2022 Conference
All Conferences
TSVC | Tourism Students Virtual Conference

Dark Tourism: A Celebrities Death

Dark Tourism: A Celebrities Death
Author: Lucy Johnston
1 Commentries
The aim of this report if to investigate Dark Tourism in relation to the death of a celebrity and identify the reasons why people would choose to follow such tourism.

Dark tourism, or Thana tourism is a form of tourism where people will travel to the site of death. Any area where harm or death have taken place. Bloom (2000) suggests that there are two forms of dark tourism, one which is focused on a sudden death and very quickly attracts large numbers of people and one which rein act and remembers events to continually attract tourists. The first could be an example of the celebrity dark tourism, such as the incident of Princess Diana's death where people suddenly fled to Paris to pay respects. Marcel 2004 (cited in Stone 2006) suggests that dark tourism is the tourism industry's 'dirty little secret'.

In relation to a suggestion from Dann, that different generations will visit different places for dark tourism. It is becoming more popular that people will visit the place of death of where a celebrity has died.

Lennon (2004) suggested that there were five types of dark activities; Witness, Death sites, cemeteries, museums and re-enactments. Celebrity Dark tourism would most often be of the second category, where people want to go to the place where a star actually passed away. Furthermore, Levitt (2010) describes how around 350 people pay respects to Marylyn Monroe's grave every day. This Includes people who weren't even alive at the time of Monroe's death in 1962. Especially dark tourism in the form of following a celebrity, after their death.

Dunkley (2005) suggested several reasons for why people would want to visit a dark site for a form of tourism. By visiting the site of the death of a celebrity, people are able to remember, or piece together the story that shows their death.
The media will be one of the first people at the site of an incident, particularly one involving the death of a celebrity. People who have built up a pseudo-relationship with a celebrity through the media, will feel a connection between them and want to say their goodbyes.

Education plays a huge part in reasons for motivation to dark tourism. The incidents and events that cause people to follow dark tourism are very often a part of history and a time where the tourist wasn't present but want to learn about. People continue to visit Paris, and the area of the crash that killed Diana, to find out what happened that night.

Most incidents that leads to dark tourism are unique events, they will only occur in one place. Before Elvis Presley's death Graceland was a fairly unknown place. This would make it a novelty to go there, because unless you can get to Graceland you obviously cant visit his site of death, so people take the opportunity when they can.

Tarlow (2005) suggest four emotions that are experienced and satisfied by dark tourism; insecurity, gratitude, humility and superiority. Rojek describes such tourism as 'Black spots'. "…commercial developments of grave sites and sites in which celebrities or large numbers of peoples have met with sudden and violent deaths"

The main ethical issue of Dark tourism is the risk of exploitation. It is important to show respect for those that died before thinking about making money and making the site interesting.

As previously mentioned, many people travel to sights of dark tourism as a means of education. Dark tourism is a sensitive area, and is hard to research and have respect for those that visit sites.

Dark tourism is a very popular form of tourism. Thousands of people each day travel to different sites for various personal reasons.

Celebrity dark tourism has become more popular in recent generations and comes from people forming false relationships with celebrities and wanting to continue these after the death. There are several reasons which encourage people to visit sites of dark tourism.

Lennon, J.J., and M. Foley (2000) Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. London: Continuum.

Rojek, C. (1993) Ways of Seeing-Modern Transformations in Leisure and Travel. London:

Sharpley, R. And Stone, P, R. (2009) The darker side of travel: The theory and practice of dark tourism. Channel View Publications
Well written, informative over-view of Dark Tourism involving Celebrity deaths
Author: Pilvi Roberts
The paper is logically constructed and the relevant points are well presented and covered. It gives a clear over-all picture of celebrity death tourism. I also liked the way the author acknowledged the phenomena of people forming fake relationships with celebrities. I can imagine it being possible that some might find it more important to visit a grave of a celebrity than a grave of a relative. Paying respect in the case of death of a celebrity, I recon, is therefore a valid motivation to consider. However, as mentioned by the author visitor motivations are difficult to determine and they vary. The tone of the paper was neutral yet contemplative on both sides; the positive and negative effects were both presented and taken into account.

However I do not quite agree on the point of education playing a big part when it comes to motivation to travel to dark tourism places (unless referring to purely historical sites with special interest in history involved, however it is debatable if battle sites past the last century are even categorized as Dark tourism sites, as it is claimed by Lennon and Foley (2000) that due to the fact that there's no one alive to validate the memories and that they don't create anxiety towards modernity, they cannot be considered as such). My somewhat opposing view is based on a claim by Slade (2003) that the main motivating factor is curiosity over the deaths themselves. Also the fact that according to Lennon & Foley (2000) there is no such niche market as 'Dark tourism', but the tourists seek out these places out of curiosity and usually they are part of an itinerary involving something else, or the visit to such place is often pure serendipity. I would think that it is rather the less educated who follow such media spectacle as celebrity deaths and are entertained by celebrities in general. Also I reckon that travelling to Diana's death place could hardly shed much light on the reasons which led to her death never the less the happenings of the specific night when she died. If gaining that kind of information would be the main motivation, the people would not go to the tunnel; they would study news reports, press releases and journals about the event. Hence I would be prone to an opinion that it is rather morbid curiosity than educational to visit the death place. Stone (2005) has also clearly expressed that in many cases of dark tourism the entertaining element is often displayed in educational disguise. Despite of these differences of opinion, the report was well written and informative.

I would have also liked to see a link, often discussed by academics, between Dark tourism and the condition of Post-Modernity, especially while discussing celebrities and the role of media, as Lennon & Foley (2000) have stated it is media which is mainly responsible for drawing attention to these 'dark sites'. The Post-Modern society is also said to be drawn to spectacle (Urry, 2000), which plays a huge role in re-presenting, as well as consumption of these sites.


Lennon, J. & Foley M. (2000) Dark Tourism -The Attraction of Death and Disaster, Continuum; London

Slade, P.(2003) 'Gallipoli Thanatourism -The Meaning of ANZAC', Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 30, No. 4, pp. 779-794

Stone, P.(2005) 'Dark Tourism -A Call for Research', e-Review of Tourism Research (eRTR), Vol. 3 (iss 5) pp. 109-117