin, Colombia, which in recent years has developed several projects in their barrios using a policy called: “social urbanism”.


The paper is based on a case study, that of “social urbanism” in Medellin, and the relationship with what is called slum tourism and city branding. After a brief theoretical exploration about informal settlements in Latin America, slum tourism and city branding; the paper presents the urban and social transformation of Medellin's dangerous and stigmatized barrios with the “social urbanism” policy. Then the relationship between social urbanism, informal settlements and city branding is discussed.


Medellin, perhaps without noticing or anticipating, has found a role for informal settlements in branding the city, and promoting tourism to those areas. With “social urbanism”, it is also helping to build an image of the city more authentic and distinguishable from other cities in Colombia and Latin America.


The paper explores two themes that are considered nearly opposite: informal settlements and city branding. It discusses how a city in Colombia might have found a way to link them together with interesting results.



Hernandez‐Garcia, J. (2013), "Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombia", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 43-51.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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