Dark tourism is the visiting of an attraction which has been created from events related to death and disaster.
Disasters can occur in many forms. Some of the most common being:
• Volcanic eruptions such as Pompeii, in Naples, Italy. The pyroclastic flow killed thousands of people in the two cities below. Pompeii displays the mummified remains of these victims.
• Terrorism: Ground Zero is a dark attraction in New York. It is the sight of the two Twin Towers, destroyed in 2001.
• War memorials such as those on Normandy's coast in France, in rememberance of soldiers killed in battle during the first and second world wars.
• Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans caused death and destruction for the city. Like Pompeii, this was a natural disaster.
Often, a dark tourist attraction is not at the sight of disaster. A Titanic exhibition, for example was displayed at Manchester's Science and Industry museum.
There are mixed opinions on whether dark attractions are a positive or negative element, within the tourism industry, and in particular, whether they are ethical.
One concern is the state of a destination, after a disaster has occurred. Tourism can often hinder the regeneration of an area, because of higher demand on transport and accomodation, whilst trying to recover from the destruction. In some cases, such as the 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia, the tourism industry comes to a halt, because fear of a re-occurrence of a disaster disuades people from visiting.
It is not only the residents of a country that are affected, but also relatives of the victims.
There is a knock-on effect after a crisis:
People are unable to work, tourism-related businesses are unable to open, and the the lack of tourists, all put the economy in danger of decline.
Dark and disaster tourism are at the darkest end of Stone's 'Dark tourism spectrum', (2006) because they are 'sites of death and destruction'.
There are many reasons for tourists wanting to visit dark attractions:
• Curiousity and the experiencing of the unknown.
• Giving aid: As in the case of Hurricane Katrina, where many were travelling to help the victims and to rebuild after devastation had occurred.
• Entertainment and the desire of 'thrill-seeking'. In the same way that a film creates excitement, and the viewer wanting to put themselves into the situation, many dark attractions create the atmosphere, in which a tourist can experience that 'thrill'.
• In order to pay respects to victims, or for many, the rememberance of a loved one.
'Shadenfreude', is a German word, meaning 'Pleasure derived from the misery of others.
It is the Allocentric tourist, who travels for adventure purposes. The 'thrill' gained from visiting sites of death and disaster can be seen in the way that a person derives a thrill from a theme park ride.
It could be suggested that the tourism industry takes advantage of these sites of disaster. As an example of this, a station has been built at Ground Zero, to provide easier access for the abundance or visitors it recieves. Effective transport is a key factor throughout the tourism industry. Likewise the selling of souvenirs and the advertisments of nearby hotels, suggest that the appeal of more money is taking over the ethnicity of dark tourist attractions. People working for themselves within the tourism industry, can use the popularity of an attraction to boost their own income.
Morro Castle, (The wreckage of a ship that was destroyed by a fire in the early 20th century), can be used as an example, where the media, selling of souvenirs and the idea of tourguides is being used to promote a past event that killed 180 people (The Times 1934).
Suitability is the most important issue. It is a question of, how soon is too soon?
An attraction based on an event from a long time ago, is more widely accepted than a site such as Ground Zero, where the relatives of victims are still alive, and tourists world-wide remember 9/11 as if it were yesterday. On the other hand however, it would be difficult to keep Ground Zero as a site of rememberance, because so many people want to see it.
The fact remains that, disasters and dark tourism attractions in relation to them are at the darkest end of spectrum. It is a battle between the ethics in gaining pleasure from the misery and suffering of others, and the need to regenerate a destination, in the aftermath of a disaster.