Over the last century dark tourism has grown in volume and has become more widespread. Visitors of today seem to be motivated by the same factors as in the ancient times, with many of them increasingly drawn to sites of atrocities, suffering, public figure executions, mass executions, torture museums and dungeons among others. The growth and consumption of dark tourism has reached alarming rates. Given that it is highly unlikely for such motivations to disappear, efforts need be made to address the controversies generated by the interpretation and presentation of tragic history as a commercialized attraction. This paper thus seeks to understand the controversies surrounding dark tourism. Drawing on different attractions across the tourism spectrum, the paper examines the controversies associated with the interpretation of dark tourism. It explores on the curious connection between the sad and the bad and their touristic representations which has raised contentions in tourism literature; and examines whether development of tourism resources at sites associated with tragedies is inappropriate or immoral vehicle for the presentation of human suffering and troubled events, as pointed out by Strange & Kempa (2003). Based on the reasons put forth in this analysis, the paper concludes that consumption of dark tourism is justified and that it is not an inappropriate way of presenting tragedies and human suffering. The paper, however, calls for future research to examine the implications of using emotive terminologies such as “dark tourism”.
Table of contents
Dark tourism: perspectives5
The rise of dark tourism6
History, culture and authenticity8
Death and contemporary society10
Tourism has often been associated with pleasure, leisure and recreation. However, not all tourism is leisure driven. Tens of thousands have been drawn to places or tourist sites associated with tragedies, disasters, sufferings and deaths; a phenomenon which has come to be labeled as “dark tourism”. Dark tourism is not a new phenomenon. People have long been drawn to places, sites or attractions that are in a way linked to disaster, suffering, violence and death. For example, among the early forms of dark tourism was the gathering of spectators to watch gladiator battles and the attendance to medieval public executions. As noted by Boorstin (1964), in England, the first guided tour was a train trip to witness public executions of two murderers. Similarly, visiting morgues was a regular feature of Paris tours in the nineteenth century (Stone & Sharpley 2008). However, over the last century dark tourism has grown in volume and has become more widespread. As suggested by Smith (1998), the largest single category of tourist attractions comprise of visits to destinations linked with tragic human history. Visitors of today seem to be motivated by the same factors as in the ancient times, with many of them increasingly drawn to sites of atrocities, suffering, public figure executions, mass executions, torture museums and dungeons among others (Bittner 2011). Despite having been in existence for a long time, only in the recent years that academics have focused their attention on this new phenomenon. In particular, academics have begun to wonder why such depressing places seem to attract tens of thousands of visitors. A number of tourist scholars have begun to question the nature of dark tourism. This phenomenon has attracted the attention of academics and the media. In particular, there have been attempts to analyze the various manifestations of dark tourism. The focus of research has also been directed at the motivations, driving forces or reasons for the desire to seek out such experiences. The growth in dark tourism is...