This discussion paper is concerning the seminar paper on dark tourism. It will address the key issues in relation to ethics and risky territories surrounding this subject.
Key Words: Dark Tourism, Holocaust, Auswitch-Birkenau, Ethics, Moral, History,
The discussion paper is about the motivations of dark tourism and the ethical issues surrounding it. The focus is on genocide tourism focusing on the Holocaust. Tarlow, (2005, p.48) defines Dark Tourism as, visitations to places where tragedies or historical death have occurred and that continues to impact our lives. Malcolm Foley and Lennon, (1999, p.198) describe it as "the phenomenon which encompasses the presentation and consumption...of real and commoditised death and disaster sites".
The focus of this paper can also be referred to as Genocide tourism which is associated with killing and suffering (Foley and Lennon, 1999). Miles, (2002) suggests that there are different shades of dark tourism and that each dark tourism place fits into a different shade of dark tourism (ibid, p.150). He insists that there is an obvious distinction between dark and darker tourism and that it is clear that the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp is far darker than other sites such as the London dungeons (ibid).
There is much argument about the ethics of dark tourism; some researchers argue that dark tourism is disrespectful to the families and friends of those that suffered. Many researches feel that the sites such as the Holocaust should not be used as tourist attractions. They consider this to be morally wrong because it is exploiting the memories of those that suffered there. Furthermore it is argued that by commercialising these places the authenticity will be lost and it is disrespectful to the families, friends and holocaust survivors (Swarbrooke, 1996, Ritchie et al, 2003, Finkelstein, 2003, Smithy and Duffy, 2003).
However other researcher disagrees and insist that dark tourism is important to education and understanding history. They believe that people should be educated and learn about major disasters such as the Holocaust. They argue that these sites can be the key to helping tourists understand the horrors that occurred at these places. Furthermore they insist that the Holocaust sites can be managed to meet the demands of both the families and friends and the tourists and not be disrespectful (Williams, 2008, Dann, 1977, Munt, 1994).
It is not clear as to the full motivations of dark tourism, however it is suggested that post modern tourism may have a key role in the motivations for dark tourism. Post- modern tourism is the development from mass tourism and package holidays to tourists having the desire to experience new destinations and more diverse places, including ecotourism, heritage and dark tourism (Munt, 1994). Sharpley, (2005) believes that the motivation for dark tourism depends upon the shade of the dark tourism site and how interested and fascinated with death they are. For example the motivations for going to a fun dark tourism attractions such as the London dungeons would be different to the motivations for visiting a concentration camp. The motivator for the fun attraction may be an excursion whereas the motivator for a concentration camp could be education and history (Sharpley, 2005).
In conclusion there are growing concerns and disagreements about the ethics of dark tourism, some researchers think it is morally wrong and these places should not be used as tourist attractions (Swarbrooke, 1996, Ritchie et al, 2003, Finkelstein, 2003, Smithy and Duffy, 2003). Whereas other researcher disagree and believe that people should be educated and learn about the Holocaust. They agree that these sites must be managed in a sensitive manner, but it is important for people to learn about the Holocaust (Williams, 2008, Dann, 1977, Munt, 1994). The motivations for dark tourism is not clear as there are different types of dark tourism site and the motivations for each site will vary, although the new adventurist tourist may be the reason for the growth in dark tourism (Mintel, 2009). There are strong points from both sides of the argument are strong and it seems that in order to please both sides there needs to be a balance of both education for the tourists and sensitivity in relation to the families and friends. It is clear that the growth and demand for dark tourism is increasing and will continue tom do so, which suggests that the biggest issue lies with the managers at these sites. They need to consider both perspectives and ensure that both sides are dealt with, in particular putting the needs and feelings of the families, friends and survivors as first priority above the economic aspects.
Lennon, J. and Foley, M. (2000) Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster. London: Continuum.
Seaton, A. and Lennon, J. (2004) Moral panics, ulterior motives and alterior desires: Thana tourism in the early 21st century. (Eds). New Horizons in Tourism: Strange Experiences and Stranger Practices (pp. 68-82). Wallingford: CABI Publishing.
Sharpley, R. and Stone, P., R. (Eds.) (2009) The Darker Side of Travel. The Theory and Practice of Dark Tourism. Great Britain: Chanel View Publications.