What is so great about Dark Tourism?

Trust me i’m here to tell you.

Dark Tourism is something that has fascinated me from the moment I started looking into it on my university course. That was it from the get go honestly. From the outset I wanted to know more about Dark Tourism and what it was.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what dark tourism is heres a little definition:

“Dark tourism, the act of visiting sites associated with death, suffering, disaster and the overall macabre” – (Tinson, Julie S; Saren, Michael A. J; Roth, Bridget E)

Sounds like something really chirpy to be interested in hey? But it is totally worth the interest. Dark Tourism isn’t something that is unfamiliar to us. It has been around for centuries, the example starting as early as the Romans going to watch live executions. Delightful right? So its not something that is new and unheard of.

Dark Tourism sites now are not quite to the extent of live executions, but definitely when being visited, bring an overall sense of sadness and realisation as to what happened during these horrible events and in some cases can help us to understand and gain more knowledge on the situation. An Example of this is Ground Zero in New York.

Ground Zero is the memorial for those who perished in the terrible 9/11 bombings. It was an act of terrorism that shook the world, but we did not and do not let those who suffered be forgotten. This has been done at Ground Zero in a brilliant and clever but harrowing and sorrowful way. The two squares are to mark where the two buildings known as The World Trade Centre / The Twin Towers used to stand. Around the edges of these large footprints where these towers used to stand are the names of those who were lost on the edges of the wall.

The concept of Ground Zero was to “remember absence”. Something that after speaking to someone (My stepmother) who recently visited Ground Zero, was very apparent, moving and emotional.

GroundZero-1

There are incredible amounts of Dark Tourism sites all over the world, these sites are sites of respect, remembering and they all share the same theme.

Other examples of Dark Tourism sites are:

  • The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam.
  • Auschwitz.
  • The Killing Fields in Cambodia.
  • Prypiat, Chernobyl, Ukraine.
  • Hiroshima.
  • The My Lai massacre grounds in Vietnam.
  • Memorials dedicated to war veterans globally.
  • Prisons and Mental Institutions, abandoned and currently functioning.
  • Battlefields and previous war sites.
  • Robin Island, South Africa

I’m sure the list could definitely go on.

These Dark tourism sites are an incredible influence on our tourism industry as there is the offer of tours and guides to help understand these places more. Although there is the argument that whilst tourism for these venues is incredibly good for awareness and spreading the word of what happened in these horrible circumstances. There is also the argument that encouraging tourist to visit these places is wrong and can bring larger crowds and mass tourism. This can be seen as ruining the atmosphere and the entire meaning to the site. 

we should respect those still in mourning, which is a given of course. And respectful generally as a whole. Recently there have been issues in places like Auchwitz for example, with younger adults being disrespectful by being loud, littering on the sight and believe it or not, it’s been reported that some were even playing Pokemon Go on the death camp site. 

Some of the more positive aspects of these tourism sites is that we can learn, we can be fascinated by our tour guides who may have once been there during the tragedies. An example of this is at Robin Island, where you are taken on your tour around the prison & island by ex prisoners, a normal tour guide will never make the hairs stand up on your skin as much as these people will. 

We can learn about the past, these memories are ours for the taking and to make those around us and ourselves aware of the tragedies these people have suffered.

I feel that Dark Tourism sites make us appreciate life a little more too. 

I recently visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and I was thoroughly moved and emotional by what the Frank Family went through. Reading her diary extracts and walking around the house, it gave me chills. It was an experience I will never forget and was lucky enough to encounter. It widened my understanding Of their experience too, I knew a little bit not a lot, so to go and to learn about it in its entirety was a wonderful experience. 

So go to these sites, be fascinated, be interested, cry, smile, enjoy, discuss, and most importantly

be respectful.

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